Korean forges are not based in cheap labour. Not as competitive as in China better known forges, or Thailand or India.
Neither their production quantities are large. Let us say that they cater essentially for the Haidong Gumdo market.
For reasons unknown to me, many people think that Korean blades are straight blades. It is, I would say, a common mistake passed on from one mouth to another ear.
The Chosun or now Joseon Dynasty (1392 - 1910) shows a great number of variations of swords, from Gom, Geom to Do.

I collected this picture somewhere and found it to be very interesting.
These Korean swords are a result of migratory influence from China, and Japan, and while the top one is wider like a dao, with two fullers, all of them are mounted like Japanese swords, except for the way they are hung which are similar to the jian.

They all seem to be variations if the Huando and Paedo and while the top fullered one does resemble a dao in geometry, and blade width, the other two have a similar geometry as a shobu zukuri.

In fact, the Korean Three Kingdoms Period, Puyo, Koguryo and later the Kingdom of Silla and that of Paekche battled the Chinese Wei and nomadic tribes. The Kingdom of Silla managed to unify Korea during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).
For this and other historical reasons it is more than obvious that swords in Korea took different shapes and names and evolved naturally from the inevitable influence, though the bow played a very important influence in Korean warfare.
This being said, the present forges are nothing more than a contemporary evolution of the different army suppliers of the past.

A power hammer is part of the contemporary process of forging a blade made of either SKS11 or SKS7 Japanese steel.

This photograph taken at the Korean forge where the swords are made is proof enough that contemporary technology is used and pays off in the long run.

The claying method for these monosteel blades result in the application of clay all over the surface of the sword, after which the part corresponding to the edge is removed, possibly running two fingers parallel to the blade edge, originating a straight hamon, sugu as it is known in Japanese.

In
Haidong Gumdo swords are for Martial Arts, and are not regarded as exercises of style, hence the shobu-zukuri (so to speak) style. Practitioners look for swords that can endure heavy cutting, such as bamboo of different diameters, while the Koreans have developped their own style in wrapping, called kal jaru gamge, kal jaru kkeun or sonjabi kkeun.
Kal means sword, knife or anything that is sharp and can cut. Kkeun means string, in the sense of the Japanese term ito.

Once the quench is done it is placed in a heat treating oven to relieve stress.
My sources did not provide much more information on this, since it is part of the manufacturing secret, which I obviously respect.

These swords can endure a lot of punishment and are pretty flexible.

The factory office shows a rack of 13 finished swords which are due to be shipped out, proving that this is not a large quantity operations.

Haidong Gumdo is spreading throughout the world and as this happens, more demand comes.

But these swords are usable by any JSA practitioner. Their geometry have long been established by a lack of niku and by a very strong steel.

Here we can see saya or kal jip or gum jip being carefully carved individually while on the table are glued pieces for more carving and on the rack are more wood blanks waiting, it is possible to understand that indeed the ratio workmanship and price makes these blades very affordable at the buyer's end, most possibly because the profit margin is low, thus allowing the buyer a very affordable blade with no frills.

Here lacquered kal jip can be seen drying in the painting section.
The lacquer in the sword that I received is very well done.

A worker is seen here wrapping the handle of the sword. Mine came in a beautifull leather wrap as can be seen in the review.
The Korean term for handle is kal jaru.

A blade is being polished with stones of different grits.
The emphasis is not to show the hamon, usually a sugu, as explained before, but to give the particular tough steel a fine polish through very fine longitudinal lines that appear on the blade along with a discreet hamon.

One has to understand, that the Koreans may view the sword as a weapon only, therefore their traditional method of polishing does not also include etching. It is not part of their concern.

Once a foreign seven years Haidong Gumdo swordsman told me he only liked his sword when it showed the scratches of cutting. I fully understood his point of view.

The blade whose picture is shown here cut about 50 dryed bamboos, which causes more scratches and damages to the blade than a green bamboo.
Independently of the interior photographs, some mild scratches are visible in the shinogi-ji are, and none whatsoever in the ji where a hamon is quite discernible although no scratches can be seen whatsoever.

The steel is very hard and the work polish shows the lengthwise of the polish fine lines.

 

The same worker that wrapped the handle now assembles the entire sword.
As can be seen, the factory is not overpopulated with workers, so it is more than understandable that the work relies on an almost custom made of small batches of swords.

Mine was indeed custom made to my specifications which came very near the HDGD sword specifications.

   

HOW THE STANDARD SWORD PERFORMS WITH NO DAMAGE

The sword is very flexible.

The sword piercing a steel chair.

Close up of kissaki on the other side.

View of blade with 1018 steel in vise.

Blade edge shaving the steel.

Kissaki top view showing steel shave

A Korean Sword Glossary is most useful

 

Copyright Antonio Cejunior 2005 - BLADESIGN