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rebuilding my Bradley 40lb helve hammer

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Almost a year ago I did a trade for some things with my PLB Mikey Spangler, and this hammer was the big part of the deal. Other than Paul LeTourneau and his lovely bride getting it to my house last year (in August), the only work achieved on it until recently was to kroil the bejeezus out of it in hope that some of the rusty relic would break loose.

The last patent stamp date on it is 1909, and that seems like an historically plausible date of manufacture.

These first photos were taken as the machine sat in Fairhaven, MA. It was kept outside for approximately 5 years before I got it, and who knows where it was before then...












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As you can tell, the poor lil' girl was not in the best of moods. I acquired a slugging wrench to free the jamb nuts for most of the adjustment screws, as well as the nuts and pitman bolts for the eccentric shaft. The wrench and a 10lb sledge made wuick work of the nuts, and my spirits rose.


Here she is sitting at my house, glistening with kroil.




One pitman bolt out:




The bolt:




A cushion seat:




Upper cushion threads getting cleaned:




Starting in on the bearings:




Showing the eccentric arm in place, the slip sleeve and pitman arm were fused with rust, and took a lot of work to free. Once it released, however, it was a walk in the park to get them slipping together perfectly.






A shot of the bearings after cleanup, with the eccentric in place:



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Getting the lower die free of the anvil was nasty. The wedge had rusted in place and basically become one with the anvil. LOTS of kroil, sledging, weeping, and cursing later:




The placard on the front of the anvil:




I just heard from a friend of mine that works for an industrial rubber company that the replacement lower cushions he's making for me have been poured and cured, and are now awaiting final machining to shape.


Next step is to get some rock maple for the helve!


...stay tuned...

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thats a real decent project

and the dies are in good shape aswell


years ago i saw some spec's on the beam ... i can't remember who it was but i think they were on BF ...



take care



ps.. i heard acetone mixed 50/50 with transmission fluid works real good as a penetrating oil... ;)

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These old machines posses something that newer ones don't seem to have. Must be all the sweat and effort spent on getting them going! ;) Perhaps some personality rubs off on them over the years. Whatever it is... This is a wonderful project and I'm looking forward to progress pictures.



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  • 3 weeks later...

So here's some updates... so far, the only real issues have just required some serious force and lots of sweat equity.

The lower cushions sit in the seats shown above... however, they've got a threaded rod with a jamb nut under them, and as you can see from the picture, it really doesn't look like anything is supposed to move. Except it does, of course! I had to remove the bolts entirely (the back one was lots of work, but not too bad) then insert a 7/8" bar in the hole and break it free from underneath with a 10lb. sledge. Now, many of you have never met me, so before any of the folks gunning for me get a chance, I'll describe myself: I'm 39, 6'2", 168lbs, and have all the muscle mass and tone that a cushy job selling stereos gives you, which is next to none. So imagine a few pipecleaners with a couple wads of chewed bubblegum and you get the idea...

Anyways, it was a lot of work, but the rear cushion adjustment seat finally broke free. It was entirely caked with who knows what, and it sure didn't want to come out.




Here's the pocket it sat in:




The front one was MUCH worse. When removing the adjusting rod, I ended up using a combination of big-ass pipe wrench and sledgehammer and spud wrench with 7' of black iron pipe as a breaker bar. Alas! The incredible resistance was a result of a completely destroyed section of thread just under the cushion adjustment seat. The threads for this seat will need to be re-cut, I hope... if not, then I'll have to drill it out and likely do a big heli-coil or something. Regardless, it took a ton of work to get the rod out. On to hammering the cushion seat free. It took three different days of slugging, and finally the only way it came loose was by removing the anvil from the hammer (heavy!) to clear a path so could 'baseball bat' swing the sledge. Using this technique and resorting to burning the surrounding area where the nasty cakey stuff was and scraping with a chisel, it broke free.




Here's what the cushion seats look like when they've been cleaned up and given a good coat of oil to prevent them from corroding any further:








Compare this to the picture BEFORE I got it out, and you'll get an idea why this was so nasty!




Here's a shot of the anvil and hammer separated:




I've had to start a pretty nifty collection of wrenches for this project, too! Here's the striking wrench I needed to break the jamb nuts free... not too often you get a chance to use a 10lb with a 10lb hammer! Not sure why these went out of vogue, as they made short work of every single big jamb nut on this ol' girl.




Finally, I spoke with a friend that has lots of hard rock maple... I need to take some measurements, then I start the helve!

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how did a NABS member get all THAT done :o lol.. nice wrk



I know it, Ty... it's not like it was when I was 155 and entirely bone and gristle. Now it's all flab! I kind of worry that I don't qualify for NABS anymore - did we set a weight restriction on it? I can't remember... haven't talked to you in a while, my friend - hope you're doing well.

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  • 1 month later...

So after killing a couple hours letting fish no larger than the lures I was using stare blankly at me, I decided that I just wasn't going to wait any longer to either wreck this old girl, or continue forward. I can't justify getting a custom tap cut (especially if there's a chance that all that will happen is that the blunted, smeared threads that are left in the lower cushion cup are just going to fall out!). Seeing the damage on the original adjusting bolt (not sure what caused it to begin with), I filed the first two thread's worth off, and blended the existed threads smooth to use as a thread chaser.


Here's a shot of some of the 'bulge' that caused the problem... unfortunately, I had already started to file when I remembered to take pictures, so you don't get to see that the bulging occurred all the way around:






Here's what it looks like now, after removing the ruined threads:







Although there was lots of resistance, bit by bit it re-aligned the smeared threads in the lower cushion cup. A quarter turn at a time, un-thread it, clean the threads out with a toothbrush, thread the bolt back in, rinse, repeat. All that's left are the final 1/4" where the greatest amount of distortion occurred. I just didn't have enough umph! to get it done today, and I was starting to get sloppy, so I quit.


My bride caught this super action shot of me during the aforementioned task. Told ya I was skinny!




One more day of working at it, and this shouldn't be an issue. Then on to getting the eccentric free so the ram throw can be adjusted!

Edited by Matt Gregory
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Just keep thinking, you get to finally go behind the velvet rope at the bradley owner's club once it's all done :D


Actually it's probably like, they paddle you for initiation then you all get wasted.


GETTIN' THERE!!!! I wish I could help firsthand!!!

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wow!!!! ive been lurking in the shadows watching this thread and all i can say is "hell yeah"!!! man your rallying doing it...not long now and you'll have yourself a bad mama jamma.... those bradleys are truely industrail hammers... i would be willing to bet your hammer weighs more than 3 25lb lil giants great getting to watch you doing your thing ,cant wait to see some money shots of your and your beast!! just an fyi.... if you really like this hammer i know where theres a 100lb bradley guided helve thats about in the shap of the one your rebuilding.... also when your hammers finished plz pm i would love to send you a wee batch of toolsteel to forge on her.... best of luck...keep us updated....

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I guess I have never seen one of these run. What a beast-But without a lot of stuff flailing around.


Verrrry interesting to watch.


Thanks Matt

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I love the old helve hammers. I can't wait to see this one run. You gotta post a video on youtube or somewhere.


lot of good work so far. keep at it.

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  • 2 months later...



Look what I got:




My friend finally got the chance to turn the cushions to the taper I needed, and here's a picture of one!


He made 5 of them for me (one spare), and now I've really got to get moving on the helve - man, I wish it wasn't so busy at work! The notches are due to the fact that they had an existing mould that they used for this project, and I can't imagine it affecting the performance of the hammer. If these work out for this project, I'll find out if they'd be willing to manufacture these for other folks.


MANY MANY thanks to Joe Divissich and the crew at Apple Rubber products - this project would likely have been permanently hung up if it wasn't for these guys!

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  • 5 months later...

... at long last, I can provide an update on this!


One of the tensioning bolts of the helve husk was missing, and after resigning myself to having one made, a gentleman named Phil Cox found exactly what I needed!!! As previously mentioned here, Phil collects power hammers (Bradley's in particular), and he's been an enormous asset to me!


Here's a shot of the nuts and tensioning bolt I received from Mr. Cox - perfect!!





...now if it'll just warm up for a while and let me get to the darn contraption I can get fiddling with it again. It hasn't risen above the high twenties here yet in weeks - cold even for us this time of year.

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