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Thread: Quality Iaito on a Budget?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    You're putting the cart before the horse there Tommy ....

    Second, Japanese swords (and iaito) made in Japan are still measured in shaku, sun, bu. You would be looking for a 2.4.0 nagasa, which is about 28.6 inches. Here is a handy shaku/centimeter/inch convertor ... http://www.kampaibudokai.org/Script.htm ...

    You will not be able to find a Japanese made iaito with two mekugi ...

    You'll not find a full samegawa wrap in an iaito unless you have one custom built (mucho moola!) All the iaito being built in Japan will come with panels. That's OK though, since all you'll be cutting is air (we hope!) so it doesn't have to endure the same stress a cutting sword would ...

    So, all of that being said, you are going to be pretty well off with most iaito currently being made in Japan. I would advise staying away from the lowest price point iaito as they generally have those being made by the least experienced people in the shop, and I've heard of people having issues with them fairly recently. Stores such as Tozando, Nishijin Sword, Yamato Budogu, Meirin Sangyo, Swordstore.com, Mugendo Budogu, SDK Supplies, and Samurai-store.com all sell quality iaito made in Japan.

    There's a lot out there, and a lot to learn. Have fun with it!
    Wow @pgsmith thank you for the detailed writeup. That must have taken a good bit of time, and I can tell there's a lot of wisdom in it. I'll try to respond to each point below, in the order you presented them:

    Regarding cart before horse: I definitely want to avoid this. I've read that alder wood and even poplar are good american woods, but was advised by a group of folks that hard wood was best as long as it was a type of wood that could absorb shock. It's bittersweet to say that once again the information here on e-budo has proven more correct and accurate than anything else out there on the internet or among "collectors". It's disappointing to realize just how much false information there is out there. On the other hand, it's heartening to know that there are people who DO know what they are talking about and who are also willing to share such information (and their time) at little or no cost. I applaud you all.

    Regarding two mekugi: I am of the understanding that this whole concept came into being with the Chinese mass market for imitation katana, where blades were mainly all the same, nakago were significantly straighter, and mass-produced tsuka were bored out with CNC machines such that the risk of a loose tsuka could only be mitigated with two mekugi. I did not know that anything more "authentic" (tsuka hand-carved for each nakago) was available at a price point under a couple thousand dollars. It's good news to hear otherwise.

    Regarding full wrap: The full wrap is a nod to the traditional, and also something that protects against cracking of tsuka (also something I've seen firsthand and wish to avoid). But I'm getting the message that the japanese-made iaito are not to be feared in this way, and deferring to your truly superior experience I would deem this measure an overkill at this point.

    Regarding "lowest price point": how much money should I save up? $500? $1K? At what point can I comfortably know that I'm getting the quality that is going to last me at least a decade of daily practice, given the sellers you cite?

    Regarding all the sellers you mention for iaito: which one would you buy from if you were a beginner like me and not really shopping for the rolls royce of iaito at this point in your training? Tozando? Sorry for the flurry of questions. If there's no time to answer I understand

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenBaker View Post
    As a relative newbie I can share that 2.5 pounds will be REALLY HEAVY. From areas of other expertise I would suggest a lighter sword so you can learn the movements properly and not get accustomed to muscle strain that should not be there once you get comfortable. The learning curve will be skewed if you are just fighting the weight let alone the proper path. My two cents.
    Thanks for the advice StephenBaker! It's about time for me to get ready to leave for the dojo now...

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    That's a nice looking sword! It's a monster at 2.5 pounds though! My normal practice sword that I usually cut with only weighs in at about 950 grams or so.
    Yes, that's a characteristic of "Dotanuki" replicas; definitely not something for beginners to use unless they want to risk repetitive strain injuries. Mine, pictured above, had a zinc-beryllium blade rather than the more-common zinc-aluminum, and -- with its 2.6.0 (31 inch) nagasa -- it weighed over 1300 grams (2.8 pounds). I'm 6' 4" and was a relatively lean/muscular 220 pounds at the time, and it was still a handful for me. My sensei would not have let me use such a piece in the beginning; as Mr. Baker suggested, it would have been too easy to develop bad habits with such a heavy sword in the early stages. (With your experience, though, I'm sure you'd have no issues with them once you got used to added mass.)
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by atrixnet View Post
    ...I've read that alder wood and even poplar are good american woods, but was advised by a group of folks that hard wood was best as long as it was a type of wood that could absorb shock.
    Just as a point of interesting (to me, at least) trivia: honoki, the wood typically used for saya and tsuka, is a species of magnolia. It should not be confused with hinoki, which is a type of cypress.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

  5. #20
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    Yes, I think I see your point though. Instead of purely focusing on correct form and technique, I'd be simultaneously focusing on how to keep the sword up through three hours of practice. You do have a very valid point. I exercise independently of class in order to strengthen myself and not strain anything, but as a beginner I still have a bad habit of locking my elbows after certain swings. I know a heavier sword would greatly increase the chance of injury.

  6. #21
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    If the tsuka is custom made fohr the blade then only one menuki is needed. But they are mass produced and usually shimmed to fit the blade.
    Clayton Lawrence

  7. #22
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    Go to Tozando. They have a really nice offer now on their custom Iaito. Lots of options for tailoring. One of my students bought one recently, all very high quality. I just placed an order for a Daito set (customized).

    Flemming Madsen
    Flemming Madsen

  8. #23
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    Thanks for the tip. I've noticed the vast number of customizations available. The weird thing is, I can't seem to be able to put together a single consistent motif. I can get "close", which may have to be what makes it unique. Hopefully they are still running the nice prices when I'm ready to buy.

  9. #24
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    My first iaito (2008) was from Tozando, and I still use it. But I have to put in a plug for swordstore.com. Rick (the owner) is a great guy and will work closely with you to make sure you get the right sword for your purpose(s). And his stuff is vastly customizable - from different tsuba, same, fuchi/kashira, menuki, etc.

  10. #25
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    Get mine from Cheness Cutlery.... www.chenessinc.com
    Jason Chambers
    Owner,
    Tatsujin Photography & Design

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Chambers View Post
    Get mine from Cheness Cutlery.... www.chenessinc.com
    I would be surprised to find anything worth a damn for iaido from them.
    Neil Gendzwill
    Saskatoon Kendo Club

  12. #27
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    Never had a problem...

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Chambers View Post
    Never had a problem...
    That's cool! I've had two swords from Cheness. One had a crack in the handle that rendered it useless. I gave it to someone who wanted to try carving his own handle. The other had the blade not quite aligned with the oval of the tsuka. This meant that you had to compensate for the misalignment to produce proper hasuji. Both swords were poorly balanced for regular iai use, although only one had bohi. I wasn't impressed with them at all, and have never bought anything else from them.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  14. #29
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    My instructor is working with a forge in China and is getting custom steel swords specifically for iaito. They can be had as shinken live blades or iaito's with the edge dulled for obvious reasons. I have handled many and they are very well done, great balance, great tachi kaze sound when swung correctly and beautiful sori. He has been doing this for a couple of years now and they really have it sorted out. [Post edited at OP's request.] I would also be happy to take some photos of other students swords for you if you like. I believe the weight is right around 2lbs and they have everything else you mentioned in your original post. Once I can squirrel the money away one will be replacing my Tozando alloy iaito. good luck!
    Last edited by Brian Owens; 28th February 2015 at 21:44. Reason: Removed Web site link

  15. #30
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    Hi Billy, welcome to e-budo.
    While what you say may be perfectly true, I don't know that Wehrhahn Shihan is all that interested in going into the internet sword business and fielding emails from strangers interested in having him get them swords. You should clear it with him first before offering his services to others in an open forum. I know of several instructors that do this sort of thing, but only one (Kim Taylor at SDK Supplies) that is willing to go to the bother of selling them to the public.

    I've not had an opportunity to try one from Taylor sensei, but the other stuff he sells is top notch.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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