William L. Ilgen's book Forge Work is an instructional text detailing metalwork, and more specifically working with a forge. The original purpose of the book, as outlined in the author's preface, was to commit to text many of the oral instructions provided to metalworking and blacksmithing students so that they may have a reference document to which they can refer.
Divided into eight chapters, Forge Work is a thorough and expansive reference book. The book begins with an introduction to the tools and appliances commonly used by smiths. Ilgen's writing is accessible for the layperson, so much so that a reader with no experience in forging could comfortably make this book their introduction into the craft. From his introduction to the tools, Ilgen progresses to a discussion of some specific forging operations, including straightening, twisting, welding, and scarfing, among many others. The author outlines various practice exercises to be used by students of metalworking so as to improve their skills and understanding of the craft.
Later chapters cover more advanced topics, such as the treatment of steel, tool making, art smithing, and scroll work. Pictures are included throughout, however many have unfortunately not survived republication.
William L. Ilgen's Forge Work is a success as both a textbook for students of metal work and as a reference book for those more experienced in the craft. The index that concludes the book is invaluable, and the clear and concise directions throughout make for an illuminating read. While other books have been published on the topic, few cover the information with as much depth and breadth as Forge Work.