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Marc Ridgeway

Location: Atlanta , Gawga
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PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2012 3:33 am    Post subject: Dynasty Forge Bushi Shobu         Reply with quote

Dynasty Forge Bushi Shobu

Marc Kaden Ridgeway
Atlanta GA
28 Nov. 2012

When is a double chin a good thing? When it is a double Chen.

Wait , let me explain.

The world of production katana has really blossomed in the last decade or so, opening up a world of opportunity for the average person to be able to own and affordable, well-built , Japanese-style sword.

This just simply was not possible in the past.

Two men more than anyone helped create , shape and drive this explosion of affordable , quality Japanese sword replicas. Paul Chen and Fred Chen.

While Paul Chen may be better known, the influence of Fred Chen in developing the modern sword market cannot be overstated. In the production sword world, noone captures the essence of nihonto quite like Fred Chen, and no single company gets the best out of Fred Chen quite like Dynasty Forge.

Since 2003 , Canadian Based Dynasty Forge has been designing , importing and selling some of the highest quality katana availiable.

Recently Dynasty Forge has been doing a tad of revamping. Nothing serious... just another step forward in their company policy of continous improvement.

This included some updates to the product line , as well as a presence on Facebook , and a new website set to launch within the month.

It was the Facebook presence which grabbed my attention... while I have owned Dynasty Forge pieces in the past , and are well aware of their quality , my increased focus in other areas had caused me to be unmindful of late. I saw some of the new swords on their Facebook Page and realized , though I have written over 50 sword reviews I have somehow neglected to review a Dynasty Forge blade. This , I thought, must be rectified.

The piece with really caught my eye was the Forge Folded Bushi Class Shobu Zukuri Katana in Silver Wave Koshirae

So enthralled by the beauty of the shobu I messaged Derrick Guo about buying one for a review. Derrick graciously offered to send me a review unit free of charge... well actually , he offered a hand-polished Daimyo model. As tempting as that was, I saw no reason for DF to incur the extra cost of a hand polished blade... we all know Dynasty Forge offers a range of katana from very affordable to quite nice( and if you didn't you now do) and besides this blade fits pretty well in the mid-range of their offerings , making it perfect for review.

Upon arrival, the sword was double boxed , with a thick winding of bubble wrap around the inner box. Very well packed indeed. It was difficult to unpack it quick enough to suit me!


Shobu Zukuri is a sugata of Japanese swords which dates back to at least the 13th century. It is a very common sugata for tanto and wakizashi , not as common for daito (katana) . Despite this, there are plenty of historic examples , such as the one in this photo , borrowed from Sanmei trading company.

photo courtesy of Sanmei Trading Company

The shobu zukuri sugata is often defined by many by its lack of yokote. However, a shobu is more than just a shinogi zukuri katana without a yokote. Perhaps more important is the diamond cross-section of the shobu zukuri. This means that the blade has high shinogi, or is thickest through the shinogi area, and the shinogi-ji taper sharply to the mune.

Also the sweeping kissaki with shinogi that almost reach the tip is a key feature of the shobu, and the one from which it gets its name. Shobu means iris , and the shobu zukuri profile resembles the shape of an iris leaf.

borrowed from kske

Both of these features are shown to good effect on the Dynasty Forge shobu.


Nagasa : 28 in.
Tsuka: 11.25 in w/ fittings
Weight : 2 lbs 7 oz
Sori : 7/8 inch
Motohaba : 1.33 in
Motokasane : 5 mm
COG : 5.25 in. from tsuka

Marc Kaden Ridgeway
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Marc Ridgeway

Location: Atlanta , Gawga
Joined: 24 May 2006
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Posts: 133

PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2012 3:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aesthetics ; Fit & Finish

The sugata is shobu zukuri . The 28 inch blade is forged folded from 1095 and 1080 high carbon steels and 1060 spring steel. The contrast of the steels makes for a vibrant , yet tasteful hada. The blade is graced with 7/8 of an inch of beautiful , gracefully proportioned tori sori and sweeping kissaki as well as a sharpl,y defined diamond cross-section. With a mihaba of over 1.3 inches (34.5 mm ) it exhibits nice fumbari.

The shinogi ji are burnished and the ji polished to a high polish that really displays the hada to good effect. A milky suguha hamon runs the length of the well honed ha. The blade is machine polished using a hybrid method; that is a modern polish that combines the use of etchants and abraisives. This displays the hada to good effect, yet stands up to use better than an expensive hand polish. This is one thing that Dynasty Forge is to be commended for; they are quite up front about the construction and polish methods of all three tiers of their products, unlike competitors who offer a hybrid polish and call it a traditional hand polish.

The 11.25 inch tsuka is paneled in white samegawa and wrapped with 10 inches of black silk ito with hishigame in place . It is properly fit , thus requiring a single mekugi. The koshirae are in a turbulent wave motif and sport an antiqued silver finish. This results in a high level of relief and detail. The domed kashira is repleat with shitodome. The menuki are silver dragons. The habaki is correctly constructed and quite well fit . Correct construction includes machigane and a taper in thickness throughout its length that allows it to seat correctly in the saya. The habaki has been called the heart of the japanese sword, and yet so few companies build one correctly.

The saya is lacquered black using natural lacquers. The koiguchi is buffalo horn , and is either cut uneven on one side or is gouged or chipped a bit. No matter really , but worth noting I suppose. The kurigata is lacquered , therefore I can not tell if it is horn or wood, but horn would be my supposition. The kojiri is in the antiqued silver wave theme to match the koshirae. The saya is a perfect fit, with no rattle.

Marc Kaden Ridgeway
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Marc Ridgeway

Location: Atlanta , Gawga
Joined: 24 May 2006
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Posts: 133

PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2012 3:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Handling Characteristics

It is kind of hard to flesh this section out. I mean , how do you really describe such a thing in words?

For starters, the tsuka makes a terrific user interface for the blade. It is well shaped , tapered and reasonably curved to the sori. The ito is tight and tactile and provides a sure grip.

The blade handles quickly , with agility and intuition. It actually handles a bit better than the statistics would indicate. This is in part due to the diamond cross-section acting much as a bo-hi would , and has a lot to do with proper mass distribution.

At any rate you have to hold it and swing it to believe it. The shobu is an absolute joy in hand, and the kind of blade you keep picking up just to feel the weight of it in your hand .


The shobu is a strong and capable cutter, sharp enough to be capable of finesse cuts on soft targets , yet robust enough to to tackle heavier targets with ease.

I have to apologize, I had much more video footage , but all that I have left is the one stalk of bamboo I cut... I have mislaid the other sd card... still even a short cutting vid is still a cutting vid...

All photos in this review were taken after cutting.


The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This section will be expanded a bit from it's normal function. Not because there is a lot of flaws or faults on the blade... on the contrary , there is a lot of good, and I think that we need to discuss some of that good a bit and why it is good.

Let's get the bad and teh ugly out of the way... there is no bad... the ugly... well youve seen the photo of the koiguchi... that's about it. I do feel that the sageo could be upgraded a bit, and maybe the samegawa could be a better grade , but those points are both really out of line when you consider that this is a $700 sword and so much attention has been paid to doing other things right.

What are those things ... well lets cover a few of them.

First of all , fumbari ... fumbari is a widening and thickening of a blade at its base. It is a phenomenon of almost all well forged Japanese swords, which is of course missing on suriage swords. it is also missing on almost any sword coming from any forge in China except the double Chen's , the exceptions being the higher end blades like Ronin Elites and one offs from Zhou Zheng Wu , et al. The majority of blades from most of the Longquain factories are built to fit the cheap mass produced habaki and tend to be 1.18 inches to 1.2 inches or so at the base. At 1.33 inches , the Dynasty Forge offers nice fumbari .

Speaking of habaki... thats another thing almost everyone does wrong. A proper habaki must have machigane , a copper strip welded in to support the nakago in the habaki after the hamachi.

Also fit ... A habaki ought to only touch the blade along the ha and the mune and the top of the habaki should be a bit higher than the mune to keep the mune from resting on the wood of the saya . The habaki on the shobu isn't perfect, but is better than most.

Ok.. properly fitted tsuka comes next. Most production swords use precarved cores that are either made a little tight and hammered on, or a little loose and then shimmed. Most of these are then "double pegged for safety". The reality is that double mekugi are an easy way to take a serious shortcut in fitting the tsuka to the nakago. The tsuka "rides" the mekugi rather than fitting the nakago properly. This isn't to say that every double pegged sword is bad... it is a necessary step to save cost in lower priced swords. However a properly fit tsuka seats on the nakago and relies on friction to hold it on... the mekugi is a fail safe. The tsuka on this DF is well fitted and single pegged.

Tsuka-maki... wrap is something more people are getting right , or rightish anyway. Alternating ito has become far more common than it once was. One thing that is not as common is hishigame. Hishigame are origami triangle used to shape and support the diamonds. Dynasty Forge uses them on the Bushi line.

Lacquer. Traditionally natural lacquers were used such as Urushi or synthetics like Kashu . While I am not 100% sure what lacquer DF uses they ARE lacquering the saya ... many of the competition are simply spraying their saya with HVLP automotive paint.

Geometry and shaping : In addition to the fumbari issue , many replica katana are simply awkward . Poor geometry , poorly shaped , clumsy inconsistent sori...
The Dynasty Forge blade is robust and graceful... what else can i say? Take a look at the elegant sori... and the blade geometry exhibiting slight hiraniku but not haniku.

Fittings: The Dynasty Forge fittings are equal to or superior to any production katana on the market.

All these are things that the Dynasty Forge katana are doing right that many , many other brands ignore completely. A lot of replica katana rely on one or two gimmicky selling points. One of these in particular is a hamon. Some of the lower end forges have mastered throwing a choji type hamon on a poorly shaped blade and this enthralls ther masses. Some even say it is hand polished , when they are clearly acid-enhanced.

On this sword the polish is admittedly a machine polish ... a hybrid polish. And due to the difficulty of displaying a clear , vibrant hamon on a folded sword like this , the hamon is almost surely an artifact of the polishing process... more of a hadori. Many folks would bemoan this fact, but I put it to you that on a user production blade the method used to display a hamon is far less important than the rest of the production process ... better a well made sword with an unremarkable hamon than an unremarkable sword with a flamboyant hamon.

Substance over gimmick.

Marc Kaden Ridgeway
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Marc Ridgeway

Location: Atlanta , Gawga
Joined: 24 May 2006
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Posts: 133

PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2012 3:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Since their inception in 2003 , Dynasty Forge has been producing some of the highest quality production katana on the market. With the attention to detail and adherence to many traditional qualities they have an identity all their own. This legacy of quality has only been helped by their dedication to continuous improvement.

Dynasty Forge offers something for everyone, form their spring steel Musha line, to the mid-range Bushi , to the top tier hand polished Daimyo line including tamahagane blades.

Dynasty Forge has a reputation for offering quality products with honesty and integrity. Their products are accurately described and the production methods openly disclosed.

Those who have followed my reviews know that for me there are a few "must have" production katana. The Bushi shobu is another. Any well rounded collection of replica katana should represent the various sugata , and as such having a shobu is a must.

Every katana collection should have a shobu, and the Dynasty Forge shobu is the best I've seen in the production market.

Thanks for reading.

Marc Kaden Ridgeway
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Matthew G.M. Korenkiewicz

Location: Michigan, USA
Joined: 08 Mar 2004
Reading list: 3 books

Posts: 864

PostPosted: Thu 29 Nov, 2012 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Informative review ... I personally like the use of the term Japanese Style Sword, I think
that term should be used more often for anything that is NOT strictly a Japanese sword.

With so many ... shall we say ... inexpensive avenues one can take to procure a Japanese Style
Sword in the production-sword market, I find the details become more and more important. For
myself, for instance, the condition of how the -- forgive me for not using Japanese terminology
here -- handle is wrapped and the shape of the diamonds; or the geometry of the blade; or
how everything fits together -- snug ? loose ? with or without rattling ? One tends to hope, even
at an affordable level, the the details and qualities that CAN be controlled within the cost of the
sword ARE controlled, if you follow me ...

And I've always looked at the products offered by Dynasty Forge, as I have a monosteel
from their collection.
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Marc Ridgeway

Location: Atlanta , Gawga
Joined: 24 May 2006
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Posts: 133

PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2012 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Matthew. I follow you completely. There are a few swords out there that pay attentio to the essentials even while scaling down the price... the challenge remains finding them.
Marc Kaden Ridgeway
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