Reviews: Metalsmiths Book of Boxes and Lockets

Craftsman magazine
February 2000

What is it about boxes that draws us to them so irresistibly? . . .Perhaps it's the mystery of wondering what's inside," writes Tim McCreight in the introduction to Boxes and Lockets, and if you're interested in jewellery or metalsmithing techniques of any kind, there's a fair chance you'll find yourself irresistibly drawn to this book. Many craft books fall into one of two camps: those that attempt to inspire you with beautiful photographs and those that focus on solid technical information. However, Boxes and Lockets (the sequel to "Metalsmithing: Fundamentals of Jewellery") is a member of that rare breed that succeeds on both counts. There is a wealth of solid technical information about box construction, hinges, springs and catches, with each technique clearly explained, both in the text and with photographs and illustrations, and in addition there's a visual feast of inspirational work by some of the most innovative contemporary designers. . . .it's worth every penny. Recommended.

Alison Richards
Findings magazine
Winter 2000

Anyone who knows and uses Tim McCreight's The Complete Metalsmith of 1982 will greet the publication in the UK of two new books by McCreight with eager anticipation. The Complete Metalsmith is a very user-friendly handbook for jewellers, not only in its contents but also in its simple hardwearing spiral bound format. These two new publications are, as their prices suggests, more elaborate productions. They are both hardbacks, plentifully and beautifully illustrated with photographs and a few clear line-drawings.

Tim McCreight has taught jewellery making and metalsmithing and design for 25 years. He is currently Professor and department head at the Maine College of Art in Portland. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and inspiring, and this is evident in both books. In Fundamentals of Metalsmithing he covers the basic techniques -- cutting, bending, joining, surface treatments, casting, stone setting. He outlines each one with bullet points and then gives greater detail in the text. Each section is illustrated with clear photographs of the steps described, or with his own clear line drawings. The book has useful appendices on toolmaking, hardening and tempering steel, sensible advice on health and safety, and a glossary of terms.

McCreight is excellent for detail. For example in Chapter 1 "Cutting and Bending" he tells us that to saw properly the ideal match between metal thickness and blade size is when three say teeth can touch the metal at any time, and he gives a useful chart matching blade thickness to metal gauges. Many teachers, myself included, have settled for "thick metal, use thick blade, thin metal, use thing blade" leaving the poor beginner to learn by experience. He is both clear and reassuring. "Sawing goes best when you don't think too much about it. With a simple vertical rhythm, the blade slides through the metal with apparent ease, able to cut minute details and bold forms."

If Fundamentals of Metalsmithing covers the basic technique of jewellery making, Boxes and Lockets explains what McCreight aptly describes as "a number of more than basic techniques through the device of box making with the topic divided into its constituent parts: box, hinge and catch." Round, rectangular and free form boxes made by various methods are described. Eight different hinges, then springs and lids follow and finally a number of catches. Everyone has their own way of solving a technical problem. Here Tim McCreight gives a wealth of different approaches logically and clearly laid out and explained and clearly illustrated. He gives good troubleshooting sections, such as "Problems with Hinges."

Both books are full of excellent photographs of work by 80 American jewellery makers illustrating techniques explained in the text. They show something of the huge variety and exuberance of American jewellery.

Not only is Tim McCreight an accomplished craftsman, he has a gift for explanation. He sets out the overall objective of each process then takes you through step by step; where other teaches often omit a small but crucial stage, he stays with you all the way. I am not aware of a good instructive book about the challenging techniques used in box and locket making and this fine publication fills that gap admirably. If you can have only of McCreight's books, then Boxes and Lockets is the one to go for.