All in all the Paul Chen Folded Steel Tori XL Light Katana is a far cry from the Paul Chen blades of days gone by. This particular model looks and feels like the real McCoy and with its folded, wide and well balanced blade
gives a feel of authenticity. In particular the saya, tsuka, tsuba, fuchi-kashira and menuki are of good quality and are accentuated by a  synthetic leather tsuka-ito over black same.

What reduced the overall value of an otherwise fine katana were the blemishes on the saya and the blade's imperfections. Scratches, burrs and blunt spots on such an otherwise well made blade show a lack of end-quality control and reduce its esthetical value somewhat.

This katana would have received a perfect score had it not been for these annoying flaws.


Paul Chen Folded Steel Tori XL Light Katana

Review & photos
by Hans Fricke  , 2008

The katana arrived by courier in a somewhat fragile cardboard-box with a big kink in the middle.
After some apprehensive moments the katana emerged undamaged from its packaging giving an overall impression of quality and value.

Overall, the saya in the han toh maki style (bamboo wrapped) and lacquered in chaishime (brown rock texture) was well finished, but showed some minor bubbleling in the black lacquer near the kuri-kata.
The koi-kuchi and kojiri are made of horn and well fitted, but the koi-kuchi finish was somewhat rough.

The handle is well made and now follows the curvature of the blade and at 275mm length is just right for big hands. The tsuka-ito wrapping seems to be of  synthetic brown leather over black same. The blade is held in by two mekugi; making it a safe blade to use for tameshigiri.

The quality of the fittings is very pleasing with a matching crane-flower motive for the tsuba and fuchi kashira. The flowers are inlaid with specks of silver (?) and copper giving it an overall classier look. The tsuba, I feel, is a bit too big for this katana making it look bulkier then it actually is. The menuki have a kabuto helmet motive I quiet like, but the tsuka-ito didn't cover one of the sharp edges having it produce into the palm of the hand.

Of course, the heart & soul of a katana is its blade. Nagase at a mere length of 2.35 shaku 71,8 cm is somewhat to short for non Japanese, but makes an ideal blade for iai- or batto giri do.
The blade's thickness is 7 mm at the habaki and 5 mm in the mono-uchi area. Its full width at the habaki is 38 mm, tapering of to 30 mm in the monouchi area giving it great stability for tameshigiri.
The blade's construction is of  folded steel * and the shinogi-zukuri flat type gives the blade good tatami-omote cutting ability. The blade has just enough niku to support the cutting edge, making it a robust performer. 
The ha cutting edge has a hardness of 60 Rockwell while the rest of the blade tests at 42 Rockwell; making it flexible and nearly unbreakable. This however can be detrimental for beginners as one bad cut can bend such a blade very easily.
The blade, inclusive handle and fitting weights in at 1150 grams, a good weight for a tameshigiri blade and as the  Tori XL Light Katana is well balanced the weight is hardly noticeable thus making it an ideal katana for the ladies too. 

The max. sori curvature at 20 mm is centre-blade giving it an esthetic look and good feel.
The hakiba tempered edge is of the notare swell line, but when studying the hamon temper-line closely one gets the distinct impression that the hamon could be of the etched type rather the clay-tempered type as habuchi transitional zone is totally absent. The kissaki or point is of the fukura-tsuka curved edge and chu-kissaki medium size point type with a strongly defined boshi temper line at point.
The shinogi-ji is well defined and burnished with the bo-hi wide grove extending past yokote (hisaki-agari).
The habaki is of brass construction and well made.

Some issue with quality:
The koi-kuchi's finish is somewhat rough
Some of the lacquer on the saya had bubbled up in the grooves of the bamboo-wrap.
One of the menuki's edges protrudes into the palm of the hand.
The same's surface had been scraped off.
The blade had two minor scratches, one on the hassaki and one on the hamon near the
The blade had some 10 mm wide burring in the mono-uchi area and a slightly dull spot around the yokote.

The burring was easily fixed with a 3000 grit stone. The blunt spot around the yokote I didn't touch as it only slightly affected the paper cutting test.

The Tori XL Light Katana comes with a:
The sageo is sturdy and made of cotton, but a bit to short for my liking.
Sword bag:
The sword bag is of simple design, but is double folded, giving it a heavier feel and more protection for the katana.
Cleaning kit:
The box includes everything one needs to maintain a Japanese blade; a nice addition that often needs to be purchased separately.
Written instructions:
Sword safety and how to maintain and repair the opening/throat of the scabbard; some very useful hints for the beginner.

The damaged package

Damaged same

Burr on cutting edge.

A bit to rough for my liking.
A blunt spot right on the yokote

Where the lacquer had bubbled up.

An unsightly scratch on the kissaki.
One long scuff on the hamon.

Menuki's helmet edge cutting into palm of hand.

Cutting test:
The Tori XL Light Katana passed its cutting test with flying colors. It easily cut tatami-omote, leaving each cut piece with crisp and sharp edges and to our amazement, when unrolled, the mat's thin edge showed the actual angle of each cut. After the cutting test the blade was inspected for cutting-edge damage, with none to be found and as we didn't have any green bamboo at hand that day we will shall include green bamboo cutting in our next test.

Sword bag & supplied cleaning kit .

Saya maintenance instructions.

* Some katana are advertised of having 30 folds of steel. The average Japanese sword has between 13-15 folds  giving a steel bar 0.7% of carbon content; the ideal amount of carbon for a Japanese blade.
Before foundation forging of the tamahagane the steel has an average 1,4% carbon content and may have lost 0.3 % of its carbon during the first stage of forging, bringing the steel's carbon content down to 1.1%. Now, each successive fold will reduce the carbon content by 0.03%. To reach the ideal 0.7% carbon content the smith can only fold the steel a limited time: 1.1% (carbon after foundation forging) minus 0.7% (ideal carbon percentage in the finished blade) = 0.4%. Divide 0.4% by 0.03% and you will get only 13 folds to create a steel bar of 0.7% carbon contents. A steel bar with 30 folds would reduce the carbon by 30 x 0.03% = 0.9%. Subtract 0.9% from 1.1% and you are left with a mere 0.2% carbon content in a blade. Such a blade would be much too soft and without practical value.

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