by Rich Waugh AKA VIcopper
Peter Parkinson has been a working artist blacksmith in England since 1979, with several years of art and design schooling prior to taking up the hammer. His well-disciplined background in art is abundantly evident in both the quantity and the quality of the illustrations in this excellent book. The color photos are clear and readable, properly edited and cropped to convey the message with no spurious content to confuse the viewer. The lighting in the photos has been handled in a very professional manner that reveals the minutest detail without offending shadows or glaring highlights. If all blacksmithing books were produced with such high quality illustrations it would be a joy, but most are filled with photos that are so difficult to read that they serve no useful purpose. Parkinson is a consummate art photographer and his photos truly are worth a thousand words. Where appropriate, Parkinson supplements the text and photos with excellent clear line drawings. This book may only be 159 pages, but the illustrations give it the power to convey the information of a much longer book.
The illustrations aside, one thing that sets this book apart from the dozens of other books on blacksmithing is Parkinsons focus on design as much as technique. Many of the techniques used in blacksmithing directly bring an influence on the design of the piece, if invited to do so. Joinery methods, surface finishes and material choices all bear directly on the appeal of the finished piece, and Parkinson devotes considerable thought to teaching the aesthetic considerations that need to be addressed in the design of a piece of forged work. While he commits one chapter to Design, he doesnt stop there but advances his message throughout the book when dealing with various techniques. It makes an effective and entertaining method of teaching some of the aspects of design and aesthetics in metalsmithing.
With a sensible nod to the realities of modern metal working, Parkinson includes near the beginning of the book a chapter devoted to Health and Safety. Not a paranoid Nervous Nellie approach, but rather one of common sense and fact based, directed to fostering work practices that are both safe and comfortable.
The bulk of Parkinson's book is comprised of chapters explaining the various basic operations of the blacksmith;
This is standard fare that is sufficiently governed by the laws of physics so it doesn't vary greatly from what dozens of others have written in the past. Parkinson however, does a more understandable job of explaining these processes, and offers some insights along the way that Ive not seen before.
After covering the basic processes, Parkinson goes on to cover Working with a Striker, Jigs and Tools and Assembly and Finishing.
This carries the book well beyond what most beginning blacksmithing books delve into, giving solid information geared toward making the smith efficient, effective and profitable.
He covers welding, cutting, the flypress, tool-making and jig-making with the same keen eye for detail that he brings to his descriptions of basic processes, offering insights that make the information come alive.
Numerous examples of the works of many smiths throughout Great Britain are used to illustrate Parkinson's concepts.
This exposure to the works of smiths in another country adds an extra element of interest to an already exceptional book.
Until I read this book, I have generally recommended a list of three or four books for beginning blacksmiths to read.
Now I would feel quite comfortable recommending this book alone, in place of Andrews, Bealer and Weygers.
Even with the sometimes 'interesting' British speech mannerisms, this book is more understandable, more entertaining, and more effective as a teaching tool than any of the others.
Blacksmiths of every level of experience will find many things of inspiration, interest and value between the covers of this fine work.
Ramsbury, Witltshire, GB
Distributed in North America by:
ISBN: 1 86126 428 3