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Over several decades we have come to know and develop relationships with some of Japan’s most pre-eminent sword makers. Today there are slightly over 300 active licensed smiths in Japan. A lesser number of these smiths work full time. Swordstore has working relationships with about thirty full time smiths. We do not work with hobbyists or apprentice smiths.
Each smith sets his own business policies. This is important because in actuality the client is purchasing the smith’s name as much as or more than the work itself. Each smith determines whether a sword that has his signature meets his definition of “acceptable”.
Swordstore understands that some smiths believe that a blade with a number of flaws that are non-strategic in nature would be acceptable for purchase. Sometimes this can lead to a cultural misunderstanding as many Western clients harbor a conception that every blade made must be flawless. We therefore try to direct clients towards smiths that have a higher threshold for defining an acceptable blade for purchase.
Smiths are also free to select the other crafts people that work on completing a sword. Typically as many as 7 or 9 different artisans come together to make a sword in full furniture (koshirae). Often the client is focused on the name of the smith. Often the smith will not reveal openly who the polisher (togishi), habaki maker (habakishi), or saya/lacquer artisans (sayashi/nurishi) are. These craftspeople are just as important as the smith despite a lack of recognition outside of a very small sword community. Swordstore works with smiths that use top quality craftspeople in the polishing and fitting of each custom shinken.
Swordstore tries to interview the client to determine needs. It is impossible to completely automate the process of matching a client to a smith on a project. Upon learning the client’s needs we try to match the smith that is most comfortable working within the defined guidelines.
Often we ask the client for a short biography that is translated and given to the smith before the commencement of work so that he can better picture the client. This is often helpful in helping the smith get a feel for the client's needs and/or personality.