The Complete Modern Blacksmith

By: Alexander G. Weygers – Published 1997

The Complete Modern Blacksmith

Price : $  – Amazon

Philip’s Ranking: 3
Beginner Blacksmith: 2
Advanced Blacksmith: 3
Inspiration: 2
Historical: 0

Video Review: N/A

The Complete Modern Blacksmith by Alexander Weygers is a modern compilation of three books, published in the 1970s, The Making of Tools, The Modern Blacksmith, and Recycling Use and Repair of Tools. 

Alexander Weygers (1902-1989) was a Dutch-American artist, sculptor, painter, blacksmith, carpenter, mechanical and aerospace engineer, and author.  AlexanderAlexander Weygers studied blacksmithing, mechanical engineering, and shipbuilding. After his first wife, Jacoba Hutter’s,  unexpected death in 1928 Alexander went back to school for art. Alexander served in the military in the 1940s and after the war moved to California with his second wife Marian Weygers where they ran an art studio.

For a long time I had just the middle book of the compilation, The Modern Blacksmith, and always liked it however felt it was a bit limited. The compilation of books adds more content however very little of it is focused on classical “Blacksmithing”. From reading through the three book compilation I’d suggest a better title would be something like, “The Metal & Wood-Turning Tool Shop”.  With three books and only one focused on  blacksmithing there is a lot of great information in this series that is useful for a blacksmith to know but much of it isn’t focused on forging hot metal.

It should also be noted that some of the material is out of date and wrong or seem like they might be safety issues.  For example Weygers mentions the idea of heavy blows “edge packing” steel making it stronger. So while much of the book is amazing it’s important to have a solid background in the modern science of blacksmithing to know what’s accurate and what isn’t. From a safety standpoint Weygers recommends things like converting a table saw to cut metal, which is certainly possible, however it can be extremely dangerous due to fires, broken cutting wheels, or the threat of kickbacks aside for the potential damage to saw.  They are all possible to deal with but it makes me reluctant to mark this as a top book for beginning smiths.  If you have a lot of experience working in a tool shop, cutting, grinding, and dealing with the risks presented working with power tools you’ll probably find this to be a great book, if you have less experience in that area I’d hold off on purchasing it.

The Making of Tools

This is a great book for someone who wants to make wood and stonecutting tools and has a shop with a grinder, a drill press, and a way to cut steel. There are a few projects that require heating metal but most are focused on cuttting/grinding an item to shape.

For example the Alexander’s instructions on making a Cross Peen Hammer, today is a classic item to forge,Modern Blacksmith workbench instructs you to drill the eye out and then grind or cut the peen into shape there is no blacksmithing involved at all. I mention this example not because making a hammer this way is wrong but because someone buying this book who wants to forge their own hammer will not find those instructions in this book.

The book is incredibly useful though when it comes to the creating of woodcarving and stonecarving tools. Detailed instructions are clear and backed up with well done illustrations supporting the key aspects of the instructions. 

Modern Blacksmith stone chiselIf you are interested, or know someone who is, interested in woodcarving or sculpting stone then the detailed instructions on making chisels, gouges, and their handles then this book will be invaluable in creating the tools you need for that work.

Alexander frequently recommends the use of scrap and recycled steel which may require the reader to understand what types of steel were used in these applications in the 1970s and then translate that to modern steel types.

 Overall the book is a great introduction to the creation of your own tools with detailed instructions on shaping, sharpening, and tempering your own tools. 

Table of Contents

  1. A Beginner’s Workshop – pg. 12
  2. Tempering Steel – pg. 21
  3. Making The First Tool: A Screw Driver – pg. 27
  4. Making A Cold Chisel And Other Simple Tools – pg 29
  5. Making Stonecarving Tools – pg. 32
  6. Sharpening Tools – pg. 36
  7. Making Carpenter’s Chisels – pg. 47
  8. Making Cutting Tools – pg. 49
  9. Making Eyebolts And Hooks – pg. 53
  10. Making Tool Handles – pg. 54
  11. Making Hammers – pg. 59
  12. Making Sculptors’ Woodcarving Gouges – pg. 64
  13. Making A seating Cutter And Hinge Joints – pg. 74
  14. Making Tinsnips – pg. 78
  15. Making Wire And Nail Cutters – pg. 82
  16. Making Large Shears – pg. 84
  17. Making Pliers – pg. 86
  18. Applying Color Patina To Steel Surfaces – pg. 89

The Modern Blacksmith

The only one of the three books that’s actually focused on forging this is probably why  you’re buying the compilation.

The book starts off with the standard information about how to setup  your shop and the basic equipment you need, how to build a forge, and a buy or make an anvil.  The material in this section is all good and inline with most blacksmithing books. The book does cover a  number of power tools that are useful to have in the shop and this section is better than most blacksmithing books. 

The combination of text along with drawings is a real strength in the book and a goodModern Blacksmith hammer faces example of how these images pair with the text is in the section on how and why to dress your hammer face. Alexander talks about the reason behind why a slightly convex hammer face is superior to a flat sharped edge hammer and how one causes sharp edges that mar the work and can fold over causing cracks and an uneven surface.  The drawing (see left) then shows a visual representation of the text. A lot of books would attempt this with photographs but the details are often harder to make out in photos than in Alexanders drawings.

Moving into the recommended first exercises of a blacksmith I think Alexander sometimes misses the mark if a students goal is to follow through the book step by step and chapter by chapter.  There is a chapter on how to take a round bar square and put a taper on the end of it and then the book jumps into Upsetting, tempering, and and forging bolt heads. There isn’t anything that I think is bad information but it will leave the reader up to read through the whole book and then figure out a plan to tackle it.

Modern Blacksmith fireplace pokerAfter those sections we have a variety of useful projects such as wallhooks, hold down tools, and fireplace tools. All solid projects with a good level of information but may take a truly new blacksmith a few attempts before they get it right. 

After that section we’re back into making woodcarving, stonecarving tools, gouges, and pliers. Very similar topics to what was covered in the first book. There is a bit more forging in the creation of some of these tools but the process is largely repetitive rom the first book including some identical associated drawings. 

Overall it’s a good but probably not great beginner blacksmithing book.  If you’ve got a few other books that cover the basics in more depth you’ll get more out of this book as it does cover a number of things I haven’t seen in other books.


Table of Contents

  1. The Blacksmith Shop And Its Equipment – pg. 100
  2. Hammer And Body Motions In Forging – pg. 110
  3. First Blacksmithing Exercises – pg. 116
  4. Upsetting Steel – pg. 119
  5. Upsetting With The Aid Of An Upsetting Matrix – pg. 123
  6. How To Temper And Harden High-Carbon Steel – pg. 126
  7. Making A Right-Angle Bend – pg. 130
  8. Some Tools That Are Simple To Forge And Temper – pg. 135
  9. Decorative Treatment: Rosettes And Wallhooks – pg. 137
  10. Hinges – pg. 142
  11. Hold-Down Tools – pg. 145
  12. A Fireplace Poker – pg. 147
  13. Fireplace Tongs – pg. 148
  14. A Spatula Made From A Section of Coil Spring – pg. 149
  15. A Door Latch – pg. 151
  16. Making An Offset Bend In A Bar – pg. 154
  17. Blacksmiths’ Tongs – pg. 155
  18. Making Milling Cutters, Augers, And Drills – pg. 157
  19. Stonecarving Tools – pg. 160
  20. Wrenches – pg. 162
  21. Accessory Forging Tools – pg. 164
  22. Woodcarving Gouges – pg. 165
  23. Forging A Pair Of Pliers – pg. 170
  24. Making A Fireplace Shovel – pg. 172
  25. Making A Small Anvil From A Railroad Rail – pg. 176
  26. The Power Hammer – pg. 179

The Recycling, Use, and Repair of Tools

The final book of the Complete Modern Blacksmith is a bit of an odd compilation of topics that are useful to know but again not strictly blacksmithing topics. 

Modern Blacksmith FerrulesYou will probably find that some of the advice is difficult to follow as the world is pretty different now than in the 1970s.  Chapter 2 for example recommends making a charcoal brazier out of a truck headlight housing.  These days many car parts are made of thermoplastics rather than steel so you’ll have to figure out modern equivalents. 

A surprising amount of the book is focused on the crafting of chisels and punches to cut out shapes from sheet steel to make things like Christmas tree candle holders and decorative elements.

A bit less useful is the section on creating your own makeshift wooden bearing. It at least is not a skill I’ve ever needed and with the ability to order anything you need online and have it delivered in days it’s probably not something most will need.

Blacksmiths also frequently use files and grind stones so the sections on how to repair those tools will alsoModern Blacksmith File Sharpening be widely useful. Some of the techniques do carry some risks such as using battery acid to sharpen your files. Not a technique I’ve ever used but is supposed to be reasonably effective though dangerous without the right precautions. 

Of the three books this is probably the weakest of them. 

Table of Contents

  1. How To Repair Broken Garden Tools – pg. 190
  2. Making A Charcoal Brazier And Screening Scoop – pg. 194
  3. A Candlestick – pg. 197
  4. Making Tool Handle Ferrules and Shoulders – pg. 198
  5. A Pump To Recycle Waste Water – pg. 200
  6. How To Make A wood-Turning Lathe And Lathe Tools
  7. Tempering High-Carbon Steel – pg. 214
  8. Making Carbon-Tipped Tools For Wood And Metal-Turning Lathes – pg. 216
  9. How To Drill Square Holes – pg. 219
  10. Making Hand-Held Punches – pg. 222
  11. Christmas Tree Candle Holders And Decorations – pg. 231
  12. Making Design Layouts For Punches – pg. 233
  13. How To Make Miniature Chisels And Punches – pg. 234
  14. A Punch To Cut Small Washers From A Metal Strip – pg 238
  15. Makeshift Bearings – pg. 240
  16. Making Accessory Tools For The Wood-Turning Lathe – pg. 243
  17. Wire-Straightening Tools – pg. 246
  18. Flat Filing And Drilling – pg. 248
  19. Files, Rasps, And Grindstones – pg. 253
  20. The Reverse Lathe – pg. 258
  21. How To Recycle And Operate A Metal-Turning Lathe – pg. 261
  22. The Trip-Hammer And Its Use – pg. 271
  23. Making A Pair of Insets To Forge A Gouge Blade – pg. 277
  24. Making Trip-Hammer Insets From Trolley Rail – pg. 279
  25. Trip-Hammer Upsetting – pg. 238
  26. Insets Made From Car Axle Flange Endings – pg. 285
  27. Sharpening Tool Edges – pg. 28