The staff here at Woodsmonkey has had an opportunity to test out a number of products from Hanwei over the last few months and we have recently started to take a look at modern updated versions of swords and knives that are based on historical models. This time around I have the good fortune to review Hanwei’s Shaolin Jie Dao. The Jie Dao is one of several items available from their Shaolin Temple line of products which according to their website has been authorized to manufacture functional examples of traditional Shaolin weapons and tools.
The Shaolin Jie Dao in my opinion is a gorgeous and classic looking knife. The knife’s high carbon steel blade measures 11 5/8 inches long that is slightly curved and has a dark antiqued finish on the back of the blade. This gives the Jie Dao a very distinctive look and adds to aesthetic beauty of the blade. The handle measures 5 inches in length and combines a steel guard and pommel with bamboo and cord wrapping. The Jie Dao’s handle is comfortable and generously proportioned. You can tell that the steel pommel ring was hand forged and the cord wrapping on this end of the handle was incorporated into the pommel. The overall length of the Jie Dao is 16 7/8 inches and weighs just 14 ounces.
The Jie Dao’s scabbard is made of clean looking bamboo with steel fittings on both ends. The top of the scabbard has a braided cord beIt loop as well as braided safety cord that it used to secure the knife in place. Both the belt loop and safety cord are amazingly simple and very ingenious. It uses a minimal amount of material and yet it allows the user to secure it to a belt and keep the blade in its scabbard. A slight push with the thumb is all the needed to utilize the safety cord. This is definitely one of my favorite aspects of the Jie Dao and visually, it is a work of functional art. Even without the safety cord off of the guard the Jie Dao sits nicely in its scabbard with minimal amount of rattle.
When I pulled the Jie Dao from its scabbard the first thing I thought was that this knife would probably work pretty well for batoning. It has thick tang that makes is suitable for this purpose. I took a good sized stick to use as a baton and made quick work of some smaller sized logs. The Jie Dao split them easily and in less than five minutes I had a pile of kindling for a fire. Batoning is pretty hard on the blade of most knives and the Jie Dao did have a number of scuff marks after completing this test. The blade edge was not nicked and did not have any noticeable damages.
Since the Jie Dao has a blunt end I thought it would be worthwhile to use as a draw knife. I was only moderately successful using the Jie Dao for this purpose. I definitely need more practice using the Jie Dao in this fashion and while I do not think it was really designed as a draw knife it does do a good job removing bark and wood with that technique. I would recommend using gloves if using the Jie Dao as a draw knife. Even with the blunt end it wasn’t overly comfortable to use. Admittedly, this may have more to do with unfamiliarity as well as worrying about my hand slipping off and cutting a finger.
The last test I used the Jie Dao for was in my yard. After a busy summer I had numerous vines, brush and a couple of saplings that had sprung up amidst the lilac bushes. The Jie Dao proved to be an excellent chopping knife yet again as saplings were felled in two swings each. There is definitely a sweet spot in the slightly curved blade that makes the Jie Dao a great choice for clearing brush and other yard debris. I can easily see the Jie Dao being used regularly when trying to tame the wild of my backyard.
Hanwei’s Jie Dao reminds me a small sized machete. The slightly curving blade and thick tang give it a really nice sweet spot for chopping. When you swing the Jie Dao you can feel the weight of the blade move forward that provides a good power behind the point of impact. It is extremely easy to knock twigs and branches off of a stick to make walking sticks, stakes or fire poker. Given Hanwei’s literature that comes with the knife it is meant to be used as a tool and not a weapon. In a pinch I am sure it could be used for self defense purposes and considering its use among the Shaolin monks one could assume they knew how to use it for defensive purpose. As a tool I believe it can be used for almost any purpose needed. The Jie Dao may seem like an unusual choice of knife to take backpacking or using in a survival situation. However it was designed for clearing paths and collecting firewood. I am looking forward to seeing how well the Jie Dao fares against some unruly pumpkins.
While testing the Jie Dao I ran into one flaw. After several swings of the knife while batoning the cording on the handle came loose and unraveled mid task. This was a bit disappointing but not entirely unexpected. I have seen several other knives with cord wrapped handles that have come undone in use. The loose cord can be easily re wrapped and secured in place using glue, resin or shellac. As a temporary fix I used scotch tape to repair the loose cord. When I have a bit more time this winter I plan on using a bit of gorilla glue when I rewrap the handle. The loose cord in no way impacts the use of the knife for any chore that I used it in. However, given the manufacturer’s price of the Jie Dao the cord coming unwrapped during using was a bit of a letdown. Despite this I really do like the Jie Dao’s construction and it performed extremely well in all tests.
The Shaolin Jie Dao comes in really nice decorative package that includes a poster, hanging hooks, and a small information booklet along with the knife and scabbard. When you open the booklet there is brief overview about the Shaolin monastery and the philosophy of swords and Buddhism as well as a short history of Shaolin monks and background on the Jie Dao. Opening the booklet further shows a diagram of the Jie Dao along with the knife’s specifications as well as maintenance and safety instructions. The last part of the booklet contains a recommendation on how to display the Jie Dao utilizing the poster. I think this is a nice touch and adds to the overall presentation of the knife.
Overall, I really like the Shaolin Jie Dao. Hanwei has done an excellent job in presenting a functional historical based knife. This is not a wall hanger as some of my friends thought initially when they checked it out. You can definitely count on this knife to perform well in a variety of tasks. I would consider taking it along on camping or hiking trip as I am sure it would get some use and, depending on whom you run into, is an interesting conversation piece. I got quite a few interesting looks from my friends when I mentioned that I would consider taking it hiking. If it was good enough for Shaolin monks to use to clear paths and collect fire wood then it should do fine for almost any task I would need it for. All in all I appreciate the functionality of the Jie Dao and the history nerd in me was thrilled to be able to use a knife that is based on an historical design that has a lot of nice hand worked touches.
Hanwei’s manufacturer retail price for the Jie Dao is $149.99. However, it can be found on the Internet for significantly less. If you’re a historical or a martial arts weapon collector, but don’t have necessarily the money for genuine antique knives I strongly recommend giving the Jie Dao a look. For those of you who are looking for a functional as well as decorative blade I think the Jie Dao would be a worthy addition to your collection.
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