The Skills of a Blacksmith: vol 3: Mastering the Fundamentals of Traditional Joinery

By Mark Aspery – Published 2013

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Signed copies can be ordered directly from  Mark Apsery’s website.

Philip’s Ranking: 5
Beginner Blacksmith: 2
Advanced Blacksmith: 5
Inspiration: 2
Historical: 0

Video Review: N/A

Currently (Aspery’s website indicates a 4th book will come out in 2021) the final volume in Aspery’s “Mastering the Fundamentals Of” series this is my personal favorite of the three books. The level of detail in what might seem pretty minor areas from the outside just makes me happy. The book spends 50 pages just talking about tenons.

This book is focused on how to join pices of metal together outside of forge welding (covered in Vol 1). It is an in depth analysis of a wide variety of techniques diving into the specific skills, tools, and knowledge to build larger multipart projects.

I will review of the chapters in detail but just skimming the chapter titles and subsections will give you a very good idea if this is the right book for you.  For blacksmiths just starting out this book is probably a bit advanced but as soon as you start working on more complex projects this is a book you’ll find invaluable. 

  • Chapter 1: Putting Holes Into a Bar – A Rationale of Method
  • Chapter 2: Hand Tooling
    • The Slot Punch (new style)
    • Square and Round-ended Hand Tools (get-out-of-jail free tools)
    • Drifts
      • Round Drift
      • Diamond Shaped Drift
      • Double Ended Drifts
      • Rectangular Drifts
      • Rectangular Drift for Flat Stock
      • hand Tool for Angular Blocking
      • Half-inch, Half-round, Hand-held Fuller (for flat bar pass-throughs – round bar)
      • 3/4-inch wide ‘V’ Shaped Fuller (for flat bar pass-throughs – square bar)

The first two chapters of the book are focused on punching holes and the drifts you need to do so. Most blacksmiths are familiar with punching and drifting however that only works well in certain circumstances. As the diameter of the drifted hole increases compared to the original punched hole it’s necessary to move to slitting and drifting rather than punching and drifting.  Aspery walks you through not just how to do this correctly but how to identify and resolve problems showing dissections of the in progress holes.

  • Chapter 3: Top & Bottom Tooling
    • Top and Bottom Fullers 3/4-inch diameter
    • Fabricated Fullers (For lap joints)
    • Set hammer
    • Heeled Set hammer (for heel tenons)
    • Angled Slot Punch
    • Top and Bottom ‘V’ Swages
    • Welding Scarf Swage
    • Clean-up Swages for Diamond Pass-Throughs
    • Top & Bottom Swages for Flat Stock Pass-Throughs
  • Chapter 4: Monkey Tools From Round Bar
    • The Oval Tenon Monkey Tool
    • Monkey Tools Using Pipe
    • Square Monkey Tools from Round Bar

Chapters 3 & 4 are dedicated to more tools that are required to accomplish the techniques later in the books. Again the fact that Aspery walks through the creation of every tool that’s used is one of the reasons these books are so highly recommended. The smith who’s learning from the books has everything they need in great detail with these books.

Some of these tools will take some skill to forge and will take some experience to forge. A blacksmith with a moderate level of skill and dedication should not have any major problems crafting the items although some will potentially require things like a drill press to create. 

  • Chapter 5: The Truncated Cone (Cone Frustum) – For the ring project
  • Chapter 6: Bolsters for the Angled Pass-Through
    • Mike Hriczisce’s Dial-a-Hole
    • Bolsters for the Angled Pass-Through
    • Bolster for the Angled Square Pass-Through
    • Bolster for Square Diagonal Pass-Through, Corner to Corner
    • Bolsters for Angled Blockings
    • Gate Hinges
      • Upper Hinge Journal
      • Lower Hinge and Pivot
  • Chapter 7: Punching Holes in a Bar
    • Perpendicular Holes in a Bar
    • Pass-Through in Round Bar
    • Punching Square Bar Across the Corners
    • Pass-Throughs in Flat Stock
    • Punching Flat Bar to Accept a Collar
  • Chapter 8: Angled Pass-Throughs in Square and Round Bar
    • Punching Corner-to-Corner on Square Bar
    • Diagonal Punching
  • Chapter 9: Square and Rectangular Blockings
    • Angled Blockings

The Cone Frustum in chapter 5 is a surprisingly complicated to craft bit of work that’s used to help true up rings and position bars for pass throughs.

Chapter 6 continues on with the theme and provides instructions on creating a number of additional tools to hold and support stock in various position while being punched or drifted. 

  • Chapter 10: The Ring Project
  • Chapter 11: Tenons
    • The Mortise and Tenon Joint
    • Alternate Method of Creating the Oval Hole
    • Alternate Method of Tenon Construction (Using fuller and set hammer)
    • Tenons Cut from Flat Bar
    • Inlet for Tenon Shoulders
    • Angled Tenons
    • Fabricated Tenons (Straight and angled)
    • Punched and drifted tenon
  • Chapter 12: Heel Tenons (Single and Double)
    • Upset and Cut Heel Tenon
    • Heel Tenon Eye
    • Alternate Methods of Heel Tenon Construction
    • Double Heel Tenons
  • Chapter 13: Square Corner Bends
    • Upset Square Corners in Square Bar
    • Upset Square Corner on Round Bar
    • Draw Away Method
    • Square Corners with Web (pre-bend upset)
    • Double Square Corners
    • Upset square Corner at an Angle
    • Welded Square Corners on Flat Bar
  • Chapter 14: Oval Rivets and Tooling
  • Chapter 15: Lap joints and Joggled Bars
    • Joggled bars
  • Chapter 16: Collars
  • Chapter 17: Calculating Volume and Area for the Blacksmith


Much like Volumes 1 & 2 the beginning of the book is focused on the tooling needed for the techniques presented later in the book.

The tooling focuses on drifts, fullers, swages, bolsters, and Monkey tools.

The remainder of the book goes into a great deal of detail on how to join metalwork together. As an example over 50 pages are spent on Tenons covering Mortise and Tenon Joints, Oval Tenons, tenons cut from flat bar, Angled Tenons, Fabricated Tenons, Punched and drifted tenons, Heel Tenons, and Double Heel Tenons. Basically, if you might be joining things together with tenons this is the book for you.

There is also substantial real estate dedicated to punching holes through square bars, the corners of square bars, round bars, flat bars, etc as well as Collars, joints, and various methods of passing one bar through another.

As with the first two books of the series the instructions, tips, and photos are amazing and provide clear guidance and direction.

As with book 2 this is a great book for a blacksmith who has started moving on to intermediate and advanced projects that are larger and more complex requiring multiple bars to be joined together. If you are a new smith you will probably find the tooling and skills both somewhat overwhelming and unnecessary but if you are in that intermediate to advanced range I’d highly recommend picking this book up.