Book review: Stuart Hill

Yow! I have a nifty new metalwork book!

If you've been around an anvil for a while, you know about Stuart Hill. Newbies may never have heard of him. Recently I've learned that he has managed to get the last 50 copies a lovely coffee-table book of his work that was published in Germany in 1999 and is selling them to raise funds for his current (non-metal) project.

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Or go here:

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and scroll down to "Stuart's book".

My personal fascination with iron has always been its plasticity under the hammer, the way this rigid, refractory material takes on organic or even fluid forms when heated and forged.

So I was gobsmacked when I saw Stuart demo at the Ripley ABANA conference in '82. In his demo and the slides he showed, he achieved the same organic and fluid effect, often on a large scale, with a minimum of actual forging. He remarked in the demo that he didn't have the big power hammers that many other smiths did. Without them he worked out ways to produce elegant, plastic forms using a cutting torch, a flypress and, yes, some forging. I've benefited from ideas picked up at that demo in my own work.

Klaus Pracht, the author of the book, likes to emphasize the way in which Stuart's clever innovations make it possible to create elegant gates, rails, fences and grillwork within the often limited budget that the architect has allowed for such "incidentals". With an unlimited budget, you can, of course, have acres of hand-forged gargoyles, roses, scrolls, gilded acanthus leaves and so on. But when the architect said something like, "Oh, take a few bucks and stick some kind of grill in those openings...", it's hard to compete with the guy who will weld up some rebar. Unless you're Stuart Hill, in which case you come up with one clever technique after the other that makes inexpensive but stunning metalwork possible.

A couple of guys on TheForge list [1] have recently mentioned that their biz if off very noticeably in these times of financial chaos. Some clues from Stuart's book might well make some of your bids more acceptable. Really. You have to see what he can do with some pipe or angle iron and flypress to believe it.

To get back to my personal thing with hot forging, though: Stuart demoed hot-forging a frog on the end of a large-ish (1" IIRC) square bar. So clever it made my teeth ache. (I still have the plasticene model I made as a form of note-taking.) Pics of the frog are in the book, too; not a full how-to, but enough to get you started on your own SH Frog. (His piece that incorporated the forged frogs won the big prize at Lindau in '80 and is in the Victoria & Albert.)

So, the book: Only fifty copies available. If you're unable or unwilling to purchase over the net with a credit card, I'm pretty sure you could pay with a money order sent by snail mail if you make arrangements beforehand by email. (That's how I got mine.) Look for his email address on his web site

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or try "stuart", the at-sign and ""

- Mike

Stuart Hill -- Metalarbeiten ---------------------------- Klaus Pract & Stuart Hill

Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, Berlin, 1999 Text in English and German 167 pages, hard-cover, many B&W photos Price in UK pounds, around CAN$50, US$ a little less.


[1] TheForge: If you don't know alreday, an ABANA-sponsored email list. See:
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