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  • Iaito questions

    whats the difference between Aluminum Zinc alloy Iaito and steel ones?

  • #2
    The easy answers are:
    a) Al-Zn alloy iaito are lighter and easier on your body until you get used to swinging things around. Apparently the risk of injuries like "tennis-elbow" are increased when you use a heavier training weapon.
    b) A steel blade will need maintenance to keep it from rusting. Periodic cleaning and oiling, etc. I believe that this doesn't apply to stainless steel, but my sensei won't let us practice with SS blades, for safety reasons.
    c) As far as I've seen, the good steel iaito can be quite a bit more expensive than alloy ones.

    Don't know if there are any other differences...

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    • #3
      Also if you ever practice in Japan, the alloy Iaito is the one you want. Cause customs will check the blade. They will use a magnet, which won`t stick on the alloy ones and will let them pass through. However on the steel ones it will stick. Thus you have a harder time convincing them that its not a shinken. 2nd you would probably need paperwork as well proving that the steel Iaito is not a shinken. Hope this helps

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      • #4
        Originally posted by corwyn View Post
        The easy answers are:
        a) Al-Zn alloy iaito are lighter and easier on your body until you get used to swinging things around. Apparently the risk of injuries like "tennis-elbow" are increased when you use a heavier training weapon.
        b) A steel blade will need maintenance to keep it from rusting. Periodic cleaning and oiling, etc. I believe that this doesn't apply to stainless steel, but my sensei won't let us practice with SS blades, for safety reasons.
        c) As far as I've seen, the good steel iaito can be quite a bit more expensive than alloy ones.

        Don't know if there are any other differences...
        Alloy blades are not meant for contact of any sort.

        Alloy blades cannot be sharpened.

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        • #5
          Supposedly stainless steel iaito (supposing you can distinguish quality iaito from wall hangers) have one advantage in that a scratch on them can be polished out whereas a scratch on an alloy blade threatens to flake off the chrome covering and expose a more coper-like color underneath. Also some like the weight as it more closely simulates a shinken. This, of course, is said with little experience as I've only ever handled one of these blades.

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          • #6
            Also, most of the alloy iaito are made in Japan by companies that have been making them for many years. Most steel iaito are made in China, by companies that have been making them for a couple of years. It has been my experience that the handle shaping, fittings, and tsukamaki tend to be much inferior to the alloy iaito from Japan. Not to mention the fact that you can never take it to Japan with you to train.

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            • #7
              well ill post a link of the steel iaito if that helps.

              http://www.samuraiwarriorswords.com/...ade-p-302.html

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              • #8
                I see a lot of these as they are quite cheap and locally available. I usually advise minor mods to make them a little more user friendly... they can have sharp edges on the tsuba, for some reason the earlier ones had strange variations in the position of the kurikata on the saya, internal finishing of saya was also poor... however they do seem to have improved recently.

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                • #9
                  Alloy iaito are much bendier than steel ones. I can bend mine past the edge of the tsuba with hardly any force, whereas my carbon steel iaito is stiff and solid, and doesn't feel wobbly.

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                  • #10
                    Alloy iaito are much bendier than steel ones. I can bend mine past the edge of the tsuba with hardly any force, whereas my carbon steel iaito is stiff and solid, and doesn't feel wobbly.
                    That's interesting. I found just the opposite to be true myself. My alloy iaito that I've had for ten years is quite stiff and doesn't wobble at all, whereas the Paul Chen Nami iaito that I tried out was extremely whippy and light. Add the fact that the handle on the Nami iaito felt like it wasn't proportioned correctly, and I absolutely hated it. It was two years ago that I played with several in Bob Elder's shop, so they may have improved them lately.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by futabachan View Post
                      Alloy iaito are much bendier than steel ones. I can bend mine past the edge of the tsuba with hardly any force, whereas my carbon steel iaito is stiff and solid, and doesn't feel wobbly.
                      The only "bendy" iaito I've seen are the very, very light ones. Most you would only know the are not ferrous if you tried to sharpen them.

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                      • #12
                        magnet test would work too.

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                        • #13
                          so would you guys recommend to get one or just get an Al-Zn one?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Displacement View Post
                            so would you guys recommend to get one or just get an Al-Zn one?
                            It's not an easy decision, is it?

                            First, get your sensei's opinion. Then weigh your options.

                            Advantages to alloy are the lighter weight and ease of maintenance. I really like the fact that an alloy blade gives you the same length blade but with room to move up to heavier weight in steel, once your technique is down. You have a great deal of muscle and control to build up before your practice is safe for your joints, and using alloy gives you some measure of protection.

                            However, having said that, it is possible to go too light. It shouldn't be light enough that you can whip it -- it should have heft enough to seek stability on its own. There should be a balance -- you should not be overpowering your sword like it's the 98-pound weakling at the beach.

                            And now I'm going to trot out my fittings argument. When you're buying a sword at this level -- before you're talking shinken -- the biggest proportion of the cost is actually in the fittings. You know, those parts that are in your hands, holding everything together. Because the stuff's not glued on or anything -- it's all wedged together, with a pin hammered through for safety.

                            From what I've seen, the Chinese forged swords are inferior in the craftsmanship of the fittings. As in, once you've seen good Japanese tsukamaki, and you look at one of the Chinese swords, you can easily tell the difference. Now, it very possibly may be that all the Chinese swords I've handled came from the same (horrible) place. I don't know, and I don't want to condemn them across the board (because Taylor sensei says he gets some nice Chinese swords, and I think he knows what he's talking about ). But I'd say be very wary. Get some swords in your hands, and feel the difference.

                            So that's my argument for alloy -- a more gentle entry to a rigorous art, and better craftsmanship in hand.

                            -B

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                            • #15
                              I think beginners should start with aluminum. You'll know when you are ready for steel iaito or shinken. Your sensei could tell you that, too.

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