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BOOK REVIEW: How to Weld on a Blacksmith's Anvil

Reviewed by Fred Holder

How to Forge Weld on a Blacksmith's Anvil for Those Who Have Diligently Tried and Failed, by Robert M. Heath; Publisher Valleyview Forge, Canton, Mississippi; (Order from: Robert M. Heath, 142 Greenway court, ridgeland, Mississippi 39157);1995; 8-1/2 x 11 inch format, 52 pages, soft cover; Price $8.00.

Forge welding is perhaps one of the most difficult blacksmithing tasks to learn without a tutor, or shall we say from a book. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could get my first weld and then another long time before I arrived at the point where most of my welds would stick. That period of learning would have been condensed somewhat had I been able to read Mr. Heath's booklet back then. That was 20 years ago and he just published it in 1995. Oh, well!

The author states that he has a lot of repetition throughout the book and that this is planned repetition to help hammer home the ideas that one must learn in order to be able to forge weld. Perhaps, from a formal standpoint, there is too much repetition, but I believe like he says it is done on purpose to help the reader remember the basics of forge welding. The author has stated it over and over again that the iron or steel is ready to weld when it looks right. He does a pretty good job of describing that "look" that the metal takes on when it is ready to weld. I don't believe you will ever forget the "look" of the iron or steel when it is ready to weld, once you learn what that "look" is. The author does a pretty good job is telling you how the iron/steel should look when it is ready to weld.

The author spends a lot of time talking about the fire and how it should be prepared and kept in order to do a good job of welding. Actually, his description is pretty much what other books will tell you, he simply goes into greater detail and repeats it often. I believe he could have spent a little more time talking about the different types of coal; however, he did mention the most important thing. The coal needs to coke. When I was trying to learn to weld, I was using a stoker coal that did not coke. I finally learned to weld with it, but it would have been much easier with a good blacksmith coal that would coke. My welding became much easier when I finally obtained some good coal. The author does mention that you can weld with poor coal, but that it is harder. He also notes that some smiths weld with gas forges and briefly describes the configuration necessary to do this.

It is much easier to learn to weld by watching a good blacksmith than it is reading about it in a book, according to the author. I believe this to be so. I learned out of a book, but it would have been much easier if I could have worked with another smith. I remember meeting a fellow who had been blacksmithing for 10 or 15 years, but had never been able to make a forge weld. I showed him briefly how to do it. About a month later, he called me to say he had made a "zillion" welds since our brief encounter and he wanted to thank me for the guidance that helped him overcome his inability to weld. I can't be sure this book would have helped him, but I suspect it would have provided that extra guidance he needed.

If you can't learn to forge weld with Mr. Heath's booklet, you better get a tutor. He recommends that anyway!

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This page was last updated on February 24, 1997.