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Nobody wants to be played a fool. I know I don?t. When I started shopping for a samurai blade that was worthy of my appreciation and my pockets, I had to consider the array of traps that any sword collector is being lured in today. Stainless steel blades with an ?authentic? hamon and cheap fittings predominate the market and can lure any beginner into separating themselves with their hard earned cash.
If You Don?t Pay Attention to These Details You Will be Cheated Out of Your Money
We need to discuss types of steel and technologies of making. Stainless steel blades are brittle, due to the higher chromium and low carbon content and added alloys. This type of steel is only meant for iaito blades (dull edge, can?t practice cutting and ZERO collectible value) or display purposes. Then we have Spring Steel swords. Blades made from this steel can be quality if they are differentially forged (you will often see these technical details – HRC60 edge, HRC40 back). That means that the edge is harder than the body, which gives the samurai sword its durability (softer steel is more flexible) but yet permits it to retain cutting power (harder steel allows for better cutting capabilities). Swords in this category are medium priced from $200-900.
Finally, you have the tamahagane steel, which is actually softer than both other types of steel, but due to forging and folding process, it allows for the blade to be extremely strong yet flexible. This type of steel is what traditional samurai swords are made of and it allows for great polishing and distinctive hamon (the pattern on the edge of the blade formed during clay tempering). These swords are usually priced above $1000.
Forging, Folding and Clay Tempering.
Authentic samurai swords and such made in high quality forges undergo 3 processes ? forging, folding and clay tempering. Forging and folding allow make the blade extremely strong. Clay tempering is what allows for the differential hardness of the edge and the body. Expect low price swords to only be forged. Medium priced swords must definitely be at least forged and clay tempered, while high priced swords are folded as well. The folding of steel is what makes the patterns on a samurai sword. The patterns, including the hamon are what most swords are priced on. Even if your sword is not made by an authentic Japanese sword smith you should always look blades that are at least spring steel, forged and clay tempered, preferably hand polished as well. Polishing reveals the hamon, and every cheap blade is actually machine polished and the hamon is added by a machine as well, making it worthless.
Good luck with your katana shopping.
By Anton Borissov,
Director and Owner of Khan Arms
The Trusted Source for Samurai Swords and Armor
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