Sunday, May 29, 2016

Welcome to Essential Reading from the Jewelry Artist's Bookshelf, where the artist is me, the bookshelf is mine, and I review a book so you know which ones you should run out and buy. This week's book is:

The book: Metal Artist's Workbench: Demystifying the Jeweler's Saw
By Thomas Mann

An entire book dedicated almost solely to to one tool. This seemingly narrow focus might make you think you would be better off investing in a book that explains a broader array of topics, but this book has a special place on my bookshelf, and it's one that I often recommend to my students for one important reason: Sawing is the fundamental skill in the jewellery artist's repertoire. If you can master the jeweller's saw, you have trained your brain, hands, and eyes to communicate with each other effectively and all other jewellery making skills will fall into place.

Thomas Mann writes this book with a fun and casual tone and his enthusiasm for the subject matter is obvious and contagious. The projects in the book cover a variety of ideas as well as materials - it isn't just metal jewelry you will be trying - you can also apply your saw to puzzles, toys and stencils. The projects may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this book is worth the investment if only for the in-depth information contained in the first thirty-five pages.

Here's the skinny:

The Good :
- The photos are great
- Instructions are explicit
- The tone is conversational and helps to make the saw seem less intimidating.
- Projects are widely varied.
- There is a great section on drilling technique, which you will need to know for sawing!
- The book offers a glimpse of the working bench pins of some jewellery making gurus, including Michael David Sturlin and Tim McCreight.
- The author really tries to get you to visualize what's going on at the level of the metal and the saw, using illustrations to bring the workings of the saw into sharp focus.

The Bad:
- The troubleshooting section could have been more comprehensive. The one page dedicated to breaking blades is not enough to address all the problems sawing will present to you, especially for the beginner. Most people learn by making mistakes, but, when you are learning from a book, you lack the corrective guidance of an instructor, and you will need to be given a broader idea of what you may be doing wrong than what the author provides.
- I found the projects were aesthetically not to my liking. They are interesting, but a bit graceless.
- A section on designing for saw work would have been an invaluable addition.
- Thomas Mann categorically rejects using any lubricant for your saw blades. While I agree that wax is not strictly necessary, I find it can make for a smoother, and thus more enjoyable, sawing experience.

Who is this book for?

It's great for beginners or for those who have had some minimal instruction and wish to hone their technique. As an instructor, I find this book to be a useful primer to recommend to students or to have kicking around the classroom for anyone who takes a shine to the saw and wants more information, history, or philosophy regarding this invaluable and versatile tool.


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