Best 16 Books For Blacksmiths & Bladesmiths – Become a Master

While it’s possible to learn a great deal about blacksmithing from online articles, YouTube videos, and personal experience, these things really can’t replace a compact reference written by an expert with decades of experience.

It’s also incredibly useful to have a reference book nearby.

I know I often find myself forgetting things that I once knew offhand from years ago. Trying to find this information from a collection of unconnected online articles and youtube videos is a pain.

I love having these books on my bookshelf, as they allow me to quickly find any information I need for blacksmithing at an astounding level of depth.

In addition to serving as a reference, these books act as a wonderful source of inspiration. Seeing what information other master craftsman have compiled energizes me to continue creating new and exciting projects.

With that being said, let’s begin looking at some of my favorite blacksmithing books!

Best 4 Books For Beginner Blacksmiths

1. The Art of Blacksmithing

This is my absolute favorite blacksmithing book. It is incredibly comprehensive coming in at 400+ pages and it’s filled with useful illustrations. This book covers everything from the history of blacksmithing, the evolution of blacksmithing tools, and the techniques and tricks employed by blacksmiths through the centuries.

My only complaint about this book is that it approaches metallurgy through a slightly less scientific approach than I would like. This is not to say that this book gives false information or unscientific information, it’s just that it approaches heat treatment from more of a folk what-has-worked-for-centuries viewpoint rather than one that utilizes modern advancements in metallurgy.

However, if you are a beginner, a lot of scientific detail would probably bog you down anyway. This book is a great resource for blacksmiths of all skill levels, and I highly recommend it.

The Pro’s

  • Incredibly thorough
  • Has been one of the most popular blacksmithing books for decades (lindy effect)
  • Many great illustrations

The Con’s

  • It’s thoroughness sometimes makes it a bit wordy, it could be shorter in my opinion
  • It approaches blacksmithing from a historical perspective, which I think tends to neglects modern tools that are commonly used by many contemporary metal workers.

2. New Edge of the Anvil: A Resource Book for the Blacksmith

I recommend this book for people who felt intimidated by the size of the first book. This book by Mr. Jack Andrews provides a good high level overview of the craft in a crisp 256 pages. It features pictures of work done by a number of highly skilled blacksmiths that can provide inspiration for your projects.

While this book is a great book for people who want a short introduction to blacksmithing, it does have some minor flaws. I personally found it a bit vague on some of the details. In addition, it showed some incredible pieces of smithwork, without necessarily explaining how those pieces were made. I found this frustrating as I wanted to make cool projects myself.

Don’t let these critiques scare you away, I’m just nitpicking. If you are just starting out as a blacksmith, this book is an incredible resource.

The pro’s

  • Concise
  • Gives A Good High Level Overview Of The Craft
  • Gives A Number Of Good Projects For Beginners

The con’s

  • I find it can be a bit vague on the details
  • I didn’t find many details on how to make highly ornamental work despite the book showing pictures of highly ornamental work
  • Doesn’t go into the history of blacksmithing as much as I would like

3. The Complete Modern Blacksmith

This book is a good resource for helping new smiths make their own tools. The book has useful photo’s that help you understand the text and help you understand the techniques necessary to make the tool being covered.

This book is longer than the new edge anvil book and shorter than the art of blacksmithing. This gives it a nice balance between thoroughness and level of detail making it a perfect book for a new blacksmith.

I also like this book as it is willing to use more modern metalworking techniques in addition to historical ones.

pro’s

  • Well Illustrated
  • In-between length
  • Clear instruction
  • A good mix between modern and historical techniques.

con’s

  • In my opinion, this book has a bit of a weird layout
  • By my subjective standard, it has no ornamental or highly difficult projects

4. The Home Blacksmith: Tools, Techniques, and 40 Practical Projects for the Blacksmith Hobbyist

This is another great book for beginners. It contains many high quality pictures that help illustrate the text – which by the way, is clearly written. Like the other beginner books, it may skip some details, but it is a great book for beginner to intermediate smiths, I recommend it.

pro’s

  • Well Illustrated
  • Short Length
  • Clear instruction
  • Easy to follow

con’s

  • I find it has a beginners level of detail (only a con if you are not a beginner)
  • No ornamental or highly difficult projects in my view.

Best 3 Books For Intermediate Blacksmiths

In nearly every hobby I have engaged in, I have found the jump that goes from beginning skill level, to intermediate skill level, to be the hardest. Whether it’s coding, writing, or blacksmithing, it’s difficult to figure out what is holding you back from further mastery when you know the basics of a craft.

At this juncture between beginner and intermediate, I find that I can make many cool projects, I just can’t seem to make them well…

Seeing as how many books aimed at beginners do not spend enough time on telling you where to go once you are done reading beginner books, I have tried to compile a list of books aimed at intermediate smiths.

All of these books are from an author name Mark Aspery. He has an incredible series of books on blacksmithing. I recommend these books to all my friends and acquaintances who are interesting in improving their blacksmithing skills. I highly, highly recommend them to you as well.

1. The Skills of a Blacksmith v.1: Mastering the Fundamentals of Blacksmithing

This is technically a beginner book, but I wanted to put this book by mark aspery in a different category so that it doesn’t get “lost” in the beginner section. This is an incredible book written by a man who has been teaching the art of blacksmithing for many years…

And his experience shows. I have met many smiths who LOVE Mark Aspery’s books. If you don’t believe my personal account, you can verify by taking a quick peek at the amazon review section.

This book begins by going over shop safety and then proceeds to elucidate some of the basic concepts of blacksmithing, including: basic tools, metallurgy, heat treatment, creation of your own tools, and a host of detailed projects that are sure to get your creative juices flowing.

To summarize: I really like this book.

Pro’s

  • Over 1200 photos
  • Walks you through the craft of blacksmithing in a step-by-step manner
  • Practical projects including custom tools that will aid you in future endeavours.
  • Highly praised by many in the community

Con’s

  • Bit expensive, but it’s worth every penny in my opinion.

2. The Skills of a Blacksmith: v.2: Mastering the Fundamentals of Leaf-work

Yup, another Mark Aspery book. This one is truly a book for intermediate smiths as it focuses exclusively on leaf work. It’s clear that this book was built from his teaching notes (he classes in person as well), as it addresses almost all of the most common questions people have about leaf work.

Leaf work is more intricate than non-leaf work, and this book guides you through making your own leaves in a clear, easy to follow fashion.

Leaves in blacksmithing are a great way to practice and hone your skills, pushing you further along the path of mastery. Leaves look great on their own, but they can be added to almost any project to give it a more ornamental flair – the type of flair that was so common in hand crafted goods from centuries ago.

Pro’s

  • Over 1300 photos
  • Walks you through the craft of blacksmithing in a step-by-step manner
  • Practical projects including many elegant leaf designs
  • Highly praised by many in the community

Con’s

  • Bit expensive, but it’s worth every penny in my opinion.

3. Skills of a Blacksmith Volume 3 Mastering the Fundamentals of Traditional Joinery

This is the final stop on the Mark Aspery fan train. I swear I’m not affiliated with the man in any way, I just really enjoyed his books. This is a book for intermediate-advance smiths that are looking to improve their joinery skills.

Putting together two separate pieces of metal has been a common task for hundreds of years.

This book provides many beautiful and elegant alternatives to modern day welding equipment.These techniques work wonderfully in situations where you can’t afford to have ugly welding puddles along the seams of your work.

To avoid excessive repetition, I’m going to skip the pro/con section for this book. Buy this book if your joinery could use improvement.

Best 4 Books For Expert Blacksmiths

After a certain point in your blacksmithing career, practice and production will matter more than book knowledge. This isn’t because book knowledge suddenly matters less, it’s more that after a certain point you will have learned everything there is to learn in blacksmithing books focused on “how-to.”

This doesn’t mean that you have outgrown the need for books, quite to the contrary! It just means you will be buying different types of books. At this point in your career, it makes sense to look for books that provide design inspiration.

It can also be enriching to read about books that go into detail about the history of the blacksmithing craft.

So without further ado, here is my list of top books for expert blacksmiths:

1. Thomas Wilson’s Ironwork Notebooks: Inspiration from a Master

When I feel myself becoming creatively stuck, I find it helpful to look at the work of others. Sometimes this leads to to unique ideas inspired by the work I’m looking at, and other times I have to straight up imitate the work to get my creative juices flowing.

Either way, creative inspiration requires activity. Looking at Thomas Wilson’s gorgeous book of designs is a great way to get moving and get your creative juices flowing.

Pro’s:

  • Over 5000 beautiful designs
  • Easy to thumb through while thinking of your next project
  • Great coffee table material

Con’s

  • Not a how-to
  • Not for beginners

2. Anvils in America

This is a fantastic resource that provides more specific details on anvils than any other resource I have found both online and offline.

This is a great resource for blacksmiths, antique collectors, and overall anvil/blacksmithing enthusiasts. It should be on the shelf of every blacksmith.

Anvils In America by Richard Postman makes a great holiday gift for:

  1. Blacksmiths
  2. History Buffs
  3. Antique Collectors


Pro’s:

  • Over 552 pages of anvil goodness
  • The most comprehensive resource for anvils that I have ever found
  • Just incredible, like damn

con’s:

  • If you like anvils, none

I really can’t think of any resource that can match this book when it comes to anvils. That being said, I know some of you are on a budget and want to save your money. For you folks, I would recommend you check out my guide to anvils, where I go over a number of popular options and weigh their pro’s and con’s.

3. Traditional Ironwork Designs

This is another book of designs. It features more than 270 illustrations of high quality german wrought ironworks. These designs are royalty free and a great inspiration to iron workers across the globe

Pro’s:

  • Over 270 illustrations
  • Designs are Royalty free
  • More affordable than some of the other books discussed

Con’s

  • No How-To’s

4. 1100 Decorative French Ironwork Designs

This book is similar to the last in that it is a reference book full of ironwork illustration. It features over 110 illustrations of elaborate french ironwork. These designs should not be attempted by the newbie smith, but can be a source of inspiration for people of all skill levels.

Best Cheap Books For Blacksmiths On A Budget

When you first begin blacksmithing, there can be a lot of upfront costs. You need an anvil, a hammer, and something to grip your white-hot stock with. In addition, you need a well ventilated and safe work space in which to concoct your creations.

While I normally don’t recommend trying to cut costs when it comes to functional knowledge like blacksmithing techniques, I know some of you will at least want some affordable options.

Therefore, I have compiled a short list of cheap blacksmithing books that will help you get on your way to smithing mastery.

1. The Art and Craft of the Blacksmith: Techniques and Inspiration for the Modern Smith

This book is a quick read at 160 pages, but it is beautifully designed and has numerous aesthetically pleasing pictures. I found that it tends to approach things at a high level of abstraction and may lack some detail, but honestly, for some of you, it will be all you need.

2. The Backyard Blacksmith

This is another quick but affordable read clocking in at about 174 pages long. Like the other cheap options, I found it lacked answers to “why” questions in addition to lacking detail. That being said, it’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination.

It features pretty pictures, and gives a good high level overview of the smithing craft. If you are looking to learn smithing on the cheap, this is an inexpensive book that will help you get on your way…

I will point out however, that I don’t think this is a good book for people looking to build a budget build. The author of this book uses some expensive equipment in the book.

Best 3 Books For Knife Making (Books For Bladesmiths)

As far as I’m concerned, making knives is a subset of blacksmithing. As such, every book listed under the blacksmithing sections will give you the the knowledge necessary to make your own knives.

That being said, If your goal is solely to make knives, it can be quicker to learn from a book that focuses exclusively on knife making.

It’s not hard to make a knife shaped object, but making a sharp knife that retains its edge AND looks like a work of art…well that take a little more specialized know-how.
Luckily for you, amazon is full of books on knife making, some of them are even good! I’ll give a quick rundown…

Wayne Goddard’s 50$ Knife Shop, Revised

This is a good, to the point book that will get you quickly started on knife making. This book has an excellent glossary that goes over all the terms that tend to trip up newbies (terms like annealing). It is full of pictures and will help you get started on your knife making journey.

My only criticism of the book is its 50$ claim. It’s hard to build his setup for under 50$ dollars without some serious scavenging. I love budget challenges but…I HATE budget challenges that involve scrounging around a junkyard.

To me a good budget challenge allows the user to quickly buy and assemble all the parts shown without having to “find” them. But this is a personal pet peeve, don’t let it distract you. The book is good.

This not to say that I don’t like scavenging, I just find scavenging to be cheating in budget builds. There is too much variability for it to be applicable to all viewers.

To BE VERY CLEAR, scavenging itself is fine…I just find budget builds that utilize it to be slightly misleading…Moving on!

The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way To Perfection

This book features 21 discrete chapters that breaks up the process of knife making into small components. It even features two chapters specifically for making japanese style knives. This book has been a staple in the knife making community for decades now, it’s a good read.

Simple Knife Making: A Beginners Guide To Building Knives With Basic Tools

This book is written by youtuber Nicholas Tomihama. One of the great things about books written by youtubers is that you can go to their channel and figure out if their method of teaching is “your style.”

I haven’t read this one personally, as this is a newer book and I feel confident in my current knife making abilities. That being said, it seems to be gaining traction and is worth checking out.

Best Holiday Book Gifts For Blacksmiths

Books are a great an inexpensive gift for the blacksmith in your life. If you have read this entire article, all of the books found in this article make for great holiday gifts. Sadly, I will have to leave it to you to figure out what level of experience the person you are buying for has.

Conclusion

Whether you are looking to begin your forging adventure,to make your first knife, to hone existing skills, or to buy a gift for a loved one, blacksmithing books offer a wealth of knowledge that will help all who read them.

Knowing the history, the techniques, and the designs of forge work, will allow you to create unique pieces of art that will inspire all who see it.

Forging is a skill with a high ceiling for mastery. It behooves smiths of all skill levels to respect the craft, and to learn as much as they possibly can, so that they can make the best art possible.

Just don’t forget to have fun : )

Happy Smithing!

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