So you want to become an apprentice swordsmith…

An article regarding apprenticeships has been posted at our website,

“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 making 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 here…

28 thoughts on “So you want to become an apprentice swordsmith…”

  1. Wow! I’ve never expected that there is a Japanese style sword smithing course In U.S., which is a whole different & far from the country where the course originates from (Japan). I would like to study there VERY MUCH, if only I knew how to get there…(hiks…)

    1. Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo does not have a specific age limit Students under the age of 18 have to have their parent’s written permission. We have taught students as young as thirteen. Maturity does not always correlate with age, and is judged on an individual basis.

  2. I’d like to become a blacksmith. If some one would please pass down some information so I can learn how I’d be very thankful.

    1. Dear David,

      Although a great many forging techniques are shared by both blacksmithing and swordsmithing, they should be considered different, separate arts.

      I would suggest looking into the Artist Blacksmiths Association of North America (ABANA). There are several blacksmith associations, some states even have their own (California Blacksmiths Association comes to mind). The website also has an article on becoming a blacksmith. You could also perhaps begin your search by looking for individual local blacksmiths. Luckily, blacksmiths are more common than swordsmiths, so perhaps finding a teacher will be easier.

  3. I’m trying to find a swordsmith to apprentice with or a school located in Idaho. Unfortunately I have been unable to find anything with in this state. Can anyone out there help me?

    1. Dear Lucan,

      While there are indeed several knife-makers located in Idaho, there are no swordsmiths of which we are aware.

      If you interested in truly learning the Art of swordsmithing, with only a handful of swordsmiths working professionally in the US, you will most likely need to travel outside of Idaho for instruction.

      We a offer 5-day Basic Forging Course at Dragonfly Forge’s swordsmithing school here in neighboring Oregon, which is a great chance for firsthand forging experience under the eye of an experienced smith and teacher, Michael Bell. Although a few bladesmiths do also offer forging classes, we believe we are the only school in the world offering the variety or quality of courses we do. Students of the school have traveled from across the country, as well as internationally from Canada and Europe to attend. Please visit our swordsmithing school’s homepage for information on our 2010 classes.

    1. Dear Braxton,

      Generally, a swordsmithing apprenticeship is not paid for in a monetary form, but rather in labor or skill provided for the common good. Because of the “teacher-apprentice” relationship is, by it’s nature, a very close and personal relationship which lasts a lifetime, and the terms by which the apprentice repays the debt to his teacher must be determined on an individual basis.

      For a chance to learn swordsmithing firsthand, I would highly suggest looking into one of our Basic Forging Courses. Although a few other bladesmiths do offer forging classes, as far as we know, our swordsmithing school is the only one of its kind, offering a full curriculum in the Japanese sword. Without the cost or commitment of an apprenticeship, our Basic Forging Course gives students a chance the learn firsthand with an experienced teacher. The knowledge learned during class should allow students to build their own inexpensive, yet efficient and effective propane forge fire, and to begin forging and learning on one’s own after the class.

        1. Dear Braxton,

          For those truly interested in seeking an apprenticeship with Dragonfly Forge, we must first have a chance to meet personally before it can even be contemplated.

          Most importantly, we would also need to see of “body of work” which demonstrates the talent and ability of the potential apprentice. Although such work does not have to be specifically sword related, or even metal, it must display one’s understanding of the material used and the ability to work with one’s hands. For example, Ron Macy, the only person to complete the apprenticeship process and be granted certification, was already well accomplished and respected in the “primitive arts” community, specifically flint-knapping.

          If one has no such experience, we would suggest taking a Basic Forging Course at our swordsmithing school, the best possible introduction to Japanese sword for the aspiring swordsmith.

  4. hi my name is Justin i have been obsessed with swords all my life and would really love to learn the ancient arts of being a swordsmith i would really enjoy taking part if its possible to take some courses in this field plz contact me

    1. Dear Justin,

      It is certainly possible for you to take courses in the Japanese sword arts through our swordsmithing school, Tomboyama Nihontō Tanren Dōjō. We posted the 2010 classes schedule about a month ago, and students are already beginning to reserve their place in the sessions. Our 5-day Basic Forging Course is by far our most popular course, but we offer classes in all of the Japanese sword Arts.

  5. First off let me say I have been trying to find a proper sword smith apprenticeship for over 2 years. I am hoping that it would be possible to have anyone with knowledge of one or more to contact me with the information. i am willing to apprentice for as long as necessary and do any necessary work in regards to obtaining and fulfilling an apprenticeship. I will please ask for only serious inquiries into this subject as i am serious in my drive to find a master in this field.
    thank you

  6. Hello, please disregard my email address, I am the furthest thing from a master swordsmith. What I wanted to say is I am looking to be a swordsmith for my career and was wondering if you can help me out. Im 16 and am looking into being an apprentice.

  7. Ok my Q is A. What courses should I do to be a swordsmith (eg blacksmith or something like that) and are there any ones in AUS or ?

    1. Dear Ed,

      Although blacksmithing classes would certainly help one becoming familiar with forging and other metalworking techniques, we would more strongly suggest researching knifemaking classes, as the technique are more pertinent and directly applicable to swordsmithing.

      We would suggest looking for opportunities locally to visit the shops of blacksmiths, knifemakers, etc. Unfortunately, we unaware of what educational opportunities exist in Australia for aspiring bladesmiths. In the United States, several well-respected knifemakers and bladesmiths do offer classes occasionally. The American Bladesmith Society would probably be a good place to start.

      Of course, we highly recommend attending one of our Basic Forging Courses at our swordsmithing school, Tomboyama, as is it the only school of its kind in the world. The Basic Forging Course requires no previous experience and is the perfect introduction to Japanese swordsmithing, while still offering much for the more experienced smith.

  8. I am very interested in learning the arts of wielding a sword and making a sword. I would like to learn to make a sword so that when I learn the arts of wielding one I would be using one I made with my dedication, time, and hard-work. I live around Cincinnati Ohio and would be very pleased if there is a class or school of some sort near by, thank you.

    1. Dear Joe Linder,

      Our swordsmithing dojo, Tomboyama, is the only school in the world of it’s kind, offering a formal hands-on curriculum dedicated solely to the Japanese sword. Our students have traveled from all over North America, as well as Europe, to attend classes at the school.

      Although there is a small number of other professional swordsmiths working in the United States, we are not aware that any of them hold regularly-scheduled classes.

      We hope you will be able to attend our dojo sometime in the future.

  9. Hey my name is rat bait and i really want to become a sword smith. I was just wondering if there is any where in Australia that teaches the art of sword making? and are there any sword smith masters looking for an apprentice?

  10. yea i was wondering im almost 18 an i really want to learn to swordsmith i would like to be a student of urs i live in alliance oh so i would like to no if i could become a student.

    1. Dear David

      While we are not accepting apprentices at this time, I suggest you take our Basic Forging Course to learn if you are suited to the craft. You will also learn skills that can be applied broadly to other blade making traditions.

      We are ending our school year in October and will be posting the class schedule for 2013 soon. Perhaps we’ll meet next year.


  11. hi , i’m jace. i’m very seriously looking into becoming a bladesmith although i believe i will start off with basic blacksmithing & slowly work my way in so i doubt i will attend your school anytime this year i may in future years if everything goes smoothly. my question is if you wanted to make a kattana or similar sword & place it in a simple wooden scabbard (sorry i’m un-versed in the traditional & proper wording) & handle what other pieces would you use to properly fit it all into place? another small inquiry of mine is about a comment iv come across wile looking through your site you ( i cant quite recall which one of you) said that although similar blacksmithing is diferont than swordsmithing , wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that swordsmithing is a more refined branch of blacksmithing? .

    yet another thing i’m curious about is do you use traditional whetstones? if so would you happen to know of a good supplier? preferably a store in Canada b.c. as that’s where i’m living or perhaps a online source with good shipping?

    thank you for your time & for putting up with my spelling & grammar. (although some simply differs between countries)

    1. Hello Jace

      Thanks for your inquiry. You are correct in believing that starting with some simple blacksmithing projects is an excellent way to begin. The important thing is to get started and learn the basics of hammer and anvil.

      There are several components of a katana mounting that are more or less required. One is the habaki, or blade collar that forms the junction between blade and handle. This permits a good base for mounting the handle while also providing a wedge effect in the scabbard, preventing the sword from sliding out accidentaly when the sword is inverted. There is also reinforcements to either end of the handle [fuchigashira].

      I don’t know of anyone in B.C. who sells water stones. Norton Abrasives now manufactures water stones in the U.S. The Japan Woodworker and Hida Tool and Hardware Co. both also sell sharpening stones and you may be able to find some Japanese stones at a local store.

      Swordsmithing is a highly refined specialty of blacksmithing and is considered to be a profession rather than a trade.

      Good luck in your endeavors.

      1. hello again , let me start by saying im verry pleased with the responce youve given me on both the topic of mounting as well as for the genneral categorization of swordsmithing. theres nothing quite like getting almost exactly the responce you hoped for weather its in what your makeing or just in a conversation. on the topic of waterstones though its tobad you dont know of a actual dealer in b.c. but it just means ill have to keep a eye out, as well as look online , chances are that dealers in the u.s. would ship them heer. thanks again & ill be sure to come back for more answers in the future some time.
        till then i wish you the best.

  12. Hi I’m Wyatt, I just started blade smithing a month ago because my dad who lives in Florida let me do a knife on my own and I feel like I did very good and it’s just felt right. So since I’ve been back in California I’ve been looking for a bladesmith in Oceanside, CA area and I haven’t found anything if there’s any chance I could get a tip for a bladesmith that wouldn’t mind working with my military schedule to possibly be an apprentice for I would be pleased

    Thank you

    1. Wyatt, I am in San Diego too…and can’t find anyone to learn from. Let me know if you find someone. Thanks, Alex

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