This is a book that is really and truly written for the home jeweler, starting with a thorough discussion of essential tools and equipment. First up is an overview of soldering boards and blocks and even though I have been soldering for several years, I learned a great deal in just those two pages alone.
Each type has a very specific use, and after reading this section I pulled out every board I had and did some sample soldering just to test out the differences. That new knowledge is going to change the boards I use for different soldering jobs going forward.
There is also a very good explanation of the two main types of butane torches and their safe operation. If you've done any reading about soldering, you may have heard the terms "oxidizing", "neutral", and "reducing" in relation to flame types, and if you're like me, you may have assumed that they were only relevant to the big dual-gas studio torches. Well, not only does this book explain them and how they're used, it also provides close-up photos and instructions about how to obtain them with a butane micro torch.
Joe also gives a high-level review of several basic metalsmithing skills, and I would say that if I have one caution to potential readers, it's that the book assumes certain skills in that area which the reader may not actually have. This is a book about soldering, though, so it's hard to nit-pick. Just be aware that in order to be completely successful with some of the projects, you may need to do some additional homework regarding metalsmithing and metal working tools. And the projects are really fun! There's a squashed hollow bead that I'm dying to try and a gorgeous round box clasp that looks deceptively simple. There's even a ring project that includes some really good information on creating bezels from sheet, determining the proper bezel height, and the proper technique for setting a bezel - all a great bonus in a book about soldering.
There are a couple of minor things to quibble over - for example, Joe demonstrates using shears to cut very small, detailed elements out of metal sheet where I would be inclined to use a jeweler's saw. But that is a matter of preference, not technique. And I found myself wondering what the difference was between "light red" and "pink" when evaluating the color of metal as it is heating - some other point of reference might have been helpful for someone like me who cannot always make nuanced color distinctions. Again, though, these are very minor things and don't impact my recommendation of this book in any way.
So if you are new to soldering, this is a terrific choice for your studio library. It is good, basic instruction written in clear, easy-to-understand language and it will help you equip your home studio properly and safely. As a bonus, working through the 12 included projects will not only leave you with a solid grasp of soldering techniques and how and when to use them, it will also give you an introduction to basic metalworking techniques. What's not to love?
Until next time!
Disclaimer: I came this close to attending a one week metal retreat with Joe the year before he moved his studio to Berkeley, California, to open a jewelry school. We exchanged a few e-mails as I tried to make the decision about whether or not to go, and he was as helpful and encouraging as could be. However, Joe and his publisher Kalmbach Books don't know me from Adam. I purchased this book for my own studio and the opinions expressed here are my own, offered without any hope or promise of compensation. Even the links aren't affiliate links.