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.
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Mike Spencer
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