EDITORS NOTE: To prevent any possible conflict of interest, this overview was written by Arnold Kotlyarevsky. As Arnold was a little TOO generous in some areas, the editor (Paul Southren) has added some additional behind the scenes info to the 'Known Issues' section.
Paul Southren began his website, Sword-buyers-guide.com, in 2005 with the intent to create a space not just
for detailed sword reviews, but also for learning. SBG was intended to make buying swords on the internet a
an informed decision, backed up with accurate information. The primary focus of this website is to find, and
shine a spotlight on those swords that could only be classified as "real" swords. This meant these swords
had to be able to perform the task assigned to swords, namely, cutting things. However, as swords can cost
anywhere from $15, all the way up to a $40,000, it was important to Paul that the swords that qualify fit
into a reasonable price range. As part of this vision, Paul also established an online store that would work in
conjunction with the rest of his website, and carry only those swords which Paul felt were in keeping with
his objective. Some time later, SBG began to offer their own exclusive line of swords that met Paul's rigorous standards.
Paul Southren, Sword-buyers-guide.com founder.
SBG exclusive swords are made from T-10 tool steel which has, time and again, demonstrated its durability and resilience.
This steel has been demonstrated to cut anything from water bottles and pool noodles, to more traditional targets like
tatami omote. However, this is not the upper bounds of what T-10 can handle. The SBG exclusive swords have been demonstrated
to have, on atleast one occasion, cut through: tree branches, dry wooden logs(with the grain), and even part of the way through
oil barrels. These blades' ability to endure these sorts of beatings is not only due to the quality of steel, but also due to
the differential heat treatment these blades are given.
Though the blades play a central role in Paul's vision, it is by no means the only detail accounted for. The hilt,
scabbard, and fittings are each paid a great deal of attention towards ensuring good quality, appearance, and utility.
MAIN PRODUCT LINES
$330 CUSTOM KATANA
This is the SBG entry level custom katana. This item is by itself a bit of a miracle. For $330 anyone
can have an almost completely unique sword, designed to their specfications. These customizations
include 3 choices for blade geometry, blade length, bo-hi, 48 choices for tsuba, 28 choices
for fittings, 13 ito colors, black/white rayskin, and 12 choices for the saya color. If you
do the math, that gives you up to 7547904 possible combinations.
The professional grade katana are the main line of swords put out by SBG. This selection
of swords ranges from $330-$799. This line includes its own version of the Custom katana,
but taken to a higher level. More, better options, and an overall improvement on the
execution of the sword make these the premier line of swords for SBG.
As mentioned earlier, SBG swords are designed with the martial artist in mind. These swords
are durable enough for any soft targets, and even a few of the heavier targets. Below is a video
that shows some of the extremes these swords can endure. NOTE: these swords are not designed with
this type of use in mind, this is merely a demonstration of the upper limits of the swords'
capabilites, and is considered destructive testing.
VIDEO: Paul Cutting With an SBG Katana
A short video of SBG founder, Paul Southren, destroying some targets.
Basically none. There was one reported problem in 2009, but after contacting Paul, the matter was resolved,
and the blade replaced.
EDITORS NOTE: There are essentially two issues that arise with the SBG Katana lines.
The first is that with the custom option swords, occasionally the forge will make a mistake and the sword arrives to one of my agents with the wrong colors or components..
Of course, when this happens, corrective action is taken (which rarely happens when buying directly from a Chinese Forge and is one of the main reasons why these products were created in the first place!) - and while relatively rare, when it does happen it can add significantly to the overall time it takes to receive a sword.
Related to this is the second issue, namely that as Chinese forges are not always as punctual as they should be, despite allowing 90 days between ordering and receiving the completed sword, sword pre-orders have historically often been subject to arriving later than expected. However, in all cases, no effort is spared to try and get the swords out to the customer as close to the originally quoted lead time as possible, and this fact is explained on the relevant sales pages at the time of ordering.
So while not perfect, there is little doubt that SBG does the very best it can to ensure customer satisfaction and due to SBG's position within the sword community, this should really come as no surprise.
There exist a number of reviews on the SBG forums made by a number of independant users. There are also reviews on the SBG website: