Ronin Elite Ko Katana #237
- Calculated at Checkout
Ronin Elite Katana #237
This Ronin Elite katana has been traditionally forged and laminated in the soshu kitae tradition (seven panel steel). This school was developed by the legendary Japanese smith Masamune, and combines panels of hard, medium, and soft steels. The core of the blade is formed from softer, more malleable steel giving it exceptional flexibility. A layer of slightly harder steel is bonded to each side of the core to add support. The last layers are a very hard steel bonded to the top, bottom, and both sides of the core forming the ha (cutting edge) mune (back edge) and shinogi-ji (blade flats). This form of laminar construction provided for a sword that could be sharpened to a razor edge due to the hardened steed used for the ha, but was extremely resilient to battle damage due to its softer more flexible core.
Ronin elite katana are one of a kind, and the pictures are of the exact katana for sale.
Blade lamination: Soshu Kitae seven panel steel
Tempering: Differentially hardened (clayed) and water quenched
Rockwell Hardness: 62 edge / 40 spine
Fittings: Traditionally themed tsuba fuchi, kashira, and menuki
Kurikata, Koiguch, Kojirii: Polished buffalo horn
Polish: Japanese finger stone polish.
Blade length: 29 inches (habaki to tip)
Over all length: 40.9 inches
Tang: Full tang with Ronin kanji.
Grip: 10 inches
Wrap: Silk ito over genuine ray skin.
Saya: Silk sageo buffalo horn inserts
Ability level: Advanced dojo use (bamboo, tatami mats, etc)
Note that all measurements given were taken with a pair of electronic calipers, and are accurate to within 1/10,000, give or take. Overall, I really like the sword, but I will do my best to be as objective as possible. This review constitutes *my* observations of the sword *I* recieved, and they by no means should be taken to apply to the brand as a whole.
The hamon is quite nice, falling somewhere between a gunome and a toran. The lamination line is nice and visible, without distracting from the hamon at all. The polish is very good for the most part (more on that below).
The blade is straight relative to the tsuka, with a very slight distal taper (.323" at habaki to .2455" at the thickest portion of the kissaki). The kissaki is a well-formed chu-kissaki type, symmetrical on both sides, and a nice crisp geometric yokote. The mune is just as crisp, and very straight. I've measured the sori at .637" measured from mune-machi to the tip of the kissaki. The width from ha to mune narrows from1.251" at he habaki to .8715" at the yokote. The shinogi-ji is just as crisp as the yokote and mune, and suffers from no deviations that I can detect. The amount of care that went into the production of the blade is evident in just how well formed everything is. There is a quirk, but it has more to do with the description of the sword than the blade itself, and I will cover those near the end
The koshirae are very well made ina handachi style. The tsuba is in the kurikomi mokko pattern, with nice big o-seppa, and the gilding is well done, with no apparent smears, gaps, or other defects. The fuchigashira are of the same pattern and decorative style. The brass dragon menuki are a good touchand are well made, but are pretty unremarkable, which is a merit in its own right. They compliment the overall aesthetic without demanding attention. The ito is very tight, with regular diamonds of uniform shape. The same has no visible gaps, and a very nice texture.
The saya is of good quality, with nice buffalo horn kojiri, kurigata, and koiguchi. The color, as the pictures Ronin provides show, is a pleasant dark caramel color which I feel compliments the tsuba and fuchigashira well. The shitodome are secure and proerly placed (an issue I've had on cheaper swords from other makers). The sageo is good quality, but like the menuki above, it's pretty standard. It looks nice, feels nice, and doesn't scream for attention.
Now for the (very few) negatives. None of these is a game breaker for me, but I'm in the business of being objective
The polish is well executed, though there are some minor scratches on the shinogi. They're all very short (less than half a centimeter) and run perpendicular to the shinogi-ji, but are very narrow and are barely visible. Not a big deal for me, and I've seen worse on far more expensive swords. The other minor issue I found was a short (.558") dull spot on the ha, centered directly on the yokote. When I say "dull", I mean that it's not *as* sharp as the rest of the ha. I'm confident that it won't effect cutting performance. It's a visible, though slight, defect that constitutes the only thing which disappointed me during my inspection. That said, I got the sword on sale for $450, down from $850, so I'm not going to cry over it.
The other issues are all wood related, such as the fit of the tsuka and the habaki/saya interface. These I'm going to chalk up to a difference in both average temperature and humidity between Texas (from whence the sword shipped) and the mountains of North Carolina where I live. It would be naive to assume that any piece of wood which travels nearly 1,200 miles will behave the same at both origin and destination, and that's before you take into account the source of the materials.
That said, the habaki/saya fit on my sword was a bit loose, but very easily corrected with a .034" shim. Every sword I've ever bought has had a not-quite-perfect fit in this regard, so I had already planned on making this fix.
The tsuka is a slightly different story. It's remarkably tight. I have yet to actually remove it, so I won't be commenting on the nakago in this review, as I have not actually seen it. The mekugi took a bit of effort to remove, as they are *very* snug in the mekugi-ana, but they came out without any damage to themselves or the tsuka.
So, earlier I mentioned a "quirk" in regards to the blade, or rather the description of the blade. Ronin billed this particular sword as a "ko katana", which I thought was a bit odd, given that the description on the product page seems to describe a full-size katana. For those who aren't sword nerds, a "ko katana" is the same thing as a kodachi or chisa-katana. Basically the middle-ground between a katana and a wakizashi. Most ko-kats have a short blade (~24") on a standard-sized tsuka. When measuring this sword, I discovered that the nagasa (hamachi to tip) was almost exactly 28". On a solid bodied blade with such slight distal taper, 28" makes for a surprisingly hefty blade. Given that Ronin lists 29" as their standard nagasa for a full-size katana, and >~30" starts bringing you into tachi territory, I'd hesitate to call this a "ko" anything. Comparing the sword to Ronin's photos confirmed that, as promised, I had in fact been shipped exactly the sword I was shown.
Now, pointing out this discrepancy between description and the actual sword isn't a complaint on my part. I chose this particular model (#237) based almost entirely on the koshirae, so I'm actually quite glad to have recieved more sword than I thought I was getting.
Overall, I'm very, *very* pleased with this sword. It's got a whole host of pluses, and only one real minus. Given how expensive katanas can be, especially ones with such a complex blade construction, I think this sword would have been a good deal (though out of my budget) at the original $850, so I'm ecstatic to have gotten such a beautiful sword at such a great price as $450.
MINOR PRE-POST EDIT: I have been informed that the disconnect between the product page title and the description/actual sword was most likely a simple mistake when the page was made. I’ve run a website or two over the years, and have mis-titled many a page myself, so I totally understand how that could have occured. For the purpose of raw objectivity, however, I’ve left that bit of the review in.