Q. How do I go about ordering a sword?
A. You can either choose a swordsmith from our database, or ask us to suggest a smith that meets your needs or budget. After a brief discussion to confirm that your order meets your specifications, using our specialist translation services (sword terminology is complicated and most swordsmiths do not speak English), we will then place your order for you.
Q How much is it to use your service?
A. Our service is free to the general public. We are compensated by the swordsmiths themselves in an effort to promote traditional art of Japanese sword making and related crafts to the world. We provide a mutual service in matching both the swordsmiths and customers to each other. We also offer assistance in the rare occasions that a problem should arise and aftercare advice.
Q. How much is a sword?
A.The price of a blade greatly, depending on various factors such as the length and type of blade, choice of horimono* (if any), type of mountings, type of polish, and the most important factor, which smith that you choose. *artistic carving
In a broad terms, Katana by standard swordsmiths for martial arts use (iaido/tameshigiri, etc) start from approximately 1,000,000 JPY fully mounted (around $10,000 depending on the exchange rate at the time). Katana in plain wooden sleeping scabbards with habaki by smiths rated as master craftsmen (mukansa), start at approximately 3,000,000 JPY (around $30,000 depending on the exchange rate at the time). Swords by prize winners at the annual sword making competitions cost somewhere in between. Second hand swords for martial arts use can be found for around $5000, but come with expected wear and tear. These prices are only a guide, as prices are subject to order and smith. I.E. if you purchase a blade for iaido in shirasaya, it may cost less than 1,000,000 JPY. Also, swords for martial arts by master craftsmen maybe slightly cheaper than their standard rate as the lower polishing price will be reflected in the overall price.
The reason for these prices is that swords can be broken into two broad groups. Artistic appreciation and for serious martial arts use. Swords for artistic appreciation, although fully functional, tend to cost more as a finer degree of polishing is used. They also reflect the smiths own personal traits, the results of his years of personal research, and his standing within the sword world. They very often emulate styles of swords from particular eras within Japanese history. The level of polish used for art swords is not recommended for martial arts use, as its highly polished surface will deteriorate very quickly through the abrasion incurred during the repeated unsheathing and sheathing of the blade during practice. Additionally, swords made for artistic appreciation are often made by elite swordsmiths and have mountings made by the top fittings makers.
There are many traditional Japanese swordsmiths in Japan who have been licensed by the Japanese government who specialize in swords for serious martial artists. Their blades are still made in the traditional manner of fold forged steel that is quenched using a differential hardening process. However, the shape is one that is designated optimum for martial arts use, and the mountings are generally mass produced.
Q. How do I pay?
A. Payments are made directly by bank wire to the smith who is making your blade. It is recommended that you pay in two or three installments. Work will commence once the smith has received the first installment. Final payment is expected once the blade is completed. Once the final payment is received, your blade will be sent to you via Fedex.
Q. How long will it take to make my sword?
A. Due to the various craftsmen involved in the completion of one blade, there are various waiting lists. On average, it takes approximately one year from your initial payment to complete your order. Slightly longer if you have also ordered mountings.
Q. Do I get to choose its design?
A. You should choose the length (and approximate weight for martial arts) of blade that you require, but if you wish a specific style you should order from a smith who works in that style so that he can maintain his own artistic input.
Q. Why are they so expensive?
A. Swordsmiths in Japan are regulated by the government. Smiths have to be licensed and are restricted to making two long swords or three shorts swords per month. Every aspect of sword making by all the craftsmen involved is by hand. In addition, swordsmiths have overheads. They have to pay for their forge, charcaoal, raw materials, as well as cover their labour.