Books on Blacksmithing and Knife Making

I have always loved to read.  Well, I may have an English or Literature teacher from my past that could say differently.  However, if I find something interesting, I thoroughly enjoy reading about it.  When I wanted to curate a list of helpful books on blacksmithing and knife making, I quickly discovered that it could become a pretty long bibliography.  So, I’ve tried to narrow it down to books I have experience with and, then, books that cover more specific topics in the metal working field.  

First 2 books
The Skills of a Blacksmith Vol. 1:  Mastering the Fundamentals of Blacksmithing – Mark Aspery

After starting my journey into knife making, I wanted to get a few more tools to make the work easier.  So, I went to the Blacksmith Depot in Candler, NC to see what they had, and to seek out some advice on the more essential tools I would need to be successful.  One of the items they recommended was Aspery’s book.  Immediately, I dug in to learn the parts of an anvil, their function, different types of hammer blows, common tools and much more.  There were great pointers for many blacksmith techniques and projects, and even a part about the proper height of your anvil and heat treating.  The projects range from bottle openers to a knife and even how to make some of the tools you can use.  This is a very handy book with a lot of useful information.  There are diagrams and photos throughout that do a great job of providing visualization for tasks that were foreign to me at the time.

The Everyday Blacksmith – Nicholas Wicks

I found this book shortly before I started doing art and craft vending events.  I wanted to find a few items I could make that weren’t as costly as knives to showcase at my booth.  Also, I wanted them to be items that did not take much time to make and that didn’t require heat treating or time consuming finishing work, but were still useful.  So, I saw some of the projects in Wicks’ book that fit the bill.  There are 55 projects ranging from basic and simple to intermediate skill level.  Nicholas Wicks does an excellent job of explaining the basics of blacksmithing and there is an abundance of photos and diagrams that help evaluate your progress.  It’s definitely not as robust as Aspery’s book above and there is nothing about knife making, however, as a knife maker I was able to have some light shed on other tools and projects that have served me well.  Wicks brings enthusiasm to the craft and even if you don’t do all the projects, it is a good read.

Second 2 books

Knife Engineering:  Steel, Heat Treating, and Geometry – Dr. Larrin Thomas

Dr. Larrin Thomas is a metallurgist and the son of renowned Damascus steel maker, Devin Thomas.  His website, Knife Steel Nerds, is full of useful information on heat treating, comparisons of different types of steel, edge geometry, and much more.  His book, Knife Engineering, is an outstanding resource if you work with steel, make knives, or just interested in steel, blades, or edge geometry.  It is very thorough and full of diagrams and photos to help you make sense of it all.  The book is very scientific and could take some time to digest; however, it is an excellent reference tool as a knife maker.

How To Make Knives – Richard W. Barney & Robert W. Loveless

A talented knife maker named Burt Foster recommended this book to me.  It is an amazing resource covering two outstanding knife makers, Bob Loveless and Bill Moran.  In doing this, the book also covers the stock removal method and forging a knife.  There is extensive information on finishing, handles, and making sheaths as well.  If you aspire to make knives or want to learn about some master makers, check these two giants out.  Bill Moran founded the American Bladesmith Society and is credited with the resurgence of pattern welded steel, what we typically refer to as Damascus steel.  Bob Loveless is said by some to be one of the most original custom knife makers in the world.  I recommend learning about these makers and this book.  You may only be able to find used copies as I believe it is out of print now, but if you find a copy, pick one up.

other helpful books

Other helpful books

I wanted to mention several other books that are helpful and they focus on more specific elements of knife making.  Some of these are out of print, but many of them are available if you scour the internet.  Also, many of them are available at hammer-in events, the American Bladesmith Society website/events, and eBay.

Knifemaking:  A Complete Guide to Crafting Knives, Handles & Sheaths – Bo Bergman

This is an outstanding book that focuses on Nordic style knives and puukkos.  However, many of the principles contained in the book could be applied to many different styles of knives and handles.

Pocketknife Making for Beginners – Stefan Steigerwald & Peter Fronteddu

This is a great title available from Schiffer Publishing.  Their books contain extensive and thorough information that are well documented with reference photos relating to specific knife making skills.  Check them out if you are looking to make pocketknives, hidden tang knives, Damascus steel, or just learn some different techniques for forging. 

I will update this post as I run across more books (I actually just ordered a copy of The Story of Knife Steel by Dr. Larrin Thomas, so I plan to do a review of it after reading). And,  I know this doesn't cover every book on blacksmithing, forging or knife making.  I just wanted to share these to get you started.


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