Project X Katana – Delays

One of the reasons we ran a trial run of the Project X Katana rather than just offer it as a new custom sword available all year round is to make sure the customization process goes smoothly and to identify and bottlenecks or delays in production.

And indeed, it appears it was a wise choice, as to date only 50% of the orders placed in late May came in on time, the other 50% are now running a couple of weeks behind the original maximum quoted lead time..


Well, there are a couple of very good reasons.

The first is that laminated swords generally have a high failure rate. Its a complex procedure – made even harder because of all the various lamination methods, Soshu Kitae is by far the most complex..

To make one good sword, it usually takes 4-6 attempts. Many fail at the heat treat and hardening stages, for a when a dreaded ‘ping’ sound occurs, the blade has cracked and cannot be salvaged – the smiths need to start from the very beginning again.

However just because a sword survived the heat treat okay doesn’t mean that its out of the woods. Many flaws are only revealed during the polishing stage – sometimes after 4-5 hours of hard work has gone into the blade.. In these cases, either the lamination line or the hamon have run off the edge of the blade (fatal flaw) or there are some grind marks or scratches that occurred during the grinding phase before heat treatment that are too deep to completely polish out.

When this happens, there are two options – either abandon the blade and start again or keep going to try to get it as smooth as possible, as it is a non-fatal flaw.

Flaws like these are called ‘kizu’ and even high end Nihonto made in Japan may have ‘kizu’ that are deemed to be fatal (i.e. make the sword dangerous to use) or non-fatal (just not so pretty to look at). You can find an excellent list of the most common ‘kizu’ that will occur with a Katana here on Richard Stein’s excellent Japanese Sword Index.

For Project X Japanese, we subject our swords to a standard above and beyond even what is considered acceptable for a $10,000 Nihonto. None of these flaws are acceptable to us – but sadly there is a long line of eBay sellers and other local suppliers who are quite happy to snap up the rejects at bargain basement prices and flog them off as brand new, quality blades rather than scratch and dent them as they should.. Indeed, they even go so far as to sell swords that were failed heat treatment as functional cutters – and sadly as a rejected sword is no longer our property, there isn’t anything we can do about it..

Anyway, the point of this post is to explain why these swords take a bit longer than usual to make as its often the case that the flaws are not found until several days of hard work have already been applied – so moving forward we have revised the lead time from 4-6 weeks to 3-4 MONTHS with some coming in slightly earlier and others slightly later, but all in all considering just how much work goes into making them, even 3-4 months is something of a miracle..

Quality like this takes time..

Anyway, the swords that are awaiting completion will take another couple of weeks max before they are finished and we are ready to start a second trial run (along with a few new models including a Kogarasu) – so if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up to the Project X Newsletter to be notified when the next opportunity to get these opens up..

As you might expect, demand is pretty high for these swords and its very easy to miss the boat – so when the time comes, the faster you can secure your order the better..

P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure, I hate to admit it but the flaws you see above were on a sword that was sent to one of our customers.. It should go without saying that we kicked up quite a fuss with the forge about this, saying it is totally unacceptable for this line, and the sword in question is being remade for the customer and the point has been driven home – nothing but the VERY best is acceptable for Project X, and even flaws that are acceptable on Nihonto will not be tolerated here..

Project X – Completed Custom Sword Example

The original swords from Project X Japanese were and still are what we feel are well balanced and aesthetically pleasing designs – but with the ability to customize them it’s possible to create a truly unique, one of a kind personalized sword using one of this swords as a base.

One of our most popular swords is Model # 006 (the Dragon Blade) as it has a wide range of very attractive and original themed Koshirae (fitting sets: Tsuba, Fuchi, Kashira and Menuki) as well as great looking saya.

Mixing and matching just a few of the components and we get, well – we get this stunning original sword designed by one of our customers from the first trial run of 20 swords..

Click any of these pics for a very high resolution image:

$1000 Price Tag, all inclusive
Sword and Saya
Side view of the fittings and blade
Now THAT is what a geometric kissaki should look like
1 Full Day of Polishing
The stunning interplay between the lamination, the hamon and in this case, folded steel
Substantial and thick tsuka due to the use of a FULL rayskin wrap
Close up of the Buffalo horn Koiguchi and Kurikata with premium sageo
The Gold Leaf, Double Lacquered Saya
Bottom half of saya with gold leaf and buffalo horn kojiri
Close up of the blade showing the bo-hi (fuller) option
Side view shows the hamon pattern
Great choice of tsuba and fittings
The classic Samurai warning, a partially drawn blade..
Great choice of Menuki (handle ornament) and vibrant fittings.
The use of Hishigami (paper triangles) is time consuming and expensive, but when combined with alternating wrap and full rayskin results in the tightest fit possible
A couple of final glamor parting shots
And that’s all folks

While the first run of 20 swords is taking just a little longer than we anticipated – as you can see from the pics above they are well worth the wait..

Another trial run will commence as soon as the last sword from the first trial is safely delivered. To be informed of when they are next available – as well as get access to several special deals and offers not available to non-subscribers, sign up to the Exclusive Project X Newsletter Below.

In the meantime, you can see all the current main designs and custom options HERE with 2-3 NEW models in the works behind the scenes..

Project X Japanese – Behind the Scenes & Updates

The first 10 of 20 orders for the trial run of Project X Japanese – Custom Options have just been completed and are about the leave the forge with the final 10 swords not all that far behind.

In the meantime, I requested a few pictures of the master smiths and master polisher at work on these authentic Soshu Kitae laminated and differentially hardened blades to give you a bit of a behind the scenes look at what goes into making these swords as special as they are.

First up, a couple of nice shots of the initial fusion of the 5 panels of steel – correct placement of each type of steel is critical and it is a complex procedure that ONLY a Master Smith can actually pull off and is why this type of lamination is so rare and (relatively) expensive.

Once the 5 panels are properly forge welded together its hammer time – all done the old fashioned way, with not a power tool in sight – just two master smiths working together in unison to stretch out the steel.

Once the Master Smiths have finished forging and shaping the blade, it is then handed over to another certified Master – the polisher (whose apprenticeship is actually LONGER than that of a smith!).

Here the polisher spends one FULL day on each blade, getting to know it intimately as he smooths and sharpens the blade for optimal cutting performance.

One of the hardest parts of polishing a Katana is the kissaki (the tip), which takes almost as much time to polish as the rest of the blade due to its complex contours. The effort required to polish this small part of the blade is so great it is the reason why so many entry level hand made swords have nothing more than a rough counter-polish.

Naturally, this traditional method of polishing creates the highly desirable ‘geometric yokote’ – that is to say a definite and clearly defined line where the body of the blade transitions to the tip.

From there, these stunning blades are mounted up in the customers choice of premium fittings (full rayskin wrap, hishigami silk ito, you name it – no shortcuts or inferior components are used whatsoever).

Honestly, with all the blood, sweat, tears and skill that goes into each blade its only because we trim down our margins so much that a sword like this can be made available for $1000 – its easily worth DOUBLE the price if not even a bit more, as the first 20 people who were fortunate enough to get in on the first round offering are soon about to find out first hand..

To find out when the next round of offerings is available, and get access to exclusive deals and special upgrades, be sure to sign up to the exclusive Project X newsletter.

In the meantime, you can see the various base designs offered for the first round and perhaps start thinking about how YOU might decide to customize one for yourself if you are fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to afford one of these truly droolworthy swords..

Project X Japanese

SBG Custom Katana Updates

Just a quick update, the classic SBG Custom Katana – Batch 45 – is nearing completion at the forge. The original due date on these is sometime around this time next month which means that we are more or less on track for timely delivery as expected.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of pics of four of the swords in this batch

Talking about pictures, on a slightly different but related note, we just added some huge hi resolution pics of each of the very attractive themed sword furniture sets (Koshirae) for the limited re-release of Project X Japanese showing the tsuba’s from the front and the rear.

The pics are really quite big so you can click on them and zoom in accordingly. Here is an example of the first custom set in the series, the set we used for the Torakami Katana all those years ago..

You can see the line up here – spaces are indeed filling quite quickly so if you want to get in on these, time may not be on your side..

Project X Japanese

Limited Re-release and now with CUSTOM options!

Project X Subscribers, check your email!!

Last offered in July 2017, it has taken nearly 2 years to get to this point, but we are here with a limited re-release of our very best traditional Japanese swords from Project X!

With stunning Soshu Kitae laminated master smith forged blades decked out in the best fittings possible with no expenses spared (i.e. FULL rayskin samegawa wraps on the handles, alternating silk ito made using hishigami triangles, buffalo horn inserts on the saya – you name it, they have it) the true market value of these swords is easily closer to $2000 than the average asking price of $1000.

But even better, each sword has a carefully chosen selection of custom options and custom fittings that match the designs theme so you tweak it to your own personal tastes without accidentally creating an ugly sword. But you are also free to use any and all of the custom options from the other designs.

Custom iron tsuba choices for Model #001 – the Kenshi

You can see all the custom options on a new page on the blog here plus there are also a few additional paid custom options to take the design to the next level such as black leather ito wrap (naturally also done with hishigami and sporting a full rayskin wrap underneath), Dragon Horimono engraving on the blade or mother of pearl inlaid saya..

One of the optional upgrades – Mother of Pearl Inlaid Saya

As it literally took two years of wrangling with the forge for them to allow this, this re-release is limited to 20 swords only – and only if everyone is happy with the results (i.e. the Forge, SBG and those who are quick enough to secure one) then we will offer them all year round..

QC standards will be applied as if they ARE $2000 swords, but with an average price of $1000 the value for money factor is off the charts (especially as you cam also request additional minor customizations such as gyaku menuki placement, kissaki length, etc).

If you want to get in on this special re-release, keep your eye on the order progress bar that will appear once we reach 20% capacity..

Because when it looks like this:

You probably will only have a day or less to secure one before the opportunity slams shut.

Lead time between placing your order and receiving your sword is 4-6 weeks, so check out all the original models by clicking the link below: