Posts Tagged ‘Staff’

Straight swords, plain swords, and sword canes…

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Most of my regular readers will know at this point that I am somewhat partial to sword canes, Shikomizue, or “Prepared Canes” as they are called. The reason is twofold. First because they are simple canes, and I’ve always enjoyed using “sticks” as some like to call them, or staff weapons. So throwing a blade into the mix for me, pretty much makes them completely and uncompromisingly awesome. It’s like bringing a sword to a stick fight. Dirty, but full of WIN. 😛

Blind Fury

Blind Fury

For similar reasons, I am also a great fan of Chokutō. Chokutō (or “Straight Sword”) are, as the name might suggest, just simple straight swords. But while Chokutō and Shikomizue are similar in appearance, the designs are not the same. And while they may both share structural similarities with Shirasya, (I have actually confused these designs on numerous occasions in the past) the three are actually very different in terms of design focus, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about them (I.E. go grab a cup of coffee or tea or whatever, and get comfortable, before you continue reading. 🙂 )

Shirasaya, (or “White Sheath”) swords, regardless of form factor, were designed initially as a storage format for sword blades, and are generally distinguishable from other designs by a very simple, generally unadorned saya and tsuki. Compared to the complex tsuka furniture, mountings and lacquered saya finishes of traditional Japanese swords, shirasaya were stored, lightly pinned, in plain, un-lacquered saya, so that both the saya and tsuki could “breathe” and prevent the build up of moisture that could cause corrosion and or deformation of the blade and tang.

White Double Shirasya

White Double Shirasya

Shikomizue, or “Prepared Canes”, are just that. Walking sticks or canes, designed to conceal a sword blade. The design focus here was the covert carry of a sword, without arousing suspicion. Featuring a featureless straight saya and tsuki, generally cut from the same piece of wood, or cut and finished to look like it was, this was a popular choice for ninjas and other warriors who did not wish to arouse suspicion, but still wanted to be able to carry a sword about them for offensive or defensive purposes.

Zatoichi - Blind Fury Shikomizue

Zatoichi - Blind Fury Shikomizue

Chokutō, or “straight sword” design, on the other hand, was focused on neither conceal-ability nor storage. It was a design born in an age prior to that of differential tempering, and, in fact originated outside of Japan, in places like China and Korea. Differential tempering is a process that produces a hard edge, but flexible spine on a most traditional Japanese swords. It also imparts the characteristic curve to the sword, which was found to be a much more efficient sword design, when used correctly.

However before the discovery of the benefits of curved swords and differential tempering, swords were generally straight, and is here that the Chokutō design came from. A simple straight sword, intended for practical use, with no differential tempering, and no need to conceal the blade. The form of the sword simply followed it’s function and the limitations of the technology of the time. Or so the legends say…

So I’ll bet you’re wondering why I decided to bring all of this up. Well, here’s the thing. I am a fan of anime, one of them being Naruto. Or at least I used to be a fan of Naruto. Been a while since I watched any anime. But at least the first and second seasons were acceptably entertaining. If you are willing to disregard the many annoying filler arcs. :/

Anyway, In the anime, one of our eventual anti-heros, Sasuke Uchiha, wields what can only be called a monstrous black Chokutō called the Kusanagi Grass Cutter. As I mentioned in an earlier post on the topic, there is some disparity between the Anime version of the sword, and the Manga (comic book) version of this sword. In the comic, the sword is white, with a black stripe. In the anime, however, the sword is dark gray with a black stripe.

Sasukes Kusanagi No Tsurugi (Kusanagi Grass Cutter)

Sasukes Kusanagi No Tsurugi (Kusanagi Grass Cutter)

Personally, I prefer the animated version of the sword. But, nonetheless, the most common versions I am seeing are the manga versions, a replica of which was the inspiration for todays post:

Sasuke Uchiha's Chokutō

Sasuke Uchiha's Chokutō

As you can see this is the Manga version of the sword, but despite it’s white saya, it actually looks pretty nice. And it has a sweet black blade. And it appears to of a much higher quality construction than the last one I posted about. So just thought, after my long winded post, that I’d share. 🙂

Now if only someone would make it in black… Actually never mind. I’ll probably just get this one, sand it down and give it the traditional Japanese black lacquer treatment…

Yeah… Go me! 😀

Sasuke Uchiha Chokutō – [King of Swords]

Of Hammers, Swords and Walking Sticks…

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I ran across a rather interesting weapon today, one that combines both old and new battlefield technologies into a contemporary defensive weapon for the modern gentleman. Or not. About it being a modern gentlemanly weapon, I mean. I guess it depends on your point of view. Most civilized folks these days just pack a firearm. Or pack nothing at all, and simply plan to get on their hands and knees, put their hands behind their heads and say “Take whatever you want. I don’t really need it.” But I digress.

Hammer Head Sword Cane

Hammer Head Sword Cane

So this, is a hammer head sword cane. Quite the interesting design, a standard black sword cane, hidden in a smooth black tubular shaft, with a cast metal hammer head grip. On one side a standard hammer head, with cross grid patterned face, and on the other, a perforated spike. Quite a useful combination actually. And this sword cane, unlike most, uses a quick button release, which is an uncommon, but welcome feature in a sword cane. But for me, the most interesting feature of this cane is that hammer/point head.

In medieval times, a similar weapon evolved for the purpose of compromising the ever more heavily armored forces on the battlefield. Most swords weren’t really designed to battle armored opponents, and while most enterprising combatants simply learned how to use chinks in armor to thier advantage, it was sometimes easier and faster to simply compromise the armor.

This is where the war hammer design came from. Put a tough service point (or four) on the head of a small, but heavy impact weapon, and swing it, Louisville Slugger style, at your armored opponent, and you could punch a hole through that armor fairly easily. A small impact area (the point), combined with a relatively large mass (a hammer head) generally tends to do that to hardened metal plating. I’m pretty sure it would really just be a  bad day for the aforementioned armored opponent after that.

Medieval War Hammer

Medieval War Hammer

We don’t generally wear armor these days, however this design is still a good one for defensive impact use. You know, for smacking unruly peeps upside the head and whatnot. Especially for folks who’d rather not actually break out the sword bit if it could be avoided.

And assuming a solid connection between the shaft of the cane and the head (This is usually a very weak link in most sword cane designs) it would be all the more effective because of both the added weight of the hammer head, and the 100% USDA can of whoop a$$ that could be delivered by that pointy bit.

Now that I think about it, those medieval war hammer folks really knew a little too much about bringing the pain…

Hammer Head Sword Cane – [True Swords]

A Mystical Weapon… From a Mind of Metal…

Friday, September 12th, 2008

If any of you are fans of the Lord of the Rings, you may remember a scene In which Treebeard, one of the old giant trees, describes the evil wizard Saruman, saying:

“He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things”

For some reason, this phrase has always stuck in my head as an interesting description of Saruman. Maybe because I too, have a mind of metal… Though I would not go so far as to say I care little for growing things… But eco-friendly philosophical wizardry debate aside, there was one product of Sarumans oh so metallic mind, that I always liked. His staff:

In contrast to Gandalfs organically flowing, white wooden staff , Saruman wielded a staff of metal, adorned with a head that could easily have been designed to be a weapon itself. Part mace, part spear, it is the kind of staff I’d wield, were I to ever to become a Wizard. Of course It’ll never happen; being a Balrog is just so much more fun. I’m just saying. But look at this not so little beaut:

Sarumans Metal Wizards Staff

Sarumans Metal Wizards Staff

Now THIS is a staff. As staves go, it is a fairly intimidating piece, a metal shaft topped with a menacing quadruple bladed head, all finished in black. The head is obviously, the most interesting part of this reproduction, the bottom half of the head bearing an uncanny resemblance to a medieval mace design.

Moving up the head we have a crystal ball, nestled snugly between the four prongs of the head, which continue to extend upwards a few more inches, and then go to a wicked looking diagonally cut into a four pronged head, looking for all the world like the head of a quadruple spear.

Perhaps the thing I like most about this design is it’s sheer practicality as a weapon. Even sans magic enhancing properties. It was originally conceptually designed for duty as a Wizards magic staff, so I imagine Saruman used the crystal as a magic focusing tool, and the four blades were intended purely to hold the crystal in place, and were therefore not sharpened.

However, I think the design suits itself rather well to certain kinds of staff or spear combat. If were we to sharpen them, remove the extraneous crystal, and sharpen the tips of the four prongs to wickedness, well… I think you get the point…

All four of them…

Need I say more? Yeah. Thought not.

Sarumans Metal Wizards Staff – [eBladeStore]

Another set of “cutting edge” sword staves…

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Having run into one of my favorite staff based sword weapons, I decided to go looking for a few more, specifically for one of the ones that I am going to show you today. I’m happy to say my search was quite fruitful. Today I’ve got two sightly different styles of shikomizue, that are a bit different from what I’ve shown you so far:

Dragon Katana Twin Swords

Dragon Katana Twin Swords
[view full size]

<^>

Serpent Skull Twin Swords

Serpent Skull Twin Swords
[view full size]

As you can see, while they are both of the same basic shikomizue design, they both bear a few significant modifications on the traditional shikomizue. The most salient difference being that this particular twin sword configuration is divided at the exact mid point of the staff.

This design has several practical ramifications. For instance, the fact that it is split in the middle means that the length of the blades for each sword must, at most, be slightly less than half the length of the overall shikomizue. Compared to a standard shikomizue of the same length, it doesn’t change your reach, but it does make drawing the swords a little faster. At the cost, of course, of shortening your effective blade length.

It also means that you do not need a separate saya, or scabbard. This is an advantage if you never use the saya as a backup weapon, and also in terms of not having to keep track of the saya whenever you unsheath your sword. But obviously it also means you don’t have anything else to defend yourself with if you happen to lose both of your swords. Not cool.

A much less obvious side effect of this design is that the balance of each sword is actually negatively affected. Because your blade is shorter, and your handle is longer, the sweet spot on the blade will be different from a regular sword. Also because the blades are designed to be sheathed side by side, you will also find that the blade of each sword is offset laterally from the center of the grip by a small amount.

These two small mechanical considerations may appear to be insignificant, but in practice, if you were to attempt to perform any clean, high accuracy cutting, you would find that the blade would have a tendency to rotate on contact, and you’d have to retrain yourself to make clean cuts properly! So this design is all about compromise. You gain a little stealth and speed, in exchange for some cutting efficiency.

But enough with all the technical mumbo jumbo! Shikomizue are cool regardless. And the two above are quite unique. My favorite of the two is the Dragon Katana set. For three reasons. First, it’s black. (And that’s instant win in my book). Secondly, it has these very sweet dragons carved into the black hardwood staff/grip/saya. Third, and most definitely not least, it is the closest to the originally intended design of the traditional shikomizue.

Unlike the Serpent Skull, you can see that on the Twin Dragon Katana, there are no external indicators that the staff splits into two. No external fittings, or anything. The split is a clean line that is not visible unless you are looking closely at it. It looks exactly like a fancy black staff. But, of course, by the time you get close enough to actually realize what it is, it will be too late to evade the Dragons deadly bite! MUA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAaaa…

*ahem* Sorry. I got a little carried away. I get that way sometimes.

Lets just say it’s the ultimate sleeper weapon, and leave it at that, mm’kay…?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but sticks and swords can kill you…

Friday, November 9th, 2007

I’ve always been a fan of stick and staff based weapons, and (quite obviously) bladed weapons as well. In an earlier post on a set of Super Twin Swords, I promised to show you another one of my favorite shikomizue (sword staff) type weapons. Well It’s pay day, and as promised, paydirt!:

Red Action Twin Swords

Red Action Twin Swords
[view full size]

Now this, is a rather unique and interesting take on shikomizue design. Unlike your traditional shikomizue, which hides a single sword in a walking staff, this dealio conceals TWO swords, in a single staff. Pretty nifty. There is yet another twin shikomizue design that I have seen, which I’ll post about if I run into it again, but today is “Red Action” day!!

So if you happened to be walking down the street, trusty “Red Action” at your side, and were to be accosted by some nefarious vagrants, you could whip out twice the sword fighting, butt kickin’ action on the unsuspecting baddies! Very Sweet! Except for one thing. Each sword is sheathed at opposite ends of a single center scabbard/saya. This kinda begs a few questions.

For instance, how secure would the bottom sword be if this were used on a daily basis? Would you constantly have to be watching to make sure you didn’t inadvertently lose a toe to a falling sword blade? And more importantly, which side is up?!? But I supposed if you actually had a practical use for a weapon like this, these questions would be the least of your problems.

From a visual standpoint, this weapon obviously gets it’s “Red Action” name from the blood red and black lacquered finish of the saya and grip, as well as the tarnished copper colored fittings, but beyond that, the aesthetics of the set is somewhat run of the mill. It could definitely be better. But of course I am biased towards dark weapons, and I may just be saying that because it isn’t all black and chrome.

But I like this weapon more for it’s functional benefits, and sheer weapon flexibility, than it’s aesthetics. Not only do you have a staff weapon, you have the option of wielding up to two swords, and would still be able to use the scabbard as backup as a short staff weapon. Now that’s the kind of flexibility I like.

I’ve probably mentioned before how I consider these weapons kinda like basic Swiss army knives. Well, this one even has the right color for it! All it needs is the Swiss army emblem on the saya. Though I kinda doubt that either the Swiss or the Japanese would look too kindly on that particular combination…

Red Action Twin Swords – [Sword Company]

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