33rd Annual San Francisco Token Kai

This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the 33rd annual San Francisco Token Kai will be held at the San Francisco Airport Marriott.  Once again, Michael and Gabriel Bell of Dragonfly Forge will be attending the show on Saturday and Sunday.  The show is sponsored by the Northern California Japanese Sword Club; for more information visit the club’s site.  The Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords) – American Branch (NBTHK-AB) will be hosting exhibits and seminars well worth attending.

We hope to see you there!

Seashell ‘kai’ Tsuba by Anna Bell

14. Seashell 'kai' Tsuba

This tsuba is in the Higo style, with two seashell, or ‘kai’ in Japanese, pierced and carved in negative silhouette.  It is forged from antique wrought iron.  It was pierced and carved by Anna Bell and given a finish and patina that emphasizes the inherent beauty of the iron’s organic grain structure.

The tsuba itself is only one piece of a larger ongoing collaborative mounted katana project by the Bell family.

The blade itself is a katana of 25 inch (63.5 cm) nagasa forged of cable by Michael Bell.  Point is Michael’s standard extended chu-kissaki.  The hamon shows excellent control with activity due to the cables grain throughout.

The tsuba, pictured above, is made of antique wrought iron by Anna Bell.

The blade has a copper habaki by Gabriel Bell.  The koshirae is also by Gabriel.  Black lacquered saya with buffalo horn kojiri, koiguchi, and kurigata.  Silver shitodomeTsuka is full-wrap same lacquered in black, with Higo style fuchigashia in shibuichi, wrapped in brown silk ito.

More pictures and information to be posted as work progresses.

2009 School Year of Dragonfly Mountain Swordsmithing School Begins

As the fruit trees around the shop blossom and the everything else on Dragonfly Mountain begins to grow at a nearly unmanageable rate, Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo once again opens its doors to students.

We already had our first, very sucessful, Basic Forging Course, and classes scheduled for our swordsmithing school are already starting to fill up, so those very interested in attending one of our courses should sign up before space runs out.

Our scheduled classes run from April to August, although we may schedule a class for the beginning of October as well, depending on interest.  During the winter, we will once again close our doors, as winter storms and other weather conditions can make travel difficult.

Crab tsuba in progress, by Gabriel Bell

This tsuba is currently being sculpted by Gabriel Bell.  The tsuba was forged from antique wrough-iron.  It was then pierced and carved.  The basic design is classic Japanese; the most famous tsuba of this design can be seen in the book, One Hundred Masterpieces from the Collection of Walter A. Compton. The tsuba is now in the process of being sculpted using small files, chisels and other metal carving tools, including the double-edged carving/scraping tool pictured above.

Crab design tsuba of wrought iron, in progress
Crab design tsuba of wrought iron, in progress

After it has been sculpted and finished, a patina will promoted.  The color patina we desire can only really be achieved on old-technology iron The organic nature of old-technology iron gives a grain, as well as what are referred to as “bones”, slag inclusions, that give a tsuba a wonderfully natural beautiful finish with character.  This particular piece of wrought iron which is now becoming a tsuba, was the iron rim of an wagon wheel that traveled the Oregon Trail in a previous life. Continue reading “Crab tsuba in progress, by Gabriel Bell”

Bowers Museum – Art of the Samurai: Selections from the Tokyo National Museum

Of possible interest for those in the Southern California area, the Bowers Museum is holding a special exhibit featuring nihonto from the Tokyo National Museum.  Although viewing online photos of Japanese swords can certainly be enjoyable, it can in no way compare to actually viewing the blade in person.  During our 2006 trip to Japan, we visited the Tokyo National Museum and the wonderful opportunity to see the famous blades, the dōjigiri and the kanze masamune.  Until then we had only been able to see these blades as photographs in Kanzan Sato’s book The Japanese Sword.  The difference was black and white.  The Tokyo National Museum had the blades very well lighted and they all had excellent polishes.  If the Bowers Museum’s exhibit is of the same quality of the Tokyo National Museum, then it is well worth the visit for those passionate about Japanese swords.

“Art of the Samurai: Selections from the Tokyo National Museum features 81 objects from the Tokyo National Museum representing a wealth of artworks related to the everyday, traditional, and official role of the Samurai class of Japan. Focusing on the art and aesthetics of Samurai culture, the exhibition features a wealth of objects that are a testament to the accomplished level of society, education, and mastery of skills the Samurai developed between the 10th and 20th centuries. Included are beautifully crafted swords, armor, tea-ceremony utensils, screen and scroll paintings, Noh theatre costumes, and other fine works. This outstanding collection dates primarily to the Edo period (1603–1868) with many pieces classified as Important Cultural Property and National Treasures of Japan.”

For more information regarding the exhibit, visit the Bowers Museum website.

Oregon Knife Collectors Association (OKCA) Show, Eugene, Oregon April 17-19, 2009

Like every year, Dragonfly Forge will be attending the Oregon Knife Collectors Association’s annual show in Eugene, Oregon.  The show will be held this year on Friday, April 17 thru Sunday April 19.  It is located at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene, Oregon.

Dragonfly Forge’s table will be in the same spot as usual. We will be displaying some of our work.  Visitors can also inquire about Dragonfly Forge’s swordsmithing school.

What can we find at the show?

Knives, Swords, Razors, Cutlery, Blades, Tools, Bayonets, Scissors, Hat pins, Pocket knives, Kitchen knives, Old knives, New knives, Custom knives, Straight knives, Stone knives, Knife Making supplies and anything that goes “cut.”

General Admission: $6/day

Free Demonstrations Saturday

435 Tables!

Show Hours:

Friday: Members Only

Saturday: 8AM to 5PM

Sunday 9AM to 3PM

5000 people attended last year’s show.

Visit the Oregon Knife Collectors Association (OKCA) Website for more information regarding the show.

Cable tanto, in progress

Tanto in the shobu-zukuri style of standard-twist forge-welded cable construction. 10 inch nagasa with dynamic hamon.

Copper habaki. Koshirae mounted with hamidashi tsuba of antique forged wrought iron with matching wari-bashi (or wari-kogai). Seppa of copper.  Partially ribbed, black and red, two-tone saya with “tiger stripe” pattern.

Handle wrapped in same-kawa and black silk ito. Gold dragon menukiand shitodome. Fuchigashira of shibuichi.  By Gabriel Bell.


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Continue reading “Cable tanto, in progress”

So you want to become an apprentice swordsmith…

Some of the most frequently asked questions we receive are in regards to becoming an apprentice swordsmith. This article is meant to help answer many of the questions we are asked about apprenticeships.

Michael Bell undertook a traditional five year apprenticeship to Japanese master swordsmith Nakajima Muneyoshi. Michael ‘s teacher, Mr. Nakajima, was unique in that he learned all of the Japanese sword arts: swordsmithing, polishing, habaki-making, as well as the making of koshirae. Usually each aspect of Japanese sword-making is preformed by a specialist; a sword can pass through the hands of four or more artists before being fully completed. It was for this reason that he was brought to Oakland, California in 1963 by the Japanese Sword Society of the United States; Mr. Nakajima could perform all the different jobs necessary to restore old swords. In 1970 Michael Bell was introduced to Mr. Nakajima and shortly thereafter became his apprentice.

Continue reading “So you want to become an apprentice swordsmith…”