Monday, January 15, 2018

References for the Beginner Blacksmith

I'm starting to prepare classroom materials for my upcoming stint as one of the instructors for the Haliburton College Artist Blacksmith program.

Here are my recommendations for books that can help the beginner into the work of the artist blacksmith. (In order of my preference)

Note that the links provided are set for Canada's Chapters/Indigo where possible.

the Backyard Blacksmith : Loreli Sims
Crestline - 2006

I know Lorelei loosely. She is a brilliant teacher, with long experience. Unlike many others, this book has exceptionally clear images that were purposefully shot to illustrate each point. This book is specifically aimed at the beginner, and I feel the best single guide in print.

the Complete Modern Blacksmith : Alexander Weighers
Ten Speed Press - 1997

I refer to this as the 'popular mechanics / hobby tinker' version of blacksmithing. There is little 'art' here, but lots of basic practical information. All that stuff you wish you paid attention to in grade 10 shop class. Beautifully clear drawn illustrations, so good that you can just look at the pictures and read the captions and get almost everything - with text easily as good. A gold mine for anyone setting up their own backyard first workshop.

Decorative & Sculptural Ironwork : Donna Meilach
Schiffer Publishing - 1999 (original 1978)

I had purchased the original version of this volume when both it, and my interest in blacksmithing was new. Donna was a professional writer who got interested in the (then) new artist blacksmith movement that was developing in the 1970's in the USA. The book is a well laid out general survey work, with chapters on major object types. There are short photo essays, illustrating how one working smith (of those times) undertook a process, leading to a finished object. This is followed with a set of 'boy I wish I had made that' object images within that object type. Both a good starting point into various techniques, and very inspiring collection of work.

Contemporary Blacksmith (series) : Donna Meilach
Schiffer Publishing (2000 +)
About a half dozen titles - all recommended

When Donna started working on a revised second edition of 'Decorative & Sculptural', she made an open call for additional photographs of current work for the new colour section. She got a landslide of images. Enough to fill a good half dozen additional volumes (!). Most volumes focus on a specific type of work (Architectural, Sculptural, etc), gathering together images of work undertaken in many artistic styles, all examples of the best contemporary artistic blacksmithing.

(no image available from Amazon)

New Edge of the Anvil : Jack Andrews
Skipjack Press - 1994 (original 1977)

Jack Andrews taught sculpture, including blacksmithing, in the America SW in the 1970's. The original version of this book was based on that experience - and the time of publication was almost the only thing available. This is a book firmly rooted in the 'hippy' movement of those times. The images are 'art' - but often do not clearly illustrate the intended concepts. There are some chapters on basic metallurgy and formulas for smiths that are very valuable. I personally find the point of view dated (and suggest your money is better spent on something given above).

Dover Pictorial Archive (series)
Dover Publication
dozens of titles - search ‘metalwork’

The Dover series are inexpensive reprints of images no longer holding copyright. Drawings or photographs, in black and white, usually with no commentary. An absolute gold mine of designs and details. Many less than $20.

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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