Slip Cover, Castle Revised Edition
Blacksmithing Classic!

Alex Bealer's
The Art of Blacksmithing

Hard Bound, 438 pages, 500+ illustrations
Originally published in 1969
Slip Cover, Original Edition
Left - slip cover of Castle reprint of the revised edition, right - slip cover of original 1969 edition,
REVIEW  by Jock Dempsey

Publication of The Art of Blacksmithing marked the beginning of the modern era in blacksmithing. Its publication came at a time when the small blacksmith's shop had nearly ceased to exist in North America. At the time there were no references about blacksmithing in print and the many old references that are now commonly available in reprint today had long been out of print and were rarely found in libraries. It also came at the peak of the crafts movement inspiring hundreds of "hippy" craftsfolk to take up the hammer. Today those hippy craftsfolk are the established "old guard" of blacksmithing. They will ALL tell you that "The Art" was important in their blacksmithing education. Not only did Bealer write THE landmark reference of blacksmithing he was also instrumental in establishing ABANA (Artists Blacksmiths Association of North America).

One of the important features of The Art of Blacksmithing are Bealer's illustrations. Bealer illustrated tools, techniques and hardware in hundreds of clearly understandable pen and ink drawings. In a style similar to Eric Sloane (A Museum of Early American Tools) Bealer described practically every blacksmithing technique. His simple black and white drawings are often more descriptive than a mere photograph. Where the iron should be hot it clearly looks hot. Illustrations from The art of Blacksmithing have appeared in dozens of books and articles in modern blacksmithing literature. Page 148, Forge Welding
Page 125, Weld preparations Bealer spent years researching blacksmithing, interviewing the few remaining blacksmiths when he could find them and teaching himself the Art. His references included many standard historical writings on technology such as Agricola's De Re Metalica (1556) and Diderot's Encyclopedia of Trades and Industries (1767). They also included more esoteric technical references such as Cyril Stanley Smith's History of Metalography (1960) and Bollinger's Elemental Wrought Iron (1930). Today most of his source material that was once difficult to find is in reprint thanks to publishers like Lindsey Publications and distributors such as Norm Larson.
The Art of Blacksmithing is about traditional blacksmithing, it does not discuss arc welding, machine forging or other modern methods. It is not a "how-to" book. Although Bealer gives step by step instructions for making specific hardware and performing many operations his writings are about HOW it was and is done. There are no specific dimensions or plans. Page 206, Types of hand forged nails
Figure detail from the Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer While Bealer strove to produce a very accurate book it appears that a couple times he either missed a detail or someone was trying to pull his leg. As an example, his discription of forging a rose is for practical purposes impossible. He describes upsetting a 1/4" rod into a 3/8" thick 2" diameter disk. This almost sounds plausable until you realize that it takes 24" of 1/4" round rod to make that volume.

The correct manner of forging a rose from one piece of steel is to start with a fairly large piece such as 1" or 1-1/2" round, then drawing out a smaller diameter (about 1/2") by several inches long then using the shoulder formed by that step to support the piece in the anvil or swage block while upsetting the large diameter into a flat disk. Working from a middle diameter to both a larger and smaller one is the correct forging procedure. After the rose is finished the stem which has been used as a handle can now be reduced in size which also increases its length.

Hans Schlosser demonstrates this technique in the video Fire and Roses, Forging a Queens Rose. We describe this process in detail in the linked review.

This popular reference has now been in print nearly 40 years and has probably influenced every living blacksmith in the western world. Despite many new books on blacksmithing Bealer's work still holds up as one of the best and most often recommended.

Published by:
Book Sales Inc.

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Price $10.00 USD
ISBN 0785803955 (1996 edition)
Copyright © 1999 - 2006 by Jock Dempsey, DEMPSEY'S FORGE
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