This past October, Gabriel Bell of Dragonfly Forge, had the distinct honor of attending Ford Hallam’s Immersive Iron Brush workshop. Mr. Hallam is the world’s foremost artist and authority of Japan’s ancient decorative metalworking tradition, kinko, having received top awards and recognition in Japan.
During the intensive four-week workshop, Gabriel was introduced firsthand into the techniques of line engraving, relief carving, true inlay and wire inlay, overlay (nunome), as well as tool-making, alloy composition, and patination. It was an enlightening and transformative experience for Gabriel, having found a wise and inspiring teacher in Mr. Hallam, as well as making great friends with other classmates.
Ford hopes to continue sharing his knowledge, experience, and passion of kinko to others. Towards this end, he began a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production of the first volume of a series of 7 books that will present for the first time in any language, even Japanese, a comprehensive introduction to Japanese decorative metalwork techniques, materials and processes. This will be the seminal work on the subject and one that Ford hopes will be of use to craftspeople, collectors, academics and curators.
“Hidden on a hillside along the Coquille River, not far from Bandon, world renowned craftsman and Dragonfly Forge founder Michael Bell practices an art more than a thousand years old: Japanese sword making.”
2014 School Year
Monday March 24 – Friday, March 28 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, March 29 – Sunday, March 30 – Kajioshi Course
Friday, April 11 – Sunday, April 13: Oregon Knife Collectors Association (OKCA) Knife Show in Eugene, Oregon
Monday, April 21 – Friday, April 25 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, April 26 – Sunday, April 27 – Habaki Course
Monday, May 5 – Friday, May 9 – Kajioshi-Habaki Combo-Course
Monday, May 12 – Friday, May 16 – Koshirae Course
Monday, June 16 – Friday, June 20 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, June 21 – Sunday, June 22 – Kajioshi Course
Saturday, July 5 – Sunday, July 6 – Tsuka-maki Course
Monday, July 14 – Friday, July 18 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, July 19 – Sunday, July 20 – Habaki Course
Monday, August 25 – Friday, August 29 – Intermediate Forging Course
Saturday, August 30 – Sunday, August 31 – Kajioshi Course
Monday, September 8 – Friday, September 12 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, September 13 – Sunday, September 14 – Habaki Course
Monday, October 6 – Friday, October 10 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, October 11 – Sunday, October 12 – Kajioshi Course
2013 School Year
Monday March 25 – Friday, March 29 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, March 30 – Sunday, March 31 – Kajioshi Course
Friday, April 12 – Sunday, April 14: Oregon Knife Collectors Association (OKCA) Knife Show in Eugene, Oregon
Monday, April 22 – Friday, April 26 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, April 27 – Sunday, April 28 – Habaki Course
Monday, May 6 – Friday, May 10 – Basic Forging Course
Monday, May 13 – Friday, May 17 – Kajioshi-Habaki Combo-Course
Monday, June 17 – Friday, June 21 – Koshirae Course
Saturday, June 22 – Sunday, June 23 – Tsuka-maki (Handle-wrapping) Course
Monday, July 15 – Friday, July 19 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, July 20 – Sunday, July 21 – Kajioshi Course
Friday, August 2 – Sunday, August 4 – San Francisco Token Kai *Unfortunately, we were not able to attend this year.
Monday, August 26 – Friday, August 30 – Intermediate Forging Course
Saturday, August 31 – Sunday, September 1 – Habaki Course
Monday, September 23 – Friday, September 27 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, August 28 – Sunday, September 29 – Kajioshi Course
Monday, October 7 – Friday, October 11 – Basic Forging Course
Saturday, October 12 – Sunday, October 13 – Habaki Course
A few months ago an alumna of our school, Chrissy, wrote an entry in her blog about her attendance at Dragonfly Forge’s swordsmithing school. She had contacted us inquiring about auditing the Basic Forging Course, as she was an author seeking firsthand experience in the process of forging a sword. Although she attended the school in 2007, prior to the construction of the current larger dojo, her description of experience is very kind and complete.“Several years ago, when I was writing the first draft of Forging the Blade, I realized that I needed to learn something about making swords. Duh! In Chapter XIV, which is about the major arcana card, Temperance, a goddess (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Brigid) forges a magic sword for Molly, the main character. She uses Molly’s blood to bind her to the blade. As the sword is forged, Molly is also forged into a warrior. I figured that forging a blade would be a perfect metaphor for Temperance. This is a key chapter in the book, and to make it work, the reader must totally believe in the drama of a piece of steel and a teenage girl being forged into sentient, magical weapons. The Internet couldn’t give me the information I needed to write a believable chapter. It is an amazing tool for gathering bits and pieces and finding out where to get more, but it couldn’t tell me what a forge smells like, or how a furnace sounds, or how it feels to hammer a piece of steel into shape.”
Those who are interested can read about her experience can check out her blog entry ,“Truth or Fiction? or Yes, I’m Still Working with Temperance.”
Although we are always quick to acknowledge that there is no replacement for hands-on experience, there is also a great deal of knowledge to be gained from books. Due to popular request, we have complied this list of books we highly recommend for reading on the subjects of Japanese swordsmithing, swordsmithing in general, as well as bladesmithing and knife-making in general.
The Art of the Japanese Sword: The Craft and Its Appreciation by Yoshindo Yoshihara, and Leon and Hiroko Kapp (September 10, 2012)
It’s with great pleasure that we recommend a new book on the history and craft of the Japanese sword.
The Art of the Japanese Sword, the Craft and Its Appreciation by Leon and Hiroko Kapp and Yoshindo Yoshihara [Tuttle]covers much of the same ground as The Craft of the Japanese Sword, their first book. The new book goes into far greater detail in all areas and is accompanied by excellent illustrations and clear and concise text. It is also in a larger format than the earlier books and this makes for better reading and more detail in the illustrations.
I believe this book will have broad appeal to collectors and sword enthusiasts while also providing what can almost be termed a “shop manual” for those of us who practice the craft.
We recommend this book highly and salute the authors for their efforts.
The Craft of the Japanese Sword by Yoshindo Yoshihara and Leon & Hiroko Kapp (Jun 15, 1987)
If you can buy only one book on Japanese sword crafts, this is the one. There is an introduction to the history and development of the sword and a clear description of the physics and chemistry of steel. This book details the efforts of the swordsmith, habaki maker, polisher and scabbard maker and provides a clear overview of the courses taught at Dragonfly Forge.
The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way To Perfection by Jim Hirsoulas
This is an informative and entertaining book by my friend and colleague. While not specifically about Japanese swords it is loaded with information and tips of use to all who work at the forge, including data on steel and forge welding techniques. I highly recommend this one.
50 Dollar Knife Shop by Wayne Goddard
Wayne’s book shows how it’s possible to build a simple forge and shop without breaking the bank. Wayne is the grand old man of the hand forged blade and most of us “younger” smiths have sat at his feet to benefit from his experience and generosity. The important lesson of this book is “get started”.
Due to interest, we have added another session of our Basic Forging Course to our June 2012 schedule. Reservation deposits can be made on this site, with payment via PayPal.
For more information on our school and classes, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.
An alumnus of our swordsmithing School Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo, Joe Pierre, has put together a three part documentary about our work, our swordsmithing school and classes, entitled Sword and Smith Forged, and shared it on YouTube. Joe attended our swordsmithing school in 2007, taking our Basic Forging Course under the instruction of Michael Bell, and returned again in 2008 for another session. The video footage he used was shot at our dojo on the southern Oregon coast, with some shot in our old smithy and some in our newer larger and better equipped shop. The film also includes photos of our work, and is narrated by Joe.
Thank you Joe for your diligent efforts producing this great documentary.