Although we are always quick to acknowledge that there is no replacement for hands-on experience, there is also a great deal of knowledge to be gained from books. Due to popular request, we have complied this list of books we highly recommend for reading on the subjects of Japanese swordsmithing, swordsmithing in general, as well as bladesmithing and knife-making in general.
The Art of the Japanese Sword: The Craft and Its Appreciation by Yoshindo Yoshihara, and Leon and Hiroko Kapp (September 10, 2012)
It’s with great pleasure that we recommend a new book on the history and craft of the Japanese sword.
The Art of the Japanese Sword, the Craft and Its Appreciation by Leon and Hiroko Kapp and Yoshindo Yoshihara [Tuttle]covers much of the same ground as The Craft of the Japanese Sword, their first book. The new book goes into far greater detail in all areas and is accompanied by excellent illustrations and clear and concise text. It is also in a larger format than the earlier books and this makes for better reading and more detail in the illustrations.
I believe this book will have broad appeal to collectors and sword enthusiasts while also providing what can almost be termed a “shop manual” for those of us who practice the craft.
We recommend this book highly and salute the authors for their efforts.
The Craft of the Japanese Sword by Yoshindo Yoshihara and Leon & Hiroko Kapp (Jun 15, 1987)
If you can buy only one book on Japanese sword crafts, this is the one. There is an introduction to the history and development of the sword and a clear description of the physics and chemistry of steel. This book details the efforts of the swordsmith, habaki maker, polisher and scabbard maker and provides a clear overview of the courses taught at Dragonfly Forge.
The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way To Perfection by Jim Hirsoulas
This is an informative and entertaining book by my friend and colleague. While not specifically about Japanese swords it is loaded with information and tips of use to all who work at the forge, including data on steel and forge welding techniques. I highly recommend this one.
50 Dollar Knife Shop by Wayne Goddard
Wayne’s book shows how it’s possible to build a simple forge and shop without breaking the bank. Wayne is the grand old man of the hand forged blade and most of us “younger” smiths have sat at his feet to benefit from his experience and generosity. The important lesson of this book is “get started”.
Encyclopedia of Japanese Swords Markus Sesko (September 30, 2014)
The Art of Japanese Sword Polishing Setsuo Takaiwa, Yoshindo Yoshihara, and Leon & Hiroko Kapp (April 21, 2006)
This is the only book on polishing in English. It covers traditional polishing techniques as practiced by the Fujishiro School as well as some more modern approaches that will be of use to those using non-traditional steels for their blades.
The Art of the Japanese Sword: As Taught by the Experts by Kunihira Kawachi (Jul 20, 2006)
This is a fun little book. It covers basic sword history, care and etiquette as well as forging, but its real value is that it gives a peek into the mind and personality of the smith.
Modern Japanese Swords and Swordsmiths: From 1868 to the Present by Yoshindo Yoshihara and Leon & Hiroko Kapp
This is the story of the smiths who preserved and carried on the sword making traditions of Japan after the end of the feudal era. It traces the lineage of contemporary smiths and examines some of the work being done in modern Japan.
Facts and Fundamentals of Japanese Swords: A Collector’s Guide by Nobuo Nakahara and Paul Martin (Sep 1, 2010)
This is a new book discussing old swords. It is a refreshing look at the new scholarship being done in Japan and challenges some of the myths and conventional assumptions on the sword. There is an excellent discussion on what to look for in a sword of good quality.
One Hundred Masterpieces from the Collection of Dr. Walter A. Compton: Japanese Swords, Sword Fittings & Other Accoutrements by Sebastian Izzard (Jun 1992)
The title says it all. Great photos of old swords, including micrographs of hada and hamon, as well as fittings. This book is getting hard to find but is worth the search.