Former Student Blogs About Swordsmithing School

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.”

Recommended Reading List

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.

[amazon_link id=”4805312408″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Art of the Japanese Sword: The Craft of Swordmaking and its Appreciation

The Art of the Japanese Sword: The Craft and Its Appreciation[/amazon_link] 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.

[amazon_link id=”087011798X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]

The Craft of the Japanese Sword[/amazon_link] 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.

[amazon_link id=”1581606338″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]

The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way To Perfection[/amazon_link] 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.

[amazon_link id=”0896892956″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]

50 Dollar Knife Shop [/amazon_link]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”.

Continue reading Recommended Reading List

Sword and Smith Forged, by Joe Pierre

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.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

2012 Swordsmithing School Course Schedule


We are proud to announce the 2012 class and event schedule for our Japanese sword-making courses here at Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo. The school year is scheduled to begin the last week of March, during many schools’ spring break, with a Basic Forging Course.

The Basic Forging Course has proved to be our most popular course over these years, so we have decided to schedule five sessions next year to hopeful best accommodate our students schedules.

We have also scheduled another session of our Intermediate Forging Course returning/advanced students. Sessions of Koshirae, Tsuka-maki, Kajioshi, Habaki, and Habaki-Kajioshi-Combo Courses have also been scheduled.

Classes are limited to four students per session, unless otherwise stated. Generally, a deposit is required to reserve one’s place in a class. Reservations are made on a ‘first-come, first-serve’ basis and can be made on this site with payment via PayPal.

Please visit the FAQ section for more information on our classes.

We would love to have you attend a class at the dojo next year!


2012 School Year

March 2012

Monday, March 26 – Friday, March 30 – Basic Forging Course

Saturday, March 31 – Sunday, April 1 – Kajioshi Course

April 2012

Friday, April 13 – Sunday, April 15: Oregon Knife Collectors Association (OKCA) Knife Show in Eugene, Oregon

Monday, April 23 – Friday, April 27 – Basic Forging Course

Saturday, April 28 – Sunday, April 29 – Kajioshi Course
May 2012

Monday, May 28 – Friday, June 1 – Koshirae Course

June 2012

Monday, June 25 – Friday, June 29 – Basic Forging Course

Saturday, June 30 – Sunday, July 1 – Tsuka-maki (Handle-wrapping) Course

July 2012
Monday, July 16 – Friday, July 20 – Basic Forging Course

Saturday, July 21 – Sunday, July 22 – Habaki Course

August 2012
Friday, August 3 – Sunday, August 5 – San Francisco Token Kai

August 27-31 – Intermediate Forging Course

September 2012
Saturday, September 1 – Sunday, September 2 – Oroshigane (Steel-making) Seminar

Monday, September 10 – Friday, September 14 – Kajioshi-Habaki Combo-Course

October 2012
Monday, October 1 – Friday, October 5 – Basic Forging Course

Monday, October 22 – Friday, October 26 – Basic Forging Course

Tomboyama 2011 School Year in Review

Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo is proud to complete another school year. 2011 marked the year fourth since the construction and foundation of the dojo, and the sixth year that Michael Bell has offered scheduled swordsmithing classes here at Dragonfly Forge.
June was a busy month for a school, as we hosted two five-day classes within two weeks. First, we held a Basic Forging Course, which was attend by two students, Charles and returning alumnus Aaron. Aaron would also returned the following week to take our Kajioshi-Habaki Combo-Course.


Completing nearly our entire current curriculum, Aaron returned to the dojo in the month of July for two more weeks of classes. Continuing to learn, while bringing the katana forged in class further along towards completion, Aaron took our Koshirae Course followed by a five-day Tsuka Course.


The next class of the year would be our August Basic Forging Course. This class was attend by two students, Emerald and Fred. Emerald’s father is a knifemaker and wrote a short entry on his blog regarding his daughters experience at the dojo.


Our final class of the year was our September Intermediate Forging Course. The Intermediate Forging Course was a new additional to the school’s curriculum which explores the myriad shapes of tanto, as well as forge-folded steel. Dean was fascinated with the blade geometry of the kanmuri-otoshi style and choose it as his class project. His blade was forged from forge-weld and folded cable steel. Dean was able to stay for the weekend to attend a two-day Kajioshi, further refining his kanmuri-otoshi o-tanto/wakizashi.

Habaki Replacement and Tsuba Repair by Tomboyama Alumnus

A critical failure

An esteemed alumnus of Tomboyama, Jeff Adachi, recently performed an emergency repair for a fellow iaido classmate. The owner noticed a rattle and it turned out the habaki had almost completely split. Somewhat surprisingly, the failure to occurred down the mune side rather than at the solder seam. It was probably the worst condition habaki Jeff had ever seen. Continue reading Habaki Replacement and Tsuba Repair by Tomboyama Alumnus