I am still learning in the general Sword area.
Most of us have a sort of a fixed impression in our minds as to how Katanas are made.
there are many methods of forging a Katana, at least 6, varying with tempering, sandwiching, forging polishing and materials used.
The first, I suppose, is the general 'Sai Gunto" sometimes referred to by me as "Sho Gunto" or "shin gunto".
A rather poor picture of a poorly restored Wartime Machined Katana Machined sword. A machined sword may show a Hamon but will evidence no hand forging marks.
The is the case with all Mushashi and Shinwa blades I have seen, but that does not necessarily mean that you should avoid all of them, it depends on what you want..
I have found that you get pretty much what you pay for.
Wallhangers and light cutting capable are the categories into which most Shinwa and Mushahi may fit.
I cannot find any review on line yet, and it may be that I will do some light cutting testing on my own.(take a pil Hugh )
Water filled aluminum 'tonic' cans (a New Englandism) will leave some marring on a blade that can be polished out.
Water filled Milk containers will not mar the blade.
It may be ok to polish out marring on a Sai Gunto that has no Hamon, but touching up a scratched hamon line is tricky..
Generally also the Shinwas are Higher priced and somewhat better in quality, but, for the most part, the Mushashi and Shinwa blades are the same.
A Hamon is the line that may evidence that, as to one step in manufacturing, the blade has been clay tempered in the 'maru' fashion.
Clay tempering means that layers of clay, or something similar, have been placed along the Mune and not along the Ha and the blade then fired and quenched. the Mune ideally remains relatively untempered to provide flexibility and offset the hard tempered Ha.
This line can be immitated as Sensei Fred has said, by the application of chemicals. Gun Blue might work.
Clay tempering does not, obviously, mean that the blade is hand forged.
Nor may hand forging and clay tempering necessary to fil your needs.
The exact process of tempering used in Shinwa and Mushashi blades is something I am still investigating.
But at tis time the Shinwa sometimes show clay tempering effedt (these could be faked)but to what end?)Mushashi blades genearlly show no natural hamon.
Hanwei swords show natural Hamon and hand forging. The latter is seen as a rippling effect when staring down the balde.
There are several manufaturers that offer very highly crafted Katana of guaranteed quality such as Bugei, but these are highly priced.
I am assuming that most of us want to stay in the $250 to $750 range.
I will be trying to find the method of construction and tempering for swords offered to thse of us stuck in the middle of the road in terms of funds available.
I have found an overseas manufacturer that actually shows shows the type of manufacture, cutting test and manner of tempering in this price range,
One Shinwa blade, allegedly of decent quality and showing a Hamon and touting a "Tsuba of 'pure Zinc' has given me fits.
Hugh will be on me for this one.
It had a very pretty tsuba finished in black in a sort of floral pattern.
Now, I know that we are told not to store the sword in a horizontal rack without sword bags or in a veritical standings position with the Tsuka UP.
But what fun would that be.
Well, I it would be fine for many folk other than me, who don't care not being able to see their (in my case diminutive) collections.
So here's the rub, my pretty little Shinwa standing upright in the popular vertical stand, but, before I can 'bag it" my cat knocks it out of the rack.
Well, ther will be warnings about at least two swords based on this type of furniture poorness of if the offending sword it is still being offered to the public online.
I can add that the Tsuba on the Mushashi "last Samurai" is of similar construction.
In any event the tsuba hit the admitedly hard tile floor and literally disintegrated.
Another hard learned lesson, in this case two in one.
Since I can get most Katana furniture made proper metals , I was not dismayed,.
If had this model been my own personal and only favorite, it would have been upsetting.
The offending model was the Shinwa Royal Brown Katana:
Mine Now sports a Solid Brass Tsuba and I may upgrade the rest of the furniture.
It's a hobby of mine, and I do not recommend it for all.
Another probable Shinwa that seems to show the same weakness is the Shinwa Royal Warrior:
Two that seem most satisfactory, at least until I can determine the manner of tempering, are the Shinwa Bamboo:
and the Shinwa Phoenix:
Hugh knows I learn the hard way, but, If I didn't, how would I pass anything back to you.
The Phoenix and the Bamboo have highly decorated Saya, and some may prefer theirs plain. Both , 'show" a Hamon Line and have copper or Iron Tsuba but are clearly NOT hand forged.
The Start of this whole line of Katana from Chinese Forges was the Hanwei Shinto Katana:
But a semi custom made blade from another Chinese forge which I can obtain for you or guide you to is shown:
In this case the forge supplied pictures of the sword, sets out the materials used, shows pictures of the forging and showed cutting tests.
In the case of the blade shown, materials were lsited initially as aisi 1095 hi carbon steel and---er wood.
The contruction method was described by the forge as traditional Clay tempererd in which the internal strength of the sword are established by layering the blade when fired in clay.
The thickest layer of clay is put upon the mune (back side of blade) a somewhat thinner layer of clay on the central side of the blade (shinogi or Shinogi-ji) and none or little on the Ha or edge of the blade.
This is the Maru and most common type of construction.
When the blade is fired (or refired as the case may be) and quenched a 'natural" temper line, or "hamon" appears along the line where the clay ends.
So the problem then arises with respect to blades, probably of good quality, that show a hamon line without any description of how the line was acheived.
In the case of the Hanwei "Shinto Katana" originally introduced in the price range which we are addressing ($250) some 15 years ago is now priced at around $900.
Mine is of the Maru type construction, has a clear Hamon line and the hand forging marks (a sort of rippling effect) can clearly be seen. It does not appear that the saya is heavily lacquered.
The Tsuba is brass as are the kashira and fuchi. The rayskin is correct but reviews suggest it is a 'half' or panel wrap are probably correct.
Reviews aslo indicate that it cuts well and is light.
At the time of introduction, the Hanwei line was "poo poohed" as a wannabe.
Now the wannabe is not cheap at all, but still chearper than Bugei.
So I am considering the possiblity that other forges may be breaking certain of their swords in at low margins as of this date and are similarly being 'dissed" but may later be proven as ok investments..
Also, there are many other forges such as Dynasty, Imperial, Bugei, Cheness, Thaihatsu Nihonto, Cold Steel (or whoever makes theirs) and Imperial Forge.
Obvoiusly I cannot buy and test all of them.
At the moment, no one is saying much about Cold Steel, Shinwa and Mushashi in terms of contruction and Cutting ability.
I do not totally dismiss them.
The Cold Steel Drangonfly is well constructed but shows no natural grain or hamon.
Since I traded for it with and FFL dealer with something I was not going to keep anyway, the price was not a problem.
I assume Sensei Fred would advise against the Heavily decorateed Sayas of the Shinwa Phoenix and bamboo because his Sayas are going to be subjected to some hard treatment.
Although I am not going to buy any or any more from tShinwa their Phoenix and Bamboo katanas shown seem acceptable.
If, therefore, you are operating on a limited budget you may want to let me know or peruse the reviews and product description carefully.
If you do this, or ask me or, in the extreme case, buy one of mine, and you may end up with something acceptble and attractive without breaking your budget.