Studebaker Reads: The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight

We're often asked the question; If someone is interested in picking up a hammer and learning how to make things in metal, where should they begin? My answer is always immediately to grab a copy of The Complete Metalsmith. It remains within reach in our shop at all times to this day, and is an invaluable resource for beginners.  It can teach you a lot about technique, materials, and most importantly what tools you'll need to get the job done. Nothing can beat hands-on training, but if you're looking to get to know the craft this is a great place to begin. 

In the first class of my core craft curriculum, "Projects" class, we were given a prompt to create an object to take on a journey. As an eager technician, I was always more focused on technical development, however the program focused heavily on concept. I was looking to progress my hand skills as quickly as possible, but this being the first assignment I hadn't yet learned much in the workshop. I didn't know what my object should be, but I knew I wanted to challenge myself technically.

Upon learning I was pursuing studies in metals, the resident welder at the public works garage (where I spent my summers working through high school) bestowed upon me a stack of metalworking books. Within that stack was a copy of Tim McCreight's "The Complete Metalsmith". When I headed off to the studio to begin designing this first assignment, I immediately reached for this book. Up to this point, my experience with tools and processes was pretty limited, so I wanted to find an interesting technique that I could add to my kit. I flipped to the section on Roman Chains and immediately found what I was looking for. An ancient technique that was not only tedious and challenging, but would yield a beautiful and functional object. The item for my journey would be a neck chain, strung with things to barter with along the way, centered around a brass cigarette holder - because at the time, I knew no matter where the journey was taking me, I'd want to celebrate getting there with a smoke. 

The Complete Metalsmith doesn't dive too deep into any one particular process, rather it is chock full of adequate introductions to many techniques. Using this book, I not only taught myself the technique to produce this intricate chain, but I fabricated rings to use as my bartering capital, and a simple hollow-formed cylindrical box for my stash. The final piece didn't turn out great, but it was ambitious, and it did turn out, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without this book.

Want to invest in your own copy? We always recommend buying used when possible. Aside from being great for the environment, you might just get lucky and find a copy with someone's helpful notes or secret tips.