Why running a Japanese sword shop isn't always as cool as you might think…


When i tell people what my job is most of them do think it’s awesome..especially sword fanatics 🙂

But as with all things in life, nothing goes exactly the way you planned it.

And since i couldn’t find any satisfaction by just (re)selling the big brands  and always like to ‘dot it my way’, working directly with Chinese forges was the only way left. Although it’s most easy way and can be a real pain from time to time…

Today i want to share the ‘Konron Story’ with you to show you that this job is not always as great as you might think.

I started my business back in 2002 and have gathered a lot of stories and although this one date back to 2009, i can remember it very well… especially because i almost went out of biz because of it…

Here we go…

Back in 2007 i came in touch with a person named “Kevin” who was the owner ( take ‘owner’ with a grain of salt because it’s always hard to figure that out) of a rather small forge.

After a few conversations in which he showed some descent knowledge (at least more than most of people at other Chinese forges) of the Japanese sword and the way they were made, i agreed to buy some samples to see what he was able to make.

One was a 9260 steel one, through hardened and the second a differentional hardened 1070 or T10 steel one, can’t really remember that one but i still have both of them here 🙂

Found a video back from that 9260 steel one :

I was quite surprised with the quality and the durability of both of them considering the price i had payed. The differentional hardened one’s even came with a hamon that were rather unusual and eye catching in some way.

Pretty unusual right  ?

Long story short, i just found a new supplier 🙂

It even went that good that in summer of 2008 we talked about the possibility to give customers the possibility to create their own sword by choosing the steel, hamon, fittings, color combinations,etc

It seemed like we could manage it and we launched our new project in November. In no time we gathered around 10-12 orders and closed this first batch to see how it would turn out in terms of delivery time, etc.

All things went very well since we started to work together and it seemed like the beginning of a long & good cooperation for both of us…

In the beginning of 2009 things started to go wrong. A new delivery of 50-60 swords were supposed to leave the forge beginning of January but as usual it’s very hard to count on Chinese forges.

The  swords were not ready because the Japanese company who was delivering the fittings (later i figured out it wasn’t Japanese ..)  had 3 weeks delay and the swords could not be mounted.

On top of that, Chinese new year was knocking on the door so that’s a big deal in China and nobody there who even think about working for 2 weeks.

Anyway, story short, the swords did leave 2-3 weeks after the forge start working again and were heading the customs (March by than) in Shanghai.

Two weeks after the shipment, Kevin called me up to say the batch was still stuck at the customs and they were not planning to let it pass without us paying extra money (under the table).

After hearing what they would me to pay (around 1000 euro) I didn’t have any intention to arrange that and since the swords were stored in a very bad condition, the chance was very big that the swords already got rusted by than and would become unusable for me.

So I suggested the forge to start working on a new batch in case we didn’t got our stuff released from the customs in the next 2 weeks. Kevin agreed and assured me he would do anything to get the new batch ready as soon as possible to avoid a big delay.

Note : Now I really doubt if these swords ever reached the customs at all…

Besides these troubles, Kevin called me up to say his “computer died” and we couldn’t have any virtual contact for a while. Which is a real pain if you’re working with sword design stuff where a lot of pics and sample stuff is exchanged by mail..


Shit happens (again) and nothing I could do to change. I just felt weird he just couldn’t get another computer. ..

On top of that he told me his wife was very sick, was in the hospital and her healthy situation didn’t look very good at all. He didn’t had time to spend lot of energy in the forge (read none) and was at the hospital all the time for weeks…

Waaw..that guy was so unlucky : his/our delivery got stuck at the customs, his computer died and his wife was in the hospital !

In June things started to move again and again he told me blades were finished but Japan (again) had a big delay with the delivery of their fittings.

Ow in the meanwhile, his friend got cancer, he had a bad delivery of steel and all of the custom swords he made were not suitable to sell, he and his wife got attacked by a dog and his hand was hurt very badly and a few other very creative happenings.

I was very patient and understanding (although I did feel that this guy was definitely the most unlucky guy on the planet!) and since we did biz for almost 2 years and I did put a lot of time, energy and money in this project it was just a waist to just give it up and start all over again with another forge.

But in October I was getting really tired and good and fast communication with Kevin was becoming another problem on top of all the other shit that already passed the scene.

End of October I’ve lost all contact with him and no matter what I did try, I just couldn’t get a hold of him. So I called up a Chinese friend and asked him to go over there to see what the hell was going on.

Upon arrival (it took my friend about 3-4 day traveling) there was almost nobody there…the only people he could find told my friend that ‘Kevin’ was very sick and was currently staying in a hospital in another province. Great !

We could start all over again because nobody knew which hospital…


I became pretty nervous (really) because the people who ordered their custom sword already payed me half of the money and  I payed Kevin a nice lump of money back in December 2008 to work on the orders. I was waiting for over 10 months now, didn’t see 1 sword coming in and Kevin was vanished from this planet…

This is the first time in my life I had a few sleepless nights…

I wasn’t really worry about the money in the first place but i was very concerned about the people who ordered a custom sword. How would i explain that to them…. Especially one guy from France because he did send me an antique tsuba that had a lot of emotional value to him and i assured him that he didn’t had to fear about sending it to a forge in China… boy was i wrong !

I needed to act and started a rescue 911 operation. Asked my friend to look for a lawyer because I felt this was the only way left. After hiring 2 of them they started the “Kevin hunt” and ultimately took him by surprise in his room mid November.

He blew 2 hands of new excuses to my lawyers why he could not deliver and some were just too hilarious. Damn that guy has so much imagination he would be a perfect man to work on a movie script.

I just going to tell you one to give you an idea 😮

One day, the lawyers and Kevin agreed that he (Kevin) would send them a file by email on a certain day. That day, no file came in at the office of the lawyers and the next day they called them up to ask where the file was.

This was his reply : “I’m sorry but I couldn’t send you the file because my cat finished the powercable of my computer and I was not able to use my computer…”


So after 1 year wasting my time &  that of my clients, my energy, taking my money and a big lost in sales ,(the last batch of 40 swords that arrived in November 2008 was sold out in less than 10 days..go figure what i’ve lost over more than 10 months..) this Konron adventure had come to an end.

My lawyers were able to recover some money from him and thank God the antique tsuba but i’ve suffered a big loss in $$$ (and trust from customers)  and was very uncertain if i could manage it to keep this swordbiz alive.

But there’s Yin and Yang and luckily for me, i was able to survive this bad adventure thanks to the new cooperation with Zhui Feng.

I had worked with them back in 2004-2005 but since there prices have always been a bit on the higher end, i decided i couldn’t go on with them if i wanted to follow brands such as Cheness, Hanwei,etc

Now, a few years later, I became a bit smarter (finally :o) and realize I didn’t had to follow the Cheness,Hanwei or any other companies track and play the ‘cheapest price’ game….

It was time to follow my own path…