About the Course
This is a hands-on course designed to give the student a working familiarity with the tools and metals utilized in the forging of a Japanese sword blade.
Each student will forge their own blade of at least wakizashi length from forge-welded steel cable. Skills learned will include forging, grinding, filing and heat-treating, with attendant emphasis on metallurgy and proper shaping and aesthetics.
All tools, fuel, and material included.
The price of the course is $2575 and is limited to a maximum of four students per session. A deposit of $575 is required for reservations with the remaining tuition of due a week before the first day of class.
For more information on our school and swordsmithing courses, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions section.
33 thoughts on “Basic Japanese Sword Forging Course”
When viewing the photos on this site re: basic forging what came to mind was “America, the land of cultural amnesia!”
Anyone with even the most rudimentary amount of knowledge about the forging of Samurai blades will shudder upon seeing the methods taught here, and the materials used.
I am not looking for 100% authenticity as far as compared to Japanese bladesmiths is concerned, but even a small amount would be nice. “forge-welded steel cable”? You’ve got to be kidding.
Regarding your comments on our basic forging course and the use of cable as a material, I will submit these thoughts for your consideration.
As you may know, I spent a five-year apprenticeship with master sword craftsman Nakajima Muneyoshi. Although he was very orthodox in his methods and materials he nevertheless recognized that conditions in America were very different and he encouraged us to experiment with new materials.
After many years of experimentation I developed a blade that is forged from cable. What resulted is a sword with superior cutting ability, tremendous durability, and a pleasing grain and hamon. In other words, a real sword and not a “wall-hanger”.
Although we can and do make more traditional swords of oroshigane we use the cable for teaching the basic forging course . This allows us to teach fundamental forge-welding techniques in the short period of time we have in a five day course. It would be impossible to do the preparation and folding stages in the allotted time frame. It should also be noted that once a bar of steel has been drawn out it is forged to shape and heat-treated in the same way as traditional steel.
The “modern” sword as it is seen now is over a thousand years old, and it, too, went through a series of innovations throughout its history. Even the swords made today are of a tradition that was more or less reinvented in the 1930’s because several generations had passed since swords were made and much had been lost or forgotten.
By the way, Tomboyama swords are known to the Japanese and their strength and cutting ability has been recognized and remarked upon with favor. Our Japanese colleagues find it interesting and are generally respectful of our efforts. In Japan it is against the law to forge a sword in any steel except tamahagane or oroshigane, and some smiths are envious of our freedom to experiment with other materials.
Any Japanese sword whether ancient or modern must still be a functioning sword to have value. Even a blade by a famous maker has little or no value if it is cracked or has compromised heat-treating. Our cable blades posses the same qualities as more traditional swords in that they are strong. cut very well and have beauty. They are art that can be depended upon as a weapon.
If you care to learn more, I humbly suggest you take one of our courses. You might be surprised at how orthodox we really are.
It is a beginning course, steel cable is probably cheaper and easier to learn. I would rather mess up cedar than mahogany. In fact, I intend to learn swordsmithing and will first perfect aluminum show swords before attempting steel forged swords.
Hi I just watched ur you tube video and knew my dreams of learning to forge Japanese steel is now possible. I live in Hawaii and martial arts have always been a big thing here… I seen that your oct. beginners classes are filled I was wondering if there was going to be another class following soon after. my cousin and I would love to be taught by someone who actually learned from a true Japanese sword smith …. I’ll be waiting to hear back from u folks thanks and aloha from Hawaii.
very well put mr.bell
I am curious if your instruction would lend itself to European swords as well; specifically a rapier.
Thank you for your interest in our swordsmithing school, Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo (Dragonfly Mountain Japanese Sword Forging School).
Do you have any prior experience forging?
A rapier is probably beyond the scope of most beginners. Most people believe that forging a double-edged sword is more difficult. The longer length and thin cross-section certainly add to the difficulty. Also, the heat-treatment process for European blades is different than that of the Japanese sword, making it outside the general focus of our school (although my father has forged rapier himself in the past).
Given these considerations, I believe we would be hard-pressed to successfully execute such a project in the limited 5-day time period of the Basic Forging Course.
Hi! I would like to know the availability of your April forging class. Thank you!
Dear Gary Neff,
We have just recently finalized the 2012 schedule of our classes at our swordsmithing school. Our April Basic Forging Course is set to run from Monday, April 23 – Friday, April 27, 2012 and there are still spaces remaining.
A deposit is requested to reserve a student’s place in the session. Reservations can be made via our website, which links to PayPal for secure payment of the deposit.
Please feel free to contact if you have further questions, or if something on our website is unclear.
I’ve been looking into sword smithing for a few months now, actually wanting to committ to it fully and I’ve been looking into many different sites for schools or apprenticeships. I’ve had an interest in forging ever since my father got me started on a sword collection. I’m very curious in your school because u are a few hours away from where I live and I’d love to know if u accept payments or need full cash up front, and also times when u will have openings as I’ve seen ur basic beginning classes are done for this year.
Thank you for your interest in our swordsmithing school, Tomboyama Nihonto Tanren Dojo (Dragonfly Mountain Japanese Sword Forging School).
Although we have no more classes scheduled for 2011, our 2012 course schedule has already been determined and the schedule can be seen at our school’s webpage, Tomboyama – Calender. Our first class for next year is our March 26-30, Basic Forging Course and spaces in the session are available at this time.
To reserve one’s place in a class, a deposit is required. For the Basic Forging Course and other five day courses, the deposit required is $350, payable online via PayPal through our school’s website, or by check or money order, and refundable up 60 days before the scheduled session. The remaining tuition ($1,000 for 5-day courses) isn’t due until the first day of class, payable by cash, check, money order, or credit/debit card.
Please feel free to contact as if you have further questions or if someone on our website is unclear. You may also reach us by telephone at (541) 396-3605.
We would love to have you attend one of our school’s classes.
I’m interested to be at a forging swords courses but do you learn how to make handle? how to sharp and polish the sword?
Thank you and have a good day
Our sword forging classes are five days long and run from 9AM to 5PM Monday through Friday. This week is used solely in forging, shaping, heat treating and grinding to final shape a blade of 50 to 60 centimeters in length. There is usually no time for further progress.
However, as you may have seen on our web-site, we also offer instruction in almost all areas of the sword crafts, and it is possible to take a course on handle and scabbard making as well as sharpening and basic polishing.
I hope the above answers your questions. Please feel free to contact us if you require additional information.
I am very interested in your class. Would we fold the steel before forging? And can we forge longer swords, around four foot?
Thanks for your inquiry. While our Intermediate Forging Course does include the folding and forge-welding of a billet prior to forging the sword, the Basic Forging Course covers the forge-welding process but without folding.
The length of the sword made in the basic class is wakizashi, between one and two feet. It would be unlikely for a novice to forge a four foot blade in the five days of class. Indeed, I would find it very difficult myself.
I hope you can join us this year for one of the classes. You might learn that a short sword of quality is a challenge in itself.
Hi my name is Toby Brymer I live here in Willows, CA I would like to know if you know if there is a school like your’s where I live at. Because I would like to know how to make swords because I don’t have a lot of money to go to plcae’s that are way out there hopefuly you can help me out thank you very much ….
Unfortunately, I don’t know of anything like Dragonfly Forge near your home. I believe we have the only school in the world that offers the kind of instruction found here.
If you can’t attend our classes I suggest you try to find a knife maker in your area that forges hot steel and learn the basics from him. The skills are largely the same.
Check out the American Bladesmith Society. They may have a member smith in your area who is willing to work with you.
Dear Mr Bell
I stumbled upon your website when researching bladesmithing tuition and have found it extremely helpful and informative! by far the most inspiring source I have found so far. I am more than interested in your forging classes and the mere idea of apprenticeship excites me to my very bones. I believe it was mentioned in the documentary that you took some german pupils at your forge? does this mean that there is nearby accomadation? I only ask because if I were to attend I would have to travel quite a distance.
Thanks for your inquiry.
We expect to be posting our 2013 schedule of classes at the end of October after our last class of the year. We currently teach two sword smithing classes, basic and intermediate. These are described in the course descriptions on our web-site.
Although we can’t offer lodging at the school, there are many choices in hotels, vacation rentals and camping is available at a nearby state park. The FAQ section on the web-site has some descriptions.
In light of the long distance you must travel, we would be willing to try and schedule as much tutoring as possible in the time allowed. Please let me know of your interests and forging experience, if any.
We hope to see you hear next year. best wishes,
Dear Mr Bell
Thank you kindly for your swift reply. I eagerly await to see the schedule for next year and will no doubt be booking a place as soon as the money becomes available. For the time being I have no experience in forging so the basic course will be a perfect place to start. If I (and of course you) were to have the time to fit two courses back to back do you think it would be wise to repeat the basic course or move to intermediate?
Thank you for your time.
Dear Sensei Bell,
As a long time collector of Nihonto, and practitioner of the Martial Arts, it should come as no surprise that I eventually found myself standing at the head of a forge replete with glowing anthracite, working iron sand into sharpened steel.
In the tumultuous whirlwind of everyday life, I have discovered that true zen can be found through this primal interaction with the elements. In this light I wish to express my gratitude to you for creating a place where others may experience this intimate connection with nature, and in doing so, reconnecting with long forgotten parts of themselves.
At this stage in my my pursuit of the craft, I have come to a place where I feel that I have taught myself as much as possible through research, practice, and reflection. That said, I am very interested in taking your course. Prior to that, I have a few questions regarding this eventuality.
Firstly; I live across the country (long Island, NY), so I would require a decent amount of time to arrange lodging and travel. Can you please tell me (or give a rough idea) of when the next forging classes will be offered in the new year? I see that you will be posting this list towards the end of this month, so even a simple notification of that posting would suffice.
Second, is there flexibility in the ultimate design of the student’s learning project? I ask because I have set a rather lofty goal for myself regarding the style of Zukuri I wish to attempt as well as the type of Hamon I hope to elicit.
I thank you in advance for your time and hope to hear from you soon.
Best wishes and warmest regards,
Kurt Jw Knabbe
Dear Mr. Knabbe
Many thanks for your inquiry. I agree that working hot steel can be quite a “high”. I’ve been forging for more than 40 years and there is no end in sight of the challenges and possibilities inherent in the profession.
Our last class of the year will begin next week. Our first class of the 2013 year will be scheduled for the last weeks of March. We will be happy to send you notice when it is posted.
The project for the Basic Forging Course is a forge welded wakizashi blade. I have no objections to you choosing a particular zukuri, but some are rather more difficult for a beginner and may be too slow given that it is a five day course. The standard shinogizukuri style blade is a challenge in its own right.
Also, because we use forge welded cable for this course, the hamon tends to follow the grain of the steel and precludes the use of elaborate patterns. Our Intermediate Forging course utilizes folded, more homogeneous steel that permits almost any hamon style. In this course we forge tanto or kowakizashi length blades with emphasis on the many geometries used in tanto.
I hope this answers some of your questions, and hope to see you here next year.
Gentlemen, VERY interested in your school, all of your courses too, I want to be a sword smith and you guys have shown me the way; now I need to finance it. Is there any chance the GI Bill would cover this, as it is a technical trade. Any knowledge of this?
Thanks for your comment and interest regarding our swordsmithing school
I don’t know the specifics of the GI Bill, but I believe that one must study with an accredited institution, which we are not. You might look into The American Bladesmith Society. They offer a number of excellent courses and are affiliated with Texarkana Community College. They may be able to work within the GI Bill.
We hope you will be able to attend our school.
i would love to become an apprentice of yours but first intend to come to a class. i just wander if the skills learned would be able to be transfered to making other kinds of single edged weapons sutch as smaller knives, arabian, spartan, and us naval swords?
Thanks for your excellent question. Because iron and steel have a sort of universal quality, the skills learned in forging one type of blade are also universally applicable to other styles.
Other than the method of heat treating, most other factors, including basic blade geometry, remain the same. We use basically the same tools and methods whether we’re making carving tools for scabbard making or the odd Bowie knife.
I hope you’ll be able to attend one our courses.
Hi I’m a 23 year old man interested in swordsmithing. I was wondering do y’all have a payment plan or is it cash up front?
Thank you for your interest in our swordsmithing classes.
We require a deposit of $375 to reserve a student’s place in our Basic Forging Course. The remaining tuition of $1,000 is not due until the first day of the session.
I attended this class and had an absolute blast. The Dragonfly Forge team was kind and patient with teaching while offering correction and assistance as needed.
I had forged a few knives leading up to the class, but learned so much from the class that all of my forging and filing will be significantly better moving forward.
Knowledge was shared freely, and the relaxed atmosphere made everything that much more welcoming and informative. They did an excellent job teaching the class and pushing us to make great first swords.
Keep up the great work!
I am 52 years old and have absolutely no experience with working around a forge. I am planning on signing up for your beginner forging class in April and was wondering if you have any recommendations on what I can do to prepare for the class.
Looking forward to the class.
Would it be possible for you to accept me as a student of Samoan sword making? I love this job