A Beginners Guide To Buying Authentic Japanese Swords

Authentic Japanese swords can and usually do cost a small fortune.

In fact many (though not all) sword collectors maintain that to get a half way decent sword you need to be spending around US$1000. And the maximum? Well, the sky is the limit (there are quite a few Japanese made Katana that sell for around the US$25,000 mark).

So what about all those $50 swords being sold on eBay and everywhere else?

Well, at the end of the day, these swords are often junky ornamental “sword like objects”. They can’t be used as a martial arts weapon. Even just swinging them around with moderate force risks the blade snapping off at the handle…

But if you know what to look for, buying authentic Japanese swords at a reasonable price – say for around US$150 to $500 is quite possible. And in some cases, for even less than this amount of money, it’s possible to get a nice sword that is well balanced, sharp, strong and an excellent ‘bang for your buck’ buy.

For start though – let’s take a very quick look at what separated the authentic Japanese swords from the ornamentals:

  • Japanese swords are slightly curved, sharp and single edged
  • Authentic Japanese swords are light, fast weapons and should weigh no more than 3lbs max. They are also very well balanced
  • Real Japanese swords aren’t made from stainless steel – they are made from high carbon steel. They also have what is called a “differentially tempered blade” – meaning that the sharp edge of the sword is harder than the spine, giving the sword flexibility (so it doesn’t shatter on impact) but also extreme cutting power.
  • Real Japanese swords also have a tang (the part of the blade that goes into the handle) that is made as part of the blade, not a length of steel welded on afterwards (called a “rat tail” tang).

There are also a few other factors, such as traditional appearance and fittings to consider…

Now in our target price range of US$150 to $500 – there are only a few swords which qualify – and you’d be surprised, it isn’t necessarily the most expensive ones either…

The first is the Generation 2 BWT Katana (around US$329 + shipping)

While I really like Gen2s line of European swords as top quality yet very affordable “beater” swords, their BWT Katana – while a good choice, still has a few major drawbacks. There are two versions of this sword – a more traditional but rather plain looking one and another that uses a lot of brown suede and has an almost surreal “cowboy” quality to it…

Neither are particularly attractive. But the biggest problem is a structural flaw – in that the BWT Katana uses water buffalo horn for the small but critical band under the hand guard (called the fuchi) that has actually been known to occasionally crack on impact…

Moving on…

A lot of people like the Nahuarra of Mexico Katana (RRP around US$200 – but they are almost impossible to actually buy at this price and tend to go for US$400+)

Unfortunately, they are a bit too plain, too heavy (around 3.52lbs), poorly balanced, sharp (but not as sharp as they should be), difficult to find and – well…

Moving on…

Cold Steel make a very durable “Katana” for just a tad over the US$300 mark. These swords are sharp and extremely durable. But they aren’t in any way traditional. They aren’t differentially tempered (they are a mono-steel sword, like a European blade – all of one uniform hardness) and they aren’t balanced properly…

BUT – they aren’t a BAD choice… Only thing is, in my opinion (and in the opinion of many Japanese sword enthusiasts the world over) there is a better and even cheaper alternative.

If you are really looking for an affordable “entry level” Japanese sword – there really is only 1 choice, and that’s the Practical Katana and the Practical Plus Katana by Paul Chen’s Hanwei Forge.

These swords have it all – and for an online price tag of around US$279 for the Practical Plus Katana and US$169 for the plain vanilla model – they offer outstanding value for money.

They are light (under 3lbs) and incredibly well balanced. They are made from top quality high carbon steel. They have a “differentially tempered” blade, a solidly constructed tang and boy – are these babies sharp! I’ve cut everything from cardboard boxes to lengths of rope, water filled plastic bottles (of all shapes and sizes in a row and hanging), bamboo and traditional rolled tatami mats and it’s no exaggeration to say that I have never once actually felt any resistance to my cuts. In fact, many of my friends who aren’t sword nuts are able to effortlessly cut a plastic water bottle filled with water so easily that they swore that they missed (until the water comes gushing out over their feet that is).

I just love these swords! And what’s so cool about them is the price! NOTHING COMES CLOSE!

Now sure, they aren’t the same as swords ten times the price. But I remember seeing on a website when I was first checking them out a side by side comparison of quite a few different “entry level” Katana – and these were the only cheap Japanese swords that even got a look in – and overall, they were just 33% behind swords TEN TIMES THE PRICE!

Anyway – at the end of the day, if you love authentic Japanese swords, and don’t have (or don’t want to spend) a whole lot of money, you should have a serious look at these swords! I guarantee, you’ll join me and a small army of raving fans across the world…

🙂

A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Tortoise

Increasingly tortoises are becoming popular pets to have thus their availability has grown. But how and where do you buy a healthy and reasonably priced tortoise? Below I provide a simple guide on how to buy a tortoise the healthy, humane, and correct way.

Do your Research

Before you buy your tortoise you need to know what you are looking for. You should choose the species based off your ability to fulfill the needs of that particular species.

For example if the species of tortoise you want has a very particular and expensive diet that you cannot afford, do not buy that species.

Also, when picking a species you should take your experience into account. If you are a beginner pick an easy to take care of tortoise. For example, Russian Tortoises are small and not very temperature sensitive. While an Indian Star Tortoise should be left for advanced and experienced keepers only.

Where to Buy a Tortoise From?

Now that you have a species in mind, lets take a look at the few possible avenues of where you could buy a tortoise.

-Breeders

Breeders are individual people who breed tortoises as a hobby or a business. There are many advantages to buying from a breeder. When you buy from a breeder you know that you are buying a 100% captive bred tortoise that wasn’t taken from the wild. Also, the breeders can offer one-on-one advice for care and in most cases sell the reptile for a lower price than pet shops.

To find breeders in your area search the web on sites like Craig’s List or reptile forums like Tortoise Forum.

-Online

With a quick online search you can find companies willing to send you your tortoise in the mail. Most often these are large-scale tortoise farming operations. Before buying from one of theses companies, do your research and make sure they are humane and most of the time deliver alive and healthy reptiles.

Also, a good amount of the time these companies can provide accurate information on how to care for the tortoise.

-Pet Shops

Buying from big chain or local pet shops is not advised. Most of the time these reptiles are coming from poor conditions and being sold to you by people who aren’t very knowledgeable about tortoises or any reptile. Plus most of the time the reptiles being sold are overpriced compared to breeders. And pet shops have been known to sell beginners unnecessary, expensive equipment.

Beginner’s Guide To Buying Paintball Equipment

If you’ve never played paintball before, it’s best place to try this game first to make sure you like it before investing in your own gear as the equipment can be fairly expensive. Many players have their first experience at camp or a local commercial field or park. It is a lot easier to rent all the equipment needed, than spend hundreds of dollars on paintball supplies you only use one time because the game was too intense. Renting equipment at a field will run a player from $10-$30 per day; this is recommended for the first few times you play to make sure you will want to play enough times to warrant purchasing your own. Rental paintball guns and gear is often basic models and very easy to learn on. Shooting a paintball gun is not a complicated matter, however it can take a few games to familiarize yourself with the intensity of this venture when other players are shooting at you. When you get hit, you’re not only out of the game, but it hurts! The fear of getting hit causes many first time players a type of paralysis that takes some getting used to.

Once you’ve played with rental (or borrowed) gear a few times and decided paintball is the sport for you, a bit of research is in order. The first decision a new player who’s in the market for buying new gear is to decide what type of paintball they want to play. There are basically two different types; scenario and tournament paintball. Scenario paintball is played on an open course often in a natural setting (also called woodsball) with players carrying out military style missions using realistic looking assault type rifles and camouflage clothing. Tournament paintball is played on a closed course often with inflatable bunkers to hide behind for timed elimination matches (which team can eliminate the other in the given time period). These players use faster, electronic paintball guns and wear professional athletic jerseys and/or uniforms. Once you’ve determined which game you like best, the first piece of gear to purchase is a beginner level paintball gun. Starter paintball guns are simply made so they are easy to maintain and keep clean. Whether you choose woodsball or tournament play, beginner markers are easy to distinguish because they have the cheapest price tags.

After you have a good beginner paintball gun, the next required item on your list is a protective mask. You are not permitted to play without one, so this is mandatory equipment. There are other pieces of protective gear like elbow and knee pads, neck and chest protectors, however they serve only to keep the game more enjoyable/less painful but are not required. Paintball masks come in a wide variety of styles and price ranges yet all offer the same level of protection. Cheaper, entry level masks have less features and often single pane lenses that tend to fog up more. Expect to pay a bit more for thermal lenses but this feature is definitely worth the extra money. Generally, when it comes to protective gear, there is no specific gear for a specific type of play. However, manufacturers do make more “flashy” gear for tournament players and more “military pattern” gear for the scenario players.

The final piece of your initial set-up is an air tank; this is what powers your paintball gun. Some beginner paintball gun packages come with a CO2 tank but if yours doesn’t, this is a necessary expense. CO2 tanks come in different sizes but for the longest play choose the largest available; these are either 20 or 24oz. tanks and you can expect to pay $30-$40 for one. Air tanks come empty so you will have to get it filled before you can use it. Refills can be found at commercial fields, big box sporting goods stores (like Dick’s, Bass Pro or Cabellas) and some gun shops that sell air rifles. If you don’t have access to these types of facilities where you live, you can buy an adapter for your marker to use CO2 cartridges. These are cheap and readily available at Wal-Mart or gun stores however only offer a few shots/cartridge (25-30 depending on the gun). Depending on this method requires constantly changing out cartridges during play and will drain the fun right out of your game. If you have to go this route, paintball is probably not the sport to get into.

Unlike renting equipment, owning your own equipment will require you keep up with maintenance. Paintball guns work on bursts of high pressure air/CO2 to propel the ball at a high speed. The constant high pressure makes it common for little things to go wrong like busted o-rings causing malfunctions with your marker. Paintball is also very messy; the very nature of the game is shooting paint and getting hit (marked) with paint, so expect to have to clean your gun regularly after playing for even just a short period. Most paintball guns come with a barrel squeegee, cleaning cloth and extra o-rings for maintenance. Beginner markers are also usually very easy to take apart for cleaning and maintenance however this is not necessary but for maybe once/year for re-oiling and more thorough cleaning. Even though break downs occur regularly, most issues can be handled by yourself however it’s smart to purchase equipment from a well known brand name so there’s a good warranty in case you need to send something back.

Once you have everything you need to play, you will be excited to play and want to practice every chance you get. If you’re interested in climbing the tournament ranks, getting on a team or organizing your own will be paramount. To do this you will want to play with as many different teams/players at as many different fields/venues as possible. Even if you think you aren’t ready, choose a beginner level tournament and go ahead and enter. Getting tournament experience early will help you shape your skills, strategies and practices to hone yourself into a competitive player. Waiting until you feel ‘ready’ to compete will just put off learning important skills you need early on in your career. Competing will also tell you if it’s something you want to follow through with. Some players think they want to compete but after their first tournament change their mind and only end up playing recreationally; this is of course fine, but will shape how you play and what type of equipment you end up eventually buying.

Know going into it; paintball is not a cheap hobby. It can be quite expensive, but just like any hobby, if you love it, it’s not expensive at all! Test the waters first before diving into this investment by playing with rental or borrowed gear first. If you like it, buy a beginner’s set up to keep expenses down while you learn the game and what equipment you might like. If you fall in love with the sport (like most players end up doing), save your pennies for more expensive, higher performance markers and supplies. Once you have your dream set-up, costs go down, however ongoing expenses such as air refills, paintball ammo, tournament and travel fees must also be considered. If it’s all too confusing, don’t hesitate to ask a more experienced player for their advice about how to play or what to get and why.