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”

Interview with Pieces

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.

Ron Macy awarded Certificate of Mastery

Michael Bell hands Ron Macy his Certificate of Mastery.
Michael Bell hands Ron Macy his Certificate of Mastery.

On Nov. 14, 2008, we at Dragonfly Forge were proud and honored to award to Ron Macy a Certificate of Mastery for his many accomplishments in the arts of the Japanese sword.

Although Michael Bell has taught many students over the years, Ron is the first to spend the traditional five year minimum apprenticeship.

In addition to his certificate Ron is now entitled to use the character Tombo as well as the art name Kuniyoshi as his signature.

Michael met Ron in the 90’s and admired his fine craftsmanship and artistic sense in flint knapping and other so-called primitive skills.  He joined Michael as an apprentice in 2000 and although family responsibilities sometimes interrupted his studies, he always remained focused and diligent.

Ron is now an independent swordsmith but will always remain a part of the Dragonfly Forge family.

(left to right, top to bottom) Gabriel Bell, Anna Bell, Michael Bell, Ron Macy, Randy Wiley, and Adam Coleman.
(left to right, top to bottom) Gabriel Bell, Anna Bell, Michael Bell, Ron Macy, Randy Wiley, and Adam Coleman.

Announcing New Homepage for Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo, our swordsmithing school.

Our school of swordsmithing, Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo, Dragonfly Mountion Japanese Sword Forging School, now has a new website and domain name,

All of the information regarding our swordsmithing school, classes, other teaching events, and anything else related will now be located at the new address.

Subscribers of the this site may find that they are already registered for our new site as well under the same username.  Some people may have to resubscribe for the new website, sorry for the inconvenience.

A schedule for the schools 2009 School Year will be posted online at the new site this month.  Students will be able to pay their deposits to reserve seats in the various sword-making courses at that time.

This website,, while will now serve solely to showcase our own work.

Swordsmithing School Update

Now that the leaves have begun to change color and the cooler weather of Fall begins to descend here on the southern Oregon coast, our swordsmithing school, the Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo (Dragonfly Mountain Japanese Sword Forging School), will be closing it doors until classes are planned to resume again in April of 2009. The winter weather here can make for difficult traveling conditions, and it is for this reason that we do not schedule classes during the winter months.

Read the rest of the story at the new homepage of our swordsmithing school,Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo, Dragonfly Mountain Japanese Sword Forging School.

Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo Classes for 2008

Since we began teaching formal swordsmithing courses at Dragonfly Forge, we have been very lucky to teach friendly and talented students, many of which have been able to return for more instruction at the Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo. This year’s students have been as enjoyable and talented as ever, and with this years completion of our new dojo, teaching the curriculum has been a pleasure.

The rest of this story has moved to the new homepage of our swordsmithing school,