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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

IS IT BETTER TO HAVE A BO-HI ON THE BLADE OR NOT?

It depends on your training style and preferences. There are pros and cons, and you have to figure it out for yourself.

DOES A BO-HI MAKE THE BLADE WEAKER?

Yes, but even if it is slightly weaker, the structural strength is still above our design requirement. A blade with a bo-hi is fully covered under our warranty program as well.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A BO-HI ON THE BLADE?

There are various theories on the functionality of a bo-hi. At least in the modern sword practice, it causes the sword to make a strong whistling noise when swung down, and the blade alignment is correct.

I LOVE THE TSUBA SHOWN IN THE WEBSITE HEADER. HOW CAN I MAKE THAT?

Select the combination of blackened brass and carved tsuba (such as carved bamboo, carved dragon, etc). Basically, the yellow brass under the blackened surface is showing in the picture.

CAN I GET BLACKENED WHITE BRASS FITTINGS?

No. White brass doesn't get blackened.

I DO NOT SEE ANY MENUKI OPTIONS ON THE CUSTOM SWORDS PAGE. WHAT CHOICES DO I HAVE?

We apologizefor having a limited menuki selection. You have the following options: with blackened dragon menuki; with yellow brass fittings, we mount yellow brass dragon menuki; and with white brass or silver fittings, we mount white brass flower menuki. We are trying to expand our menuki selection and we will offer more choices in the near future.

DO YOU MAKE EUROPEAN OR CHINESE SWORDS?

No, we don't. We do not have enough experimental or test data on European or Chinese swords and we will not risk making and selling unproven designs.

DOES MAS OFFER FINANCING?

No.

CAN I MAKE A PARTIAL PAYMENT IN ORDERING A CUSTOM SWORD?

MAS requires full payment upon ordering a custom sword.

IS BLADE-CARVING (HORIMONO) DONE AT THE FORGE?

Yes.

CAN YOU ENGRAVE CUSTOM PICTURES ON THE BLADE?

No, we cannot. We have experimented with this and the result was less than satisfactory.

CAN YOU ENGRAVE A NAME?

Yes, we can engrave letters on the blade or habaki. They can be in the Roman alphabet, Chinese, Korean, or Japanese characters. Other characters are possible if you can send us a picture.

Butouken/MAS

HOW LONG HAS MAS BEEN MAKING SWORDS?

MAS has been in the sword business since the mid-80's. The North American store opened in 2003.

ARE YOU AFFILIATED WITH ANY MARTIAL ARTS ORGANIZATIONS?

No, we are not affiliated with any organizations. All sword reviews that are on our website are conducted by independent third party martial artists or sword/knife makers.

WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED?

The forge is located in South Korea. Our sales office is in Toronto, Canada.

DO YOU HAVE A PHONE NUMBER?

The work nature and schedule limit us from answering phone calls during regular business hours. We check and reply to emails frequently throughout the day so please email us if you need to contact us.

FORGINF RELATED

WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF A MAS COMPETITION BLADE?

The MAS competition blade is one of the thinnest yet most durable blades offered in the market. Because the cutting plane angle of the blade is shallower, a practitioner experiences significantly less resistance in going through a target while performing tameshigiri (cutting test). Just imagine how difficult it would be to use a thick fillet knife in a similar.

IF THE COMPETITION GEOMETRY BLADE IS THINNER, ISN'T IT STRUCTURALLY WEAKER?

This is where MAS really shines. In general, thicker blades would exhibit higher mechanical strength, provided that all other conditions are equal. For example, if you compare a kitchen knife and a razor, you can easily conclude that the kitchen knife is structurally stronger than the razor. The real question is: how do you make a razor that is stronger than a kitchen knife? Here is out answer: it takes advanced metallurgical engineering to reduce the blade thickness while maintaining the mechanical strength. First, the blade must be made of high-grade steel such that it contains an extremely low level of impurities. Unlike most, if not all, production sword companies that use cheaper Chinese steel, MAS exclusively uses modern L6 steel from Japanese steel mills. Please do not be fooled by some companies selling L6 katanas - L6 steel from China and L6 steel from Japan are NOT the same.

Second, the blade must be forged according to the highest possible standard. If a sword smith is forging a blade and the hammer misses a single spot on the blade, then lattice irregularity develops at that point, and that section will become the weakest part of the blade. Some variation in mechanical strength along the length is tolerable in a thick blade, but it is not allowed for thinner blades. Although our master smith is an expert in forging, the MAS engineering design team has decided to eliminate possible human error altogether; instead of using a power hammer to forge a blade, MAS does this through a modern Japanese steel mill, where the blade is forged using a 3,000-ton pressure cold roll machine. In comparison, the typical power hammer pressure is ~250 kg (that's 12,000 times pressure difference!)

Third, the heat treatment must be exact. The steel grain structure changes during forging, heating, quenching, and stress relieving, and the temperature control is the critical element in achieving a high-quality blade. Most forges, if not all, rely on the smith's personal judgment or guesswork for this critical process. MAS has adapted modern engineering approaches to heat-treat our blades precisely without guesswork. In addition to the professional judgment of the master smith (who is a metallurgical engineer), we also use modern industrial equipment to control our heat treatment processes such that the blade temperature is extremely close to the target design values. Have you ever hear about the story of a Japanese smith taking a heated blade from charcoal and comparing its color to the color of the moon, so he can estimate the temperature? Actually, there is a scientific reasoning behind this story, because heated steel radiates variant colors depending on its temperature. In the MAS forge, this process is done using a multi-channel optical pyrometer, and it takes about a second to measure the exact temperature of the blade at any moment during the heat process. This process produces results that are within a +/- 1 degree accuracy.

IF THE COMPETITION GEOMETRY BLADE IS OPTIMIZED FOR MARTIAL ARTS PRACTICE, WHY DOES MAS OFFER TRADITIONAL GEOMETRY BLADES?

Each customer has his/her preferences when it comes to sword selection. MAS tries to accommodate all styles.

CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENT HAMON (TEMPERLINE)?

No. It is not possible due to the limitations associated with the L6 steel heat treatment process.

WHAT IS SORI (BLADE CURVATURE)? CAN IT BE CUSTOMIZED?

The curvature is approximately 0.8 inches based on a 28-inches blade. It cannot be customized.

ARE MAS SWORDS FOLDED?

No, MAS does not make folded blades because folding actually weakens the blade. When swords were forged in the past and metallurgical engineering was nonexistent, making a folded sword was a good solution in order to guarantee that a micro-crack in the steel does not propagate along the grain boundary and snap the blade in half. For instance, imagine a steel bar containing some air bubble inside due to poor casting. If a sword forged from such steel is subject to high stress (i.e. clashing with another sword), it can snap at the spot where the air bubble is located. However, if the same steel bar is folded five times to give 16 layers, the crack will be contained to one layer out of 16 and the sword will likely survive the clash. The same principle was used in the making of Damascus swords. Whereas these types of swords were superior to non-folded swords when forging started with low quality steel, the same logic no longer applies to modern swords that are made of high quality steel which does not contain impurities. When a high quality steel is folded with forge-scale power hammers, the quality of the steel actually drops significantly.

WHY DO OTHER SWORD COMPANIES PRODUCE FOLDED SWORDS?

As for traditional Japanese sword (nihonto) smiths, they do it for traditional and aesthetic reasons. After all, folded swords were the better swords a few centuries ago, and they also produced nicer looking blades. As for other production sword companies, either they do not understand why swords were folded in the first place or they just want to gouge the customers with hyped products, since the myth of folded swords allows them to justify their high price tags.

I LIKE HEAVIER SWORDS. CAN YOU CUSTOMIZE THE BLADE WEIGHT?

Yes, we can customize the weight to some degree. Usually, up to 200g reduction/gain is possible.

WARRANTY

WHAT DOES THE MAS WARRANTY COVER?

All blades are covered under a lifetime warranty. If the blade chips, bends, or breaks during normal martial arts practice (which includes performing patterns and cutting tatami or bamboo), we will replace it free of charge. Other sword furniture such as saya, tsuba, tsuka, menuki, fuchi, or kashira are considered wearable parts and are not covered under warranty.

WHAT IF I RECEIVE A SWORD AND THERE IS A DEFECT?

MAS swords are inspected independently by at least three different inspectors, and it is highly unlikely that a defect is not caught and corrected during the inspection. However, it can happen, and in such case, we will replace the defective parts or the whole sword free of charge, shipping included.

IF I DAMAGE THE BLADE OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF MARTIAL ARTS PRACTICE, CAN I SEND IT TO MAS FOR REPAIR?

Any physical object in the world can be damaged in one way or another. For instance, if a customer accidentally hits the sword on a nail in the tatami stand, the blade can chip. Someone might drop a sword on concrete and damage the edge. All kinds of accidents can happen. In such instances, you can send the sword back to us and we will repair it. The repair cost will be based on the actual labour and part cost.

CAN YOU TELL WHETHER A SWORD WAS DAMAGED DURING A MARTIAL ARTS PRACTICE OR IT WAS ABUSED?

Yes, we have inspected thousands of swords to date and we know what an abused sword looks like.

DO YOU REPAIR SAYA (WOODEN SCABBARD)?

If it is an original MAS product, we will repair it. Some saya cannot be repaired if the damage is extensive. The cost of repair is around $150 (including return shipping).

CAN YOU MAKE A REPLACEMENT SAYA?

Yes, we can, but it could be costly. Since we make the saya to fit perfectly to the blade, you will also have to send the sword back to us. The cost of making the first replacement saya is $500 (including return shipping) and each additional saya will cost $100.

DOES SAYA REPAIR/REPLACEMENT COST MORE THAN AN EXTRA SAYA?

Yes, unfortunately, that is the case. Please consider getting an extra saya if you are placing a custom sword order.

CAN YOU MODIFY/REPAIR MY NON-MAS SWORDS?

Sorry, we will not service any non-MAS products.

DO YOU REPLACE HANDLE WRAPS?

Yes, we will replace MAS handle wraps. Please send us the handle (NOT the whole sword). The replacement cost depends on the handle wrap material.

JAPANESE SWORDS

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND COMPETITION GEOMETRY?

The traditional geometry blade is 6 mm thick whereas the competition geometry blade is 5.5 mm thick. The thickness is measured at the habaki end.

CAN I SEND IN MY OWN FITTINGS TO BE MOUNTED ON A CUSTOM KATANA?

Yes, you can, provided that the fitting sizes are compatible with our products. Please check with us before sending your fittings. There will be an administrative charge of $70

HOW IS THE LENGTH OF THE BLADE MEASURED?

It is measured from the tip of the sword to the tsuba (i.e. we use draw length as the length measurement).

KOREAN SWORDS

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A KOREAN SWORD AND A JAPANESE SWORD?

We will limit our response to the design of the products that we sell here because there are a lot of differences between "traditional Korean swords" and "traditional Japanese swords." The main difference between MAS Korean swords and MAS Japanese swords is in the handle construction. Whereas a Japanese katana handle is fixed with two bamboo pins, a Korean jingum handle is fixed with a bamboo pin and a bolt. The other difference is in the sword tip geometr; a Korean sword has a rounder sword tip compared to a Japanese sword and it does not have the yokote (the line dividing the tip and the blade body on a Japanese sword).

DOES MAS OFFER BOTH TRADITIONAL AND COMPETITION BLADE GEOMETRY FOR KOREAN-STYLE SWORD?

No, all MAS Korean swords are in competition geometry. MAS Korean swords are optimized according to the needs of Korean sword art practitioners to provide the best pattern and cutting abilities.

CAN I DISASSEMBLE THE HANDLE?

Yes, you can. You only have to push out the bamboo pin from the handle and unbolt the end-cap by turning it counter-clockwise. However, MAS does not recommend the disassembling Korean-style sword handles because it is difficult to put back as tight as the original setting.

I AM A KUK SOOL WON PRACTITIONER. DO YOU MAKE STRAIGHT SWORDS?

Yes. Our Jikdo is a straight sword especially designed for Kuk Sool practitioners. Please note that our Jikdo is thoroughly hardened so that it does not develop curvature during the heat treatment process.

SHIPPING AND DELIVERY

WHAT IS THE DELIVERY TIME OF AN IN-STOCK SWORD?

The delivery time is 2-5 days to Continental USA or Canada. To Europe and Asia, it's typically 5 business days. The delivery to Mexico may take up to 4 weeks because we have to ship it via broker.

WHAT IS THE DELIVERY TIME OF A CUSTOM SWORD?

The lead time is approximately 10 weeks.

DOES MAS SHIP TO EUROPE?

Yes, we do.

WHAT COUNTRIES DOES MAS SHIP SWORDS TO?

We have shipped our quality L6 swords to customers in USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Norway, Czech, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, and Brazil.

WHAT COURIERS DOES MAS USE?

MAS ships all our swords via FedEx only.

HOW DOES MAS PACKAGE THE SWORDS?

We use a thick mailing tube to ship our L6 swords to prevent any damage to the blade and fixtures. The swords are put in a cotton or silk sword bag, then wrapped using a 3/16-inch bubble wrap sheet and put in a mailing tube. The tube is sealed at both ends with plastic plugs and taped multiple times to prevent it from opening during the transfer. Several fragile stickers are placed on the tube to caution the couriers. We tested the integrity of the package by dropping it from a 7-feet height and the content did not suffer any damage.

DO I NEED TO PURCHASE SHIPPING INSURANCE?

FedEx is generally very reliable. However, our experience shows that about 0.5% of the shipments (1 in 200) gets damaged, lost, or stolen during shipment. For your peace of mind, you can purchase the insurance. But if you would rather take the chance, then do not purchase the insurance.

I AM IN THE UNITED KINGDOM. CAN MAS SHIP A SWORD TO UK?

Yes. Some of our customers ask this question because of the sword ban in UK. The ban is applied to "cheap imitation samurai swords from China"; however, our products are considered as collector's items and the sword ban does not apply to our products. We have successfully shipped products to customers in UK since the ban came into effect. If you do not receive the sword, we will send you a full refund, so there is no risk for you in ordering our products to UK.

CAN MAS PUT REDUCED VALUE ON THE CUSTOMS INVOICE?

Whereas we can accommodate the customers' requests, please keep in mind that what is written on the invoice is the maximum insurance protection we can purchase/claim in case of damage or loss. So, if any shipping problem occurs, you will not be able to receive much compensation for it.

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