A lot of cool things show up on our radar here at HomeFixated. Sometimes we’re able to bring them to your attention lightning fast. Other times, we’re slower than even print media. Case in point: the book Metal Working from the “Back to Shop Class” series published by Fox Chapel Publishing. They sent us a copy in early 2011, and then sent us a few more related books last week, perhaps to give us a gentle nudge. It worked, and I’m sharing my long overdue book report on this metal working book described as providing “Real world know-how you wish you learned in high school.”
Back in high school I had a good friend who was both a kick-ass artist, and a metal worker. SHE wore a leather apron and flipped down her welder’s mask more than anyone I knew. Ever since then I’ve had fantasies about welding and metal working. No, not those kind of fantasies! Fantasies about metal working. So, when Fox Chapel mentioned their “new” Metal Working book eons ago, I jumped at the chance to check it out.
My expectations were of a simple book that covered a few basic sets of skills for working with metal. Instead, I was surprised to find a book that covered an impressive range of topics. Everything from basics like bending metal and different types of welding joints, to the more esoteric topics of metal casting and even using heat or chemicals to change metal color. For example, did you know that by immersing copper, brass or bronze in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of Liver of Sulphur, a rounded ¼ teaspoon of ammonia and one quart of cold water, you can turn the metal black? Metal Working is chock full really useful tips like this.
One thing that really impressed me about Metal Working – “Back to Shop Class”, is the surprising range of metal working topics and techniques it actually covers. It manages to do this by using a large number of clear illustrations along with concisely written text. Don’t expect the book to go into exhaustive detail, or hold your hand as you go from beginner to pro. It’s strength is in providing basic knowledge, with what I would describe as an assumption you’re relatively handy and/or at least somewhat experienced with metal. While it provides valuable info as an overview to a complete beginner, I wouldn’t rely exclusively on this book as you embark on your metal working adventure. Working with metal often involves inherently dangerous things like molten metal and the potential for blindness, so I’d recommend getting some good, experienced hands-on instruction before you grab that oxyacetylene-torch or arc-welder and send metal flying. As you build your skills, the Internet can also be a fantastic resource with things like video tutorials.
Another cool thing about Metal Working is that they throw in some real-world projects and how-to’s, like fabricating a steel stair rail or fashioning a metal duct. Since I’ve messed around with a little sheet metal, bending steel, and even acid-coloring brass, I found the book to provide some very useful knowledge. It’s also well suited to ambitious DIY’ers with basic topics like sweating copper pipe, and patching holes in metal objects like your mailbox after it’s been taken out by a shotgun blast. It will be one of the first things I reach for whenever I finally venture into welding and more serious metalworking projects.
All in all, Metal Working – “Back to Shop Class” delivers a wealth of knowledge in most of the basic topics related to metal working, all without boring you to death with minutia or getting too wrapped up in any one particular area or technique. We would have liked to have seen some photos, but the illustrations are clear and useful. While it shouldn’t be your only source of metal working expertise, it’s a handy reference and a great starting point for a wide variety of metal specialties and techniques. Whether you’re a metal-working wannabe like me, or someone that’s dabbled in metal before, (even a pro might pick up a few tips and tricks), this an ultra-practical book. You can grab Metal Working from the “Back to Shop Class” series for around $15 on Amazon. If you get hooked on welding specifically, Fox Chapel also publishes Farm and Workshop Welding by Andrew Pearce, which goes into much more detail (and provides photos) for various welding techniques.