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Jussi Ekholm

Location: Tampere, Finland
Joined: 16 Jun 2004
Reading list: 38 books

Posts: 96

PostPosted: Wed 19 Mar, 2014 5:45 pm    Post subject: YarinoHanzo Custom Katana         Reply with quote

As there was talk about lack of discussion about Japanese swords, I thought I'd post this in here too. Happy


Well as some might have noticed I've been quite vocal in few forums about the lack of historical accuracy in budget priced Japanese swords. Of course I've been feeling that way for a long time now, I just keep shrugging my shoulders, and pretty much all production katana have been starting to look the same to me... As we've discussed, we who want some historical relevance in budget swords are most likely a tiny minority.

I made this order from YarinoHanzo about 6 months ago. Their estimated delivery time for full custom orders is 120-210 days.

My main goal was to get a reasonable amount of historical accuracy for small budget. I was looking a sword for a small budget of 300-400 delivered to my home. Bear in mind that we have 24% VAT in Finland, so comparable range for US folks would be 300-400$.

Historical Overview

Well usually I tend to just write here "It's a katana" when reviewing production swords, but this time as I planned this myself from the possibilities offered by YarinoHanzo's custom katana order. So now we will have actually quite a lot of background to this. Happy

The blade was based on stereotypical sugata of Eisho and Daiei eras (1504-1528). This was the time when katate-uchi (single-handed fighting sword) was in fashion. This was the time when katana was generally at it's shortest form. I based my research from information found from several books. I combined the various characteristics found on blades of these eras to my liking.

I also had a katate-uchi sword that was dated to 1568, but unfortunately I sold it recently so I cannot make side by side comparisons. However from Eisho to Eiroku the stereotype of the sword had already changed a bit. I especially liked the strong curvature on that antique sword, and I wanted this to have about similar curvature. I played with an idea for going 1 to 1 replica of it, but I wanted to change some features and go for bit earlier look... Happy

The koshirae was inspired by Higo koshirae, and I tried to replicate it as well as I could with the options offered by YarinoHanzos custom katana builder. Of course shortcuts have to be taken when you try to recreate something with small budget like I did.

Here are some characteristics of typical traditional Higo koshirae, which I tried to include in this budget custom. They generally have short tsuka c. 20cm that has little taper (I thought the forge wouldn't make really tapering tsuka Happy) and blade lengths around 60-65cm. Hilt is covered with black same and wrapped with leather (I opted out of the leather for brown silk, because very rarely leather wraps are good in budget swords). Usually they had full samezaya, but that was not an option, even the same for upper portion of scabbard was too expensive for me, so I went with rattan upper portion that followed the color theme. I chose the tsuba and F&K as I found them fitting, unfortunately sometime after placing my order more fitting F&K pair came to their part list...

Just so you can understand more easily the differences, here is a picture with "an average production katana"

Full Disclosure

I bought this from YarinoHanzo and I paid full price, however I made my purchase when some discounts were in effect, such as free shipping in Europe, and slight discount from the total price of the product.

However I must say that I consider myself being in good relationship with Francesco the owner of YarinoHanzo. And I will be reviewing some regular YarinoHanzo swords for him in the future. But as I do not receive any compensation for doing that, it shouldn't affect my views in anyway

And come on of course I'm quite pumped up for this sword as I "kind of" designed this, and I got a darn nice sword in my opinion, of course there a minor things I'd fix, and I'll mention them.

Initial Impressions

Happy I think that's enough along with things I've already written.


Nagasa: 60,9 cm
Nakago: 20,3 cm
Sori: 2,3 cm
Motohaba: 3,05 cm
Sakihaba: 1,9 cm
Moto-gasane: 7 mm
Moto-shinogi-gasane: 8 mm
Saki-gasane: 5,3 mm
Saki-shinogi-gasane: 6,3 mm
Kissaki: 4,6 cm
Bare blade weight: 717 g
Weight in koshirae: 996 g
Steel: 1060
Tsuka: 20,5 cm - weight 130 g
Tsuba: 7,4 x 7,3 cm, thickness 5,6 mm - weight 105 g
Fuchi: 38 x 23 x 11 mm
Kashira: 36 x 18 x 11 mm


I really like the blade of this sword, and due to earlier introduction you should already have guessed that. Happy

Here you can see the sugata. I really like the curvature of the sword. I still think that the nakago came out longer than I would really have wanted, but hey it's a budget sword after all. I would have thought they would have made bit shorter nakago as the tsuka itself is so short. Well at least it's about full tang. Wink

Here you can see the nakago and YarinoHanzo mark on the nakago. Unfortunately the machi are uneven, but that is so common in this price range. I was surprised that one cheaper YarinoHanzo sword has even machi, but that's not relevant now. Other than the uneven machi nakago was pretty good and no burrs and easy tsuka removal and assembling back together.

The kissaki is actually longer than I would have expected. There is also completely dull spot at the yokote. I can press my finger on it hard and rub up and down and won't get cut. Of course you have to be careful when doing this, as sword is very sharp other than that spot. That is unfortunate small detail.

Out of hamon style options I chose gunome choji, and the hamon looks pretty much like the average budget Longquan blade. I chose 1060 as steel to save money, as the difference to 1095 was quite large.

Blade is short and quite thick, and I really like the feel of it.

I know that many want to see the niku pic, so here it is. Wink


Here you can see the short tsuka. I can straight off tell that I suppose most wouldn't be comfortable with this tsuka size. However it's historically accurate, and I must say I like it. I excels in one handed handling, but can also be used with two hands, although hands are very tightly together.

I chose black same and brown silk ito. Silk ito is that general Chinese made silk ito, not as nice as Japanese made ito. I took the extra option that hishigami were used in tsukamaki, and I think that was good little extra cash spent. However do you notice a minor cosmetic issue? Yep, the tsukamaki does not alternate... That's really a bummer as it's quite well made tsukamaki.

Fuchi, kashira and tsuba were selected by me from the product list, as I thought them to be the best fitting for this koshirae style, and I thought that tsuba to be of good quality, and I think it is.

I chose the thicker special seppa as I thought their look would be fitting to this overall look. And they fit very well with that habaki. Both are silverish.

Here you can see the tsuba, and how it's actually 3D instead of just flat plane. What can I say, this classical design is quite well executed, and I'm happy that I chose this more expensive version of this tsuba.

Upper portion of saya is wrapped in rattan which is lacquered brown, and lower portion is black ishime. I really think it fits the overall theme quite well, even though it's a budget option. I chose wood kurikata, kojiri and koiguchi to save money. I chose black & brown shigeuchi sageo to top the color combination.


I'm very happy with this sword. There are couple minor complaints on this, but the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. What can I say, that I haven't already said? The forge was able to make a sword within reasonable parameters to the original ordering form, and no I won't complain if there is very minor difference on some parts that I ordered. It's so close to the original form I sent.

I can definately recommend YarinoHanzo's custom katana builder. My tip when using it would be go with 1060 or 1095 blade. Wink

First cutting will be done bit later. Happy

Jussi Ekholm
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Encho Yakovchev

PostPosted: Thu 20 Mar, 2014 2:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great review, Jussi. Thank you for taking the time to write it and for the images.
Congratulations on a great looking sword!
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Matthew G.M. Korenkiewicz

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

Posts: 864

PostPosted: Fri 21 Mar, 2014 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For my own reasons, I've taken to calling production level swords of this type, and in this
price-range, Japanese-Style-Swords ... which isn't meant to denigrate a well made item an
owner is satisfied with and proud of. Its just my way of recognizing there's a chasm between
forging and mounting a true Japanese blade and what any number or forges, typically Chinese,
attempt to create.

I have owned and enjoyed a number of Japanese-Style-Swords in the price-range of $600 to
$2000. Predominantly Hanwei and Bugei. I'm no expert, believe me, but one looks at books or
reads enough online and one realizes $ 300 - $ 400 does not a true Japanese sword make. Nor
does $ 600 - $ 2000, I should add. One day I hope to commission a one-off sword, but even then
I don't think I'll be able to afford a traditionally forged Japanese blade, let alone the craftsmen to
mount it ...

With my own blather blathered, I enjoyed JE's review and pictures. Especially agree with :

Well as some might have noticed I've been quite vocal in few forums about the lack of
historical accuracy in budget priced Japanese swords. Of course I've been feeling that way for
a long time now, I just keep shrugging my shoulders, and pretty much all production katana
have been starting to look the same to me... As we've discussed, we who want some historical
relevance in budget swords are most likely a tiny minority.

A very important point, I think.

Hindsight is always 20 - 20, if what I know NOW I knew when I began collecting swords, and it
started with a lil ol Hanwei Ninja blade, I'd be looking around alot more; maybe trying to decide if
lesser-priced items would satisfy my long term interests, as opposed to my becoming more
deeply -- and financially -- involved in historical and cultural accuracy.

The long and the short of it, I guess, if one understands and accepts the pros and cons, as JE
mentions, one can still find enjoyment in something well-made relative to its cost ...
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Lee O'Hagan

Location: Northamptonshire,England
Joined: 30 Sep 2003
Likes: 6 pages

Posts: 529

PostPosted: Fri 21 Mar, 2014 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank's Jussi,
Great review, good pics, well done,
hadn't seen this company before you posted,
are they getting the blades from one of the Chinese companies ?
when you next speak with them,
the custom option is great, but would it be possible to scale back,
custom blade in shira saya on through to custom blade in detailed saya minus everything from the habaki back,
that option would be great,
some nice options listed on the custom page overall,
thank's for putting the thread up, good reading, Happy

Hi Mathew,
That's a whole new thread chap, Wink Big Grin
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Jussi Ekholm

Location: Tampere, Finland
Joined: 16 Jun 2004
Reading list: 38 books

Posts: 96

PostPosted: Tue 25 Mar, 2014 6:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for all the comments guys.

Yes these swords are made in Longquan, China. And I must say I've already asked about the possibility of custom in only shirasaya (it might be possible if you contact YarinoHanzo). But the one I've been thinking would be bit special and not easy to make, and I'm not sure if the forge could do it so that it would please me. Happy When going through the custom katana builder the chance of errors is much smaller, but of course you don't get that 100% customization.

I did cutting with these 4 YarinoHanzo swords, and I'll be writing more about them at SBG, as that is where most cheap katana folk hang Wink.

I can now share the cutting results.

Cutting medium was freestanding soaked (10-30 min soak) newspaper rolls and some very hard cardboard tube. Newspaper roll soaking time was varying as I was cutting with 4 swords and did not remember how long each roll soaked up.


Cutting these newspaper rolls with this sword was very fun. The sword did very good job in cutting, and I really liked to use this for single handed cutting. I know I used too much force in one handed cuts, but sword did very well and was fast to use. I liked how this felt in twohanded use too. Of course the blade & handle are both very short, but this is quick and manouverable sword.

Then was the turn for the dense and hard cardboard tube. This was also freestanding, and I had cut these before, these are tough stuff.

I could not get through it. Of course as I noticed that my strike stopped, I didn't use any extra force, as this dense tough stuff can damage the sword if you bend or twist with power and try to force through it.

Of course the limitation is most likely my technique (I've managed to make similar cuts with some other swords), and there is some variation in the thickness of these tubes.

Here you can see a pile of cuts with this. The very thick newspaper roll proved to be too tough target for this, like the cardboard tube. But this sword handled medium sized rolls with ease.

Sword only got couple of scratches after my cutting. I think this small sword is very well handling and quite good cutter.

Jussi Ekholm
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