I bought mine as a gift. I looked all over till I found Swords of Northshire and was impressed by the reasonable price and the range of customization. I had a lot of fun picking out the different parts and hit send. After that I was truly blown away by the communication from the company from the beginning to pictures of the product to the end. When I got it, I was also impressed by the quality of the workmanship. As of now, I haven't given it yet, but I know my friend will love it. Next thing to do now is get one for myself!
I've always wanted a custom made katana made to my specific verifications. So I decided to purchase one from SNS (Swords of Northshire) and made one. Was ecstatic to find that the customer service was well rounded and fantastic. Everything was perfect about my transaction with SNS. When it came to shipment, I won't lie, I was a little discouraged after reading the comments about the services. But I got my shipment on time. All in all, %100 on everything about SNS.
I originally planned on purchasing from SBG (Sword Buyers Guide), but decided against it when I asked them for 10% off on their custom katana which they promote frequently. They extended 5%. I looked elsewhere and found Swords of Northshire. They charge significantly less for more customization options, it felt like. On top of nearly flawless reviews and a clean website (which makes a big friggin' difference, fyi), it was a no brainer, I decided to trust them with my money.
First and foremost, please note that my katana was almost certainly made in China as it shipped directly from Longquan. However, SoN never once claimed "Made in Japan". Furthermore, if there was a place in China to have a sword made, it would be Longquan. Even to the way the Ito was wrapped (differentiating with each wrap), the team that assembled my katana knew what they were doing. Not forgetting the price I paid (over 300), it's truly hard to complain. Therefore origin will not affect my rating.
1.) The level of customer service I received was extraordinary and personalized. People were friendly and professional. Not 10 minutes after placing my order past 11oclock pm, I received a call to specify how I wanted the custom Kanji engraved. No question went unanswered in more than a day. Everyone on the sales staff was exceptionally helpful and it reassured me I had chosen the right group.
2.) The sword was shipped securely. There was a lot of tape and Styrofoam. I place value in how companies handle their own products and I was delighted to discover they went to great lengths to insure I received my katana in perfect condition. It came beautifully wrapped in an equally beautiful sword bag which cost me $5 extra.
3.) The sword just feels good in your hand. I've owned a few other swords, and the construction in this one is tight, tight, tight. No loose parts. The Tsuba doesn't rattle, the blade doesn't pull lose from the Saya, even when held upside down and shook gently. The Sageo Cord is thick and tightly wound. The Tsuba, Fuchi and Kashira are a work of art and precisely what I ordered. Every piece of fitting is solid and snug. This feels like a samurai sword should.
4.) The custom kanji I had engraved onto the blade was done to precision. I was surprised I was charged only $25.00 extra. I don't know of another place willing to do this service, let alone for so little.
5.) I have a few qualms. First, the blade. While the actual sharpness could use some improvement, I have trouble getting upset as I chose the cheapest steel option. I didn't want to drop 700+ on a sword maker I was unfamiliar with. That's probably on me, not them. However, I was disappointed to see that my Hamon (temper line) was done with a Notare (Wave) rather than the Midare (Irregular) pattern I had specified. I'm no sword expert, nor do I pretend to be, but the two are distinctly different patterns. I'd bet money on it and I don't gamble. Looking back upon my order summary, the miscommunication was not my doing. Don't get me wrong, the hamon is still beautifully done.
Finally, while the saya is gorgeous, it is also not the blue I ordered. In fact it wasn't even an option at the time. Rather than blue, it is a dark dark glossy navy. I'm aware that colors look different digitally than in person, but in this instance, it's clear to me they're different sayas. That being said, had it been an option available, I personally would have selected it over the lighter blue. I got lucky. :)
In conclusion, when you order from SoN, you're going to get a work of art. It will be treated as such from the moment you order until the moment you get it. Every question in between that time will be answered professionally and hastily. The miscommunication with the Hamon leaves something to be desired, but craftsmanship of the blade was dead on. Furthermore, searching the reviews below mine, it's clear that I was the exception, and not the rule (Which is a great thing). And for $305? For a custom made sword? Crafted in roughly a month and a half? I struggle to be upset. I was taken care of and it's clear you will be too. I will be purchasing again. I hope my review has helped in your decision.
(Side note, this is a sword that can be used seamlessly for decoration or Iaido or both.)
They comply exactly to what you've ordered, nothing astray. The craftsmanship is honestly close to flawless, and the customer support has to be one of the friendliest and active I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I thought that they would be mediocre at best, considering it is a tab and click customization, but they really do an amazing job, going on with requests even after the order is placed, and getting back to you immediately. Thanks for "Shoten", Swords of Northshire.