The Sword Geek

It's all about the swords. Except when it isn't.

It’s Only ‘Good for the Price’ if it’s Good.

I’ve said this all before but it bears repeating.

When I was about 13 or 14 years old we often took the family car and drove around to garage sales on saturday mornings. I’d buy paperback books, knick-knacks or whatever with my allowance. I was very big into drawing then, so I was excited when I found a professional drafting set- compasses, dividers etc. for only five dollars. It was in fairly poor condition, but I figured, ‘What the hell- it’s cheap!’  I didn’t have five dollars, so I approached my Dad and pointed it out, stressing how inexpensive it was.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s in pretty bad shape.”

I pointed out how cheap it was again and suggested it was good enough for the money. I’ll never forget his response. He said, “A dog-turd isn’t a bargain just because it only costs a nickel.”

Let’s pause and reflect on that for a minute. It comes to this: a thing is not a bargain if it’s not worth having, no matter the price.

I am so going to offend people with this post, because in our little world of swords there are a lot of dog turds out there, and there are a lot of people saying, “It’s OK that they are dog turds because they are cheap.” As if the price magically changes them into something other than a dog turd.

A lot of us spent a lot of time and energy trying to educate people about the qualities of swords and why they are important. Looking at today’s sword communities I sometimes feel that I might as well have spent those hours shouting down a drain for all the effect they have had.  That feeling is not entirely justified; there are more people making good swords now than at any point since the middle ages. Promising new makers are coming along on an almost daily basis. The future of handmade swords looks bright. But in the production world it’s the same old same old. Offer a dog turd at the right price and people will swear it’s Prime Rib. How do they keep getting away with this?

Because the sword-buying community doesn’t demand better.  They don’t vote with their voices or their wallets. By and large they don’t know what makes a good sword and can’t be bothered to find out- or worse they think they already know and can’t be told different. Not everyone in the market, of course- just the people buying crappy swords and telling everyone they are ‘Good for the Price.’  Seriously- how can something bad be ‘good for the price?’ It can’t; the best it can aspire to is “It’s crap, but at least it’s cheap.”

I’m not talking about easily corrected things like the cutting edge (unless it’s far too thick) or a handle wrapping. Things like weight, balance and node location. A sword that looks right but that doesn’t balance correctly, or that stings the hand when you strike with it is not a good sword. A sword that is too heavy for it’s type is not good sword. A sword that is too thick and does not exhibit the proper distal taper for it’s type is not a good sword. A sword with bad heat treatment is not a good sword. Price does not magically alter the physical characteristics of a sword. A sword is good or it’s bad, period.

Sword companies will continue to make dog turds as long as we don’t demand that they do better– and if we don’t demand better we’ll deserve what we get.

February 23, 2016 - Posted by | Podcast