Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review: The Village Blacksmith

The book The Village Blacksmith by Aldren A. Watson presents a classic overview of the role of the blacksmith in American small town life. First published in 1968, Watson’s text and artistic line drawing details show the work and methods of the village smith.
Watson had a rich carreer as an author of books on craft, an illustrator, and a painter. Educated at Yale, he claimed to be self-taught in craft and art. Living in Vermont, his work looked to the past and emphasized the nature of American craft and craftsmen.

The illustrations that accompany the text are simple but elegant. They capture the tools and hardware of the shop. This book does not teach how to be a blacksmith, but about the blacksmiths of the past and their lives. It has a solid grounding in craft and history. His text and illustrations detail how to build a brick forge and bellows. The appendix also includes excerpts from Blacksmith’s Day Books to show the type of work done and the prices charged for the work. Watson’s book is interesting to read, and provides an overview rather than comprehensive detail. He discusses the production of wrought iron, the tools used by the smith, and the hardware and tools make in small shops throughout American history. It is a nostalgic but informed look back at an earlier time.

This book is available used, and has been reprinted as The Blacksmith: Ironworker and Farrier. It can be found here.

A short biography can be found here.

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