FAQ & things you should know about Kingfisher WoodWorks LLC
How long does it take to make an order?
Woodwork projects are all hand made to order and the lead time varies seasonally. During most of the year, the shipping time is about 2 weeks but during the busier winter months, the shipment date can extend to 3 weeks from the order date. Delays due to vacations and shop closings and seasonal shipping delays will be posted on the Payment and Shipping link. Some accessories like cases and finish oil, if ordered separately, are shipped immediately or as soon as practically possible. Upon shipping, you will receive an email with tracking information to the "bill to" email address that you provided upon ordering.
Can I visit Kingfisher?
We don't accept visitors right now but plan on doing so when the workshop has a showroom. Keep an eye on the "about Kingfisher" link.
Can I make an order for a custom project?
We'll take certain projects that fit with our specialization. Please email us at email@example.com, briefly describe your needs and we will let you know. We have a system for easy online ordering of custom projects.
Does Kingfisher make Bo Staff (72" rokushaku bo), Yari, Naginata or longer weapons?
Unfortunately not. Our our source of lumber limits us to 60", often slightly less. Wood selections other than Appalachian Hickory are obtainable but not as suitable for martial art weapons. We are constantly on the lookout for a source of material for long weapons and when that happens, we will list them on the website.
Why does Appalachian hickory have such distinct color differences, often in the same piece of wood?
Appalachian hickory wood includes both "white wood" which is comprised of the outer growth rings of the tree and "red wood" which originates on the inner part of the tree. In many kinds of lumber, the two are referred to as "sap wood" and "heart wood". The heart wood is preferable in some species. Unlike other lumber, there is no difference in mechanical properties between the two in Appalachian hickory; a fact proven by the USDA forest products laboratory. Indeed, all quality levels exist in both colors. Some Kingfisher weapons are all white wood, some all red and many have a mix of white and red wood.
What color choices are available?
If you order a set of weapons we will match them stylistically and aesthetically but we do not offer color choices. All orders are custom made on the basis of quality grade level. If you wish, you can note in the "comment" section of the ordering page your color preference but the quality grade may override your color preference.
What is available in enhanced hickory or resin impregnated wood?
Most items (and some customizations) are available in enhanced hickory.
What are the differences between Japanese White Oak (Shiro Kashi) and Appalachian Hickory?
The US and Japan are fortunate to have indigenous woods with high impact strength. There is a huge amount of erroneous information available concerning the strength of various kinds of wood. Despite innumerable claims, of all of the thousands of wood species worldwide, two are generally suitable for martial art weapons subject to heavy contact - Shiro Kashi and Appalachian Hickory.
In comparison, Shiro Kashi, like all oaks, slowly gets brittle over time where hickory retains its springy resilience. If warpage occurs in oak due to humidity swings, its permanent but Appalachian hickory can be straightened quite easily. Shiro Kashi might be a bit heavier on average and perhaps a bit harder. Appalachian hickory can be tempered so despite its initially softer state, it can be "run in" to achieve a superb hardened outer surface with a tough, ductile core. Japanese White Oak is uniformly light in color whereas Appalachian hickory includes both reddish and cream colored wood. Appalachian hickory has a long history in the United States of being the preferred wood for striking tool handles and as such, has an established reputation for safety.
Why do the weapons designs change over time?
Bokken and other weapons we made 25 years ago look different than they do today. This is not because of cost cutting efforts but because of refinements that result in a better product. While some designs will stay very close to the early shapes, others will change a bit as we discover methods to achieve a better profile, both technically and historically. So, if you bought a bokken many years ago, a new replacement having similar overall specifications may have noticeable differences in details. Also, as time progresses, we uncover historical information on antique wooden weapons and this in turn will influence current designs. If you made more than one order during one of these phases, you might also see these changes as they are happening. Most users really appreciate this evolution in quality but it should be understood that the designs will change a bit without notice. Practitioners who become very attached to a specific shape should be especially aware of this and expect some adjustment.
What is the difference between the aikiken medium and the shinto bokken?
There is essentially no difference other than the point and the kendo length option offered for the shinto bokken. Originally there were major differences in size between the aikiken (which was only offered in the large version) and the shinto. The aikiken was then introduced in a medium version based on the shinto proportions but the shinto retained the option for specialized kendo sizing. Also, the manufacturing process between the two is a bit different (due to the cut length) so it avoids mistakes in the shop to keep them described as different bokken.
Does Kingfisher offer weapons for special events, raffles or give donations to martial art related causes?
While Kingfisher does not endorse specific systems or organizations, we do provide discounts and weapons free of charge in the event of a financial disaster or mishap like a dojo fire, flood or similar hardship.
What kind of bokken did Kingfisher supply for the movie set of "The Last Samurai"?
We made about 30 bokken for the set of the Last Samurai. Although many of them were aiki bokken and shinto bokken - similar to the weapons on the website, we supplied a mix of wooden swords - ones that might reflect, with different appearances and levels of wear, bokken that might be found in a 19th century samurai clan.
The first shipment of bokken to the Warner Bros. art department were all brand new but the studio quickly asked for weapons in various states of wear and tear. We ended up sending an array of weapons used here for practice including some unique items from inventory. We supplied weapons of varying weight, size and stylistic effects.
Shown below is an actual bokken used in the movie. When we were first contacted by Warner Bros., we had experimented with the idea of making all hand cut weapons but the movie contract gave us the real impetus to refine the difficult techniques and develop the archaic methods of finish cutting without sandpaper. This particular bokken is historically significant in that it is one of the first all hand cut weapons from the Kingfisher shop and most likely the first all hand cut bokken made by anyone since the 1800s or early 1900s. It is the pre curser to one of our flagship bokken, the aikiken. The darker colors are a result of the magnificent staining job at the studio art department (While useful for their purposes, Kingfisher does not use any stains to avoid mark off on other bokken used in contact).
An interesting note to this story is that of the dozens of bokken on the set, the cast, stunt crew and collectors, many of them extremely skilled martial artists, quickly acquired the Kingfisher weapons and left practically all other makers' work to be auctioned off later.
What is the inscription on the end of the weapon?
Since 1986, Kingfisher weapons are marked by the unique stamp of the person who made the individual piece. Shown below, the makers mark on a hand cut jo. The makers mark is separate from optional inscriptions and appears on all Kingfisher martial art weapons.
Does Kingfisher offer discounts?
Bulk orders - certain staffs are available for wholesale prices (see wholesale martial sticks in the specials page)
Shipping - all shipping rates are capped so large orders get an automatic shipping discount.
Can I have Kingfisher make me a wooden weapon from my own wood?
Maybe! We need to test the wood for shock strength first, which is done free of charge. The test requires a small sample that will yield a few pieces 3/8 x 3/8 x 12".
In the past, customers sent wood of special meaning or came from special trees and we would make them into commemorative bokken or jo without reservation but now we require that the wood have minimum strength characteristics. Even if the original owner knew the limitations of certain wood, there would be no guarantee that a future user might not and the weapon might then be hazardous if actually used in paired practice, possibly years later to children or grandchildren for example.
So, we set an appropriate lower limit of impact resistance appropriate for moderate levels of contact for any bokken or jo coming from the Kingfisher shop.
Can Kingfisher make custom inscriptions?
Usually, yes. For clarity, it’s best if you send the characters via email in block print as shown below. The price is generally around $10 per character.
The inscription on your sword or staff will appear vertically, like this:
Artistic versions or handwriting such as shown below require a special set up and are more expensive, generally around $20 per character.
Again, we would orient the characters vertically.
Please bear in mind that inscriptions are burned in by hand with a calligraphy stylus. As they are not laser engraved or computer driven, there may be differences in appearance from your supplied artwork.