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…”
Michael Bell was recently interviewed by the online magazine Pieces, which seeks to explore the various materials that we use so often in everyday life and their multi-faceted functions.
The current issue focuses on steel, it’s many applications in modern life, and features an interview with Michael. The interview can be read here.
From The World Newspaper, Coos Bay, Oregon
By Jo Rafferty
Michael Bell started up the electric motor on a gigantic press he uses to shape the blades of Japanese swords.
“Bam! Bam!” The dies clanked together on the approximately 3-foot-long flat piece of steel, turned red from the heat of the forge fire.
“It’s 1,500 degrees, but it will go all the way up past 2,000 as it warms up,” Bell, 61, said loudly over the hissing of the forge, which sounded like a heavy wind storm.
The warmth of the fire quickly spread throughout the cold workshop.
The press is one way of shaping the hot metal. The other is by hand, using a hammer on an anvil.
Read the rest of the article online at The World Link.
This article is also available in PDF format with photographs.
I met Michael Bell on August 26, 1984 at a knife show in San Jose, California. It was a momentous meeting which I recall vividly. There were some star players at this show. Of special import was Bernard Levine who introduced me to Michael Bell and, in turn, also introduced Michael to Bob Loveless. Michael lived in San Francisco and was the owner of Mission Cutlery; and in addition to selling, sharpening and repairing cutlery, he also was making and repairing Japanese swords.
Continue reading ““Michael Bell, Dragonfly Forge” by Dennis Ellingson – Knife World”
This link to an interactive tour by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has some very nice detailed photos, mostly of tsuba and other koshirae fittings. We especially love nice Higo openwork iron tsuba.
An article and photos from 2005 by Kathryn Ortland and Justin Speyer. The article is in PDF format and was previously available online and can be read here.
It has been said the Japanese sword possesses a soul of its own–that it is an extension if not the very counterpart of the warrior’s soul itself. I believe this to be true, though I also maintain that the sword is a reflection of its creator–the tosho, the swordsmith. The swordsmith is charged with the arduous task of upholding a tradition that has existed for well over a thousand years. With only the barest of resources–iron, sand, fire–combined with his knowledge and the strength of his hands, the tosho must strive to create something greater than himself, instilling life in each blade with every strike of his hammer. Continue reading “Reflections of Steel, by Win Prue”
An older article from Swordforum Magazine.
” This year, the Alabama Forge Council’s (AFC) annual Bladesmithing Symposium featured special guest Michael Bell – a swordsmith from Oregon and one of the premiere smiths working today, trained in the Japanese tradition by five-year apprenticeship under Master Swordmaker Nakajima Muneyoshi in 1970.”
The rest of the article is available here.
Article and photographs by Adrian Ko.