So after about a month wait from order time and a mail lady waking me up from my slumber, the Skyjiro TJ Warrior 2014 katana (shinken) has arrived! It is always worth getting jolted out of a deep sleep when there is a sword involved.
This is my review on the Skyjiro TJ Warrior, 2014 model shinken.
I will start off with my initial thoughts on Skyjiro Forge as well as my final thoughts on them, as this is the first sword I have purchased from them. Firstly, I was in the market for a sword that was as close to a nihonto as I could get. I started looking at different forges and came across Skyjiro. I knew there was also another really good forge out there, Thaitsuki, but didn’t really want to fork over $1,000+ right at that time. I checked out Skyjiro and started reading up on the specifications of their swords. I was liking what I was seeing, especially with the Skyjiro Sword Imperial Series line. But as the story goes, they were still way over my budget, coming in at $3,347+. Still, they impressed me with their swords, at least on the web, and I decided that I would give them a shot and buy one of the cheapest ones they had, to see how good their cheapies were. To me, that would set a standard that the swords would only go up exponentially in quality as the price increased. So if their cheapest one blew my mind, the most expensive one would make me go insane right? Well, let’s look and see just how good Skyjiro Forge’s TJ Warrior 2014 shinken really is!
First off, my sword took right at a month to get to me. I’ve ordered swords from other places such as Museum Replicas, KOA, etc. and they didn’t take nowhere near as long to get to me. But, as I’ve learned over time, patience can be a virtue and in this case, patience had a reward. So Skyjiro, I forgive you. This time *snickers*.
My sword came to me well prepared in a cardboard box, tightly taped. Inside, there was a very nice foam case that fit the sword like a glove. I actually kept it just in case I ever need to store or transport the sword. Inside that, the sword slept patiently in shrink wrap. Skyjiro actually put some effort in protecting the sword during shipping, which I give them my thanks.
After I got the sword out of the shrink wrap, what’s the first thing I did? Well, what’s the first thing anybody would do… I took it out of the saya! No actually I checked it over for dings and scratches, but only found very minor ones on the Tsuba. After I did take it out of the saya, I found the blade heavily oiled inside yet another plastic sleeve. They really went above and beyond to protect the sword. My first impression of them as a company was and is still very good.
OK. So this is where I get critical. Most of the time, you will get little things like the seppa might be a little crooked looking or the habaki and the blade are a little off. Sometimes the mekugi may even be a little out of wack. With the particular TJ Warrior I got, the seppa just straight up isn’t flat against the tsuba. It’s set at an angle, which irks me. But, as usual, there is a flip side to this. Yes, the sword was $179. But still, it’s out of wack. I’ll have to fix it myself. Not the biggest deal in the world. You can see the seppa gap between the tsuba in the pic below, as well as the fit of the habaki, which is superb in my book of an under $200 katana.
The fuchi and kashira are lion dogs, which seems to be a common theme among shinken these days. They are metal, obviously, but just a regular blackened iron mixed metal. The fuchi and kashira aren’t extravagant by any means. The same goes for the tsuba, which is about as plain as you can make it, although it does have the holes for the kogai and kozuka. That’s about it though. No design on it.
The fit and finish on the saya is pretty good. The kurikata has what appears to be a brass ornament through the hole, which is a nice for a shinken of this price. Other than that, it’s a plain saya.
Moving on to the tsuka, everything seemed tight for the most part. The ito is synthetic silk. The menuki are brass lion dogs. The mekugi are bamboo and there are 2 of them holding the tsuka on the nakago. The same is samekawa, aka real ray skin. The only thing I noticed with the tsuka on my shinken is that it makes a weird creaking sound when you move the blade side to side. Almost like it’s broken underneath the samekawa and ito. I really don’t think it is, but it’s kind of annoying at times and makes me wonder when I’m cutting with this thing (cutting video coming soon!).
Well, I think I covered the fit and finish of the Skyjiro TJ Warrior 2014 the best I could… Here is a little video to show you that there is very little shake and clatter when the shinken is in the saya. I was shaking it as hard as I could so there is a little bit.
The kasane at the habaki is listed @ 9/32″ thick. This holds true as mine was right between the 9 – 10/32 mark. The blade has a significant taper off all the way to the kisaki. Overall, the blade has some beef to it. It’s not a thin, weak, garbage blade. It’s made out of 1060 high carbon steel, which is a really good steel due to its durability. See my article Steel types for an explanation of the steel (it will say for Euro swords, but the same goes for Japanese style shinken). You can see a pic below that shows the kasane at the habaki with an ink pen on the blade to show you a comparison of thickness. Also, you can see the fit of the habaki from the mune edge of the blade.
The blade itself is through hardened in a traditional way. They don’t really say which traditional way the blade was through hardened though, but I’m pretty sure it is NOT the traditional clay technique used by Japanese master sword smiths. Skyjiro Forge does offer this method though with their higher end swords. That is another reason I wanted to check out one of their swords. While we are on the topic of differential hardening I will note on the hamon. I know this is a hot topic when it comes to shinken. Personally, I don’t usually have much of an interest in shinken that don’t have a natural hamon. So I broke one of my personal rules. The hamon on this sword is fake. It is not a natural hamon, but it does not look half bad. Many fake hamon are very uniform in nature and just ugly. This one has a kind of ko-notare looking hamon so I’m not too terribly disappointed, although it has no boshi (kissaki hamon).
As you can see in the pic, the warrior 2014 also has a bo-hi. I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not as I’ve never had a shinken with a bo-hi. I like it though. It does help shave some weight off the blade which makes it feel less clumsy.
The polish on the blade is not half bad either. It’s pretty good actually. The blade was polished with Japanese water stones with a mirror finish. It looks good. But being that the steel isn’t folded, I could not see any type of jihada on the blade, even with the good polish.
The blade is of Shinogi-Zukuri style. Here is the definition of Shinogi-Zukuri according to “The Art of the Japanese Sword: The Craft of Swordmaking and its Appreciation”.
Shinogi-Zukuri – A sword with a shinogi (ridge line) running along its entire length where the blade is thickest. Has a yokote line and a well-defined point.
The sori of the blade is sakizori, which means the curvature of the blade is biased more towards the tip. See the pic below.
The kissaki is chukissaki (medium-size point) with fukura kareru (relatively straight point curvature). The mune (back unsharpened edge) is iorimune, which is often the most common. Like I stated above, there is no boshi, as you can see from the pic below.
First I’ll give you the whole specs on the skinken straight from Skyjiro.
My final thoughts are as follows… You can buy a nicer sword for more money. I have seen swords far worse than this one. This sword met all of my expectations, and for under $200, you are going to have a hard time finding a shinken to beat this one. Skyjiro really has put some effort into the shinken they make and it shows. Now that being said, they do have minor flaws that may or may not be in every shinken they forge. I only bought one so I can’t give you a ratio like 1 of 10 are flawed or whatever. Also keep in mind that this is the cheapest sword they offer on their site. Seriously, I bought the cheapest one to see what it could bring to the table. You aren’t going to find the detail put into this shinken on any other shinken out there for $179. That’s pretty much a promise.
For those of you who are wondering, the shinken is NOT made in Japan. It is NOT Nihonto. This is a production shinken made in China, if I’m not mistaken. The swords are designed by Skyjiro N and David Goldberg aka Kinzan for Skyjiro Forge. They are not made by a flesh and blood Japanese master smith. It wouldn’t be for $179 anyways. But even their $6k shinken aren’t Nihonto. But don’t let that stop you from buying it if you are really wanting a quality shinken for cutting or just to show. The Warrior 2014 is still a nice sword that I’m glad I bought to add to my collection. I’ll be doing more business with Skyjiro Forge (I just hope they ship quicker next time), and hope you have a chance to check out their work also. Thanks for reading the review. If you have any questions on the sword, don’t hesitate to email me from the contact page.
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