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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2012 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reproduction Han Jians         Reply with quote

Hello folks,

I have an itch that I've been wanting to scratch for a while... I'm very interested in purchasing an inexpensive Han Dynasty era jian (two handed sword) reproduction on eBay. The variety of swords available online from China seem to be limited in their spectrum of quality based on appearances. Rather, it looks like different styles of fittings, blades and finishing touches really constitute the variety, even when the prices can fluctuate significantly.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/SHARP-RED-WOOD-CHINES...3a6f9229ae

Auctions like the above, in particular, have caught my attention due to their inexpensive product and good reviews; not to mention their uncanny resemblance to the more expensive swords being auctioned. As far as I can tell from pictures and very limited reviews... There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with any of these swords. I'd like to buy one to do modification work on, which I've successfully seen done by a member at the Sword Buyer's Guide. I've also seen this review there of a "custom" piece, which looks nearly identical in quality to these eBay swords - only, it cost $500.

http://www.sword-buyers-guide.com/ancient-chinese-swords.html

*BUT* after reviewing some of the original blades and reading commentary on them, it seems like maybe I should pay an extra $90 to get a sword like the one below:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Damascus-steel-Octahe...1e630c1b96

The above auction is for an apparently differentially treated blade with a folded mid-section, and also lacks the fullers, which seem ahistoric... Perhaps that's more worth the time in the end. After all, the blade is the main course on any sword!

Either way, has anyone handled one of these weapons? Should I just buy one and see what happens? With a total price tag of $90 or $180, I don't see how I could be too disappointed with whatever I get... But I feel that asking here is safer than not asking anywhere, so figured I'd give it a mention. Thanks in advance, 'n cheers!

-Gregory
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2012 12:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The real ones appear to be all diamond-section, no fullers, no octagonal section blades. Some of the unusual blades one sees on these swords are semi-historical - they're blade styles seen on bronze jian/dao, but done in steel.

The narrowing of the blade towards the tip - the fairly sudden narrowing, as opposed to a uniform taper - is typical (as on the octagonal blade you linked). Here is a diamond-section blade like that: http://www.zhisword.com/index.php?main_page=p...cts_id=539 .

The four things I don't like about the usual "Han jian" I see are:

(a) Fittings out of junky alloy. I'd much prefer brass.

(b) Very modern-looking nylon cord on the grips.

(c) Round grips.

(d) I don't see how to non-destructively pull them apart in order to see how well they're put together, to see if they're safe to cut with, etc.

If you're going to pull it apart to modify, and don't mind being a little destructive, these are largely non-issues, except (a). (c) might be historically accurate. I don't know how reliably 2D art tells us about roundness, and I'm not familiar with 3D art of the time showing sword grips. There's a jian grip of about that time in Alex Huangfu's "Iron and steel swords of China", but I can't tell how round it is.

The are some ancient-style jian around that don't have these problems (as severely), such as this one: http://www.zhisword.com/index.php?main_page=p...cts_id=615 . Sometimes similar ones can be seen on ebay, but they're not as common as the classic "Han" jian.

If I was to do what you're suggesting to do, I'd get a diamond-section blade, with the narrowing. Take apart the grip, make it elliptical, perhaps shorten it, re-wrap with a finer and non-nylon cord (or otherwise re-cover). I'd consider replacing the scabbard slide with a cheap "jade" scabbard slide from ebay or somewhere, and maybe the guard and pommel with "jade" (good cheap ones seem to be harder to find than scabbard slides). Doing this is something I've considered now and then, and I've looked for some nice cheap fittings. Making some Han ring pommel dao is ahead of a Han jian project in the queue.

Unless the grip hides a dreadful excuse for a tang, there isn't much else to worry about, except poor heat treatment.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2012 7:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for all of the tips and things to consider, Timo! I'm pretty serious about getting the most authentic sword out of this project that I can expect for the monetary investment, meaning that I'm willing to put some elbow grease into it. Here's the modification I mentioned previously.

http://forum.sword-buyers-guide.com/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=6008

The fellow was definitely able to break down the sword to its most basic components, meaning that I'd easily be able to do things like remake the handle into an oblong shape. I also planned to do the gilding like he did to the fittings - although I'd probably have it done as plating, because I have a small pile of things I'm currently waiting to have that done to as it is and could save some money on each piece individually as the pile gets larger, so to speak.

I see what you're saying about the blade shape... That is a bother. I liked the octagonal one I previously linked because it showed off the differential treatment of the steel, and can't seem to find any like that otherwise.

I suppose that if I want to stick to the proper diamond cross-section, this would be a good bet, perhaps?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Sharp-Carbon-Steel-Ch...4aa79c0572

Of course, I'd love to have an early bronze jian or an iron example with jade fittings, but because this is not my era of expertise I really can't delve into it that much... As I said, this is just an itch I'd like to scratch - prompted in part by the apparent quality of these inexpensive reproductions.

Thanks in advance.

-Gregory
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 01 Feb, 2012 3:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregory J. Liebau wrote:

I suppose that if I want to stick to the proper diamond cross-section, this would be a good bet, perhaps?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Sharp-Carbon-Steel-Ch...4aa79c0572


See if you can find a plain one, without an inscription. Jian without inscriptions are fine, historically. With inscription, then you need to think about whether it's plausible.

It's a little hard to tell with the resolution, but this looks like smooth taper. I'd look for a blade that has the sudden narrowing. This narrowing is also seen on a lot of bronze jian, so it might not be functional on the steel ones, just carried over. The scabbards have this shape, too, so a blade to match would be good.

That's a good wish list, I think, and then it comes down to how close to that you can find at a good price. And maybe the one above is OK for the price.

Guards on surviving jian are often quite small, not big chunky ones. See http://www.arscives.com/historysteel/cn.steelswords.htm and http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com/photo.html for some examples. The intact guards on corroded blades are usually jade, but I think iron ones of that style have been found, too. The big chunky ones on the modern reproductions are in the style of jade guards. So maybe it would be a nice idea to make a small guard? Nice, but more work!

I think that the tang on that customisation job is rather poorly done. Whether one is likely to get better with a more expensive blade, I don't know. Hopefully.

I'd be tempted to start with something like this one:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Silver-Plated-Forge-F...519d0c43c8

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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Posts: 683

PostPosted: Fri 03 Feb, 2012 12:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting thread gents.

I have wondered for quite a while why there seem to be plenty low-cost and relatively high quality Japanese swords coming out of China (Hanwei, Cheness etc.), but Chinese swords of consistently high quality seem to be more rare. If you end up buying one, I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts.

Anyway, here´s another maker to consider:
http://forum.sword-buyers-guide.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8445

Maker's site:
http://www.lqbj.com/gallery-46--0--2--grid.html
Plenty to choose from, at least.... Eek!
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Fri 03 Feb, 2012 7:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've decided to hold off on this project until summertime. I'm going to hunt around for options again at that time and put in the proper effort to make a nice, customized piece. What I'd really love to do is collect a series of jade fittings and have a blade made to fit, though... Hmmmm. Anyway, I'll pull this thread back up when the project comes to fruition!

Cheers!

-Gregory
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Feb, 2012 11:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scabbard slides are easy to find. Good looking, cheap, authentic in style. Modern reproductions, of course. I haven't found a good jade guard yet. Haven't seriously looked for chapes and pommels - I was looking for scabbard slides to use for ring pommel dao, and I looked for a guard for a bronze jian (with no success).

One of the better guards I've seen is the one in this set: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Magnificent-jade-swor...0953038535 , and I think the guard is the worst piece of the 4. Small round hole for the tang, which limits what you can put in it. You'd have to grind the shoulders of the blade to slope to match the guard, but that's a lesser problem.

But perhaps one can, without too much trouble, make a steel guard, cut one out from a brass or copper block, or cast one in place from silver or some suitable alloy.

There are some nice authentic-looking blades to be found. Alas, not so many in the <$100 range.

Ring-pommel dao suffer from some of the same problems as Han jian. But the plainer examples, with a plain ring, and no guard, look easy enough to make, and there are plenty of good candidate blades (like kiriha-zukuri "ninja" sword blades, or straight shobu-zukuri blades). Doing a good Han jian needs more work/luck on fittings.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Wed 08 Feb, 2012 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the way, one of the better sources (Truesdale, The Long Sword and Scabbard Slide in Asia) on appropriate fittings is available to download:

http://si-pddr.si.edu/jspui/handle/10088/1332

Sometimes cheap copies can be found on ebay or elsewhere, if you prefer a printed copy.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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