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Power Hammers or Grinders???


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I'm about to submit an application for a grant that I'm just about 98% sure that I will get... The award will be $3000. I can't dedicate the entire amount to a hammer.... but a good chunk of it. So... build or buy? First... any leads on used ones available out there???

 

I'm really torn between a hammer and using the money to buy a variable speed unit and integrating with a disk grinder and my KMG, upgrading my KMG motor and buying all the KMG goodies that I couldn't afford at the time.

 

I need to make things more efficient in my shop and either a hammer or upgrading my grinder will help... but when it comes down to it.. I believe that finishing is really the limiting factor in turn around for me. i.e. Disk grinders are great for truing up flats, etc. Forging, alas, ends up being a small part of what I do (I'm answering my own dilemma here I think).

 

I hate to spend the money before I get it... but it's hard not to fantasize.

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I think you are a kick ass knife maker and sure a hammer s awesome, a better KMG is essential for productivity and ease of labor but, the fit and finish work (for me) is where i always always lag. Ive got that drawer in my tool box we all have in some form with 30+/- unfinished knives.

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I keep finding myself longing for some minions to do my finish sanding...how many minions will $3000 get you ;)?

 

(Maybe the grinder upgrade? My near neighbors would come kill me if I got a powerhammer...10# hand sledge drives 'em nuts already. :D)

My hand-forged knives and tools at Etsy.com: http://www.etsy.com/shop/oldschooltools

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Forge work is what holds me back the most. I don't have a power-hammer yet, so everything I do is done with hand hammers. I think I would spend the majority on a power-hammer myself. I already have a KMG, and I enjoy the finish-work, so I don't think that part of the process needs to be any faster. That's just me though.

 

As far as power-hammers go though, I've used LG's and spare tire hammers, but prefer the LG. I've found that the various tire-hammers I've used are inconsistent in operation, but I guess that comes down largely to who made it. Personally, for my own use I think I'll build one of the more refined versions of the Appalachian hammer. Mainly for space/height considerations, but also because they look inherently safer to me than a tire-hammer. JMO...

To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; Not to realize that you do not understand is a defect.

-Lao Tzu

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It's not that I want to go FASTER with my finishing... Actually... I didn't even really mean finishing. I guess fit. I REALLY need to get more efficient at making flat surfaces. And then making those flat surfaces meet up with other flat surfaces. In a nice flat way.

 

So... We've established that what I really need is a flattener. I have some flatteners already. I have my hand hammers. I have the flat platen on my grinder. I have a press. The press is great at flattening big things right? I guess I could also add that my granite surface plate is a flattener.. but a very slow (if precise) one.

 

A power hammer would help make things flat... but probably not as well as my press. The power hammer would speed up forging and drawing out I believe. And that could make things better for me in general. But I still come down to the time spent forging versus making small things flat and fitting them.

 

Right now I waste a lot of time trying to flatten things on the flat platen on my grinder. I get things flat.. but then it's lopsided. Then I try to correct that.. and next thing you know... the piece is dust in my bin.

 

Thanks guys! :-)

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a powerhammer will increase the time and ease of creating things, also it makes experimenting with shapes and pattern welding VERY easy and quick, the old addage 10 minutes in the forge saves 20 at the grinder rings true.

Let not the swords of good and free men be reforged into plowshares, but may they rest in a place of honor; ready, well oiled and God willing unused. For if the price of peace becomes licking the boots of tyrants, then "To Arms!" I say, and may the fortunes of war smile upon patriots

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I’m not a professional, full time blade smith so speed isn’t my primary concern; however the time I have to spend in the shop is limited, so I like to make the best use of it as possible. With that said, I have a 40# home built power hammer and it has opened a whole new world of smithing to me. – Especially when it comes to pattern welding, forging swords, breaking down large stock (like wrought iron and round bar) and forging tangs.

 

Things that took hours by hand, takes minutes; things that took days now takes hours. I have thought about upgrading to a variable speed controller for my grinder, but I would never trade that for my hammer. Keep in mind though that I do not have a press…I’m not sure how that would play into your decision.

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Yeah the press has already opened up my own world.. and technically a press can do most of what a hammer can do. But a hammer does some things faster which = fewer heats, less fuel burned, less waste to scale.

 

The variable speed... to me.. isn't that big of a deal since I have step pulleys now. But I will need a controller for reversing a disk grinder. They have to be reversible. The real upgrade for me would be setting up the variable speed, reversible disk grinder... not so much varying the speed on my KMG. A good horizontal disk grinder is way better at establishing flats than a flat platen.. at least according to my understanding. Not to mention using it for those nice swooping plunges and stuff like that.

 

And.. Like I've said before... I hate referring to 'speed' when it comes to this stuff. It's just increasing efficiency. Doing stuff with less steps and screwing around.

 

But Sam has a great point on how good forging makes the grinding go way better.

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"Do you walk to school, or bring your lunch"?

 

Zen Master Bubba

 

I could live without my hammer, but not without my grinder. I'm going to throw one more idea into the mix, a surface grinder or a milling machine. A mill, especially a manual one, could be had for a couple of K and could be used to make slots and flat surfaces (with a bit of a learning curve).

 

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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I see your point about the disk grinder. I had one in the past and will be adding one again. I really like free-hand shaping on one, though ironically I always went back to the platen for flats.

 

Can you do both? I know I built my hammer for less than $1K, that would leave $2K for your grinder upgrades. Of course with the old adage 'time is money' it may not be efficient to spend the time building machinery.

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Geoff... I have a milling machine. It's an old Smithy 3-1.. drill press, lathe, mill... I got it for free from Craigs List. But I really don't know much about using it.. so I haven't even begun to tap it's potential. At this point I use it almost exclusively for milling morticed slots for handle scales and guard slots. I've tried flattening with it.... But I don't have the right end mills for that.. and I never think of it when I'm ordering bits... Although lately I've been playing with using it to mill the tang for guard shoulders and that has been working nice.

 

I would LOVE to get both.... I just need to start looking for a good deal on a used hammer. Or make it a long term project to build a hammer. But.. with my welding skills.. if I had to do it over again I would have bought a press instead of making it.

 

Jeff.. Do you have a press too?

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i'm with the Zen master x2

 

a nice surface grinder would make life so much better, components would be super flat.....you could even go into pocket knives

 

and a bridgeport mill... another tool with millions of functions

 

-- since you already have a means of taking the bullwork down to size... with a press .. its not such a priority

 

annoyingly.. a powerhammer can do enough work in a day to last you a month.. so you'll have even more flattening and flattening to do..

 

still, it is in alot of shops, and is also very valuable !

 

what ever you buy... buy a good one ! you can never go wrong buying a good tool, do it on the cheep and you'll pay and pay again.

 

G

 

edit:

thought i should add that i'm currently trying to buy a airhammer and i don't have a surface grinder... doh ...so take my words with grain of salt..

-what can i say.. hitting iron is addictive and i can't help myself :wacko:

Edited by Greg Thomas Obach
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If flattening is really whats holding you back, then as Greg said, you need a surface grinder way more than a disc grinder. Its a serious time saver, and you're able to make really flat, and more importantly; parallel surfaces. With experience and proper wheels, you can do all sorts or complex tasks also, and with a 2x72 belt mod you can do a lot of finish work and make your stock more adaptable, and put those worn belts to use.

 

I got my 6x18 Landis Hydraulic feed unit for $800, and you can find manuals for dirt cheap. You could buy one, spend a few hundred on the belt mod, and still have a chunk left over for a power hammer build or other grinder stuff.

 

If you've never used one, you don't know what you're missing, I use my surface grinder more than any other power tool in the shop. Really contemplating a Universal Grinder now that I'm starting to get a picture of what can be done with these machines.

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now I have had a power hammer a long time and when I first got one I was mainly making decorative ironwork and it changed everything completely.

 

getting a variable speed grinder did the same for blade work, the ability to make steel as near finished as you can under power saves hours on the hand grinding.

 

I bought a hydraulic feed surface grinder and have not used it at all. I use a mill all the time but you need a good big one for it to be usefull shaping blades at all

 

Belt grinders are easy to make , variable speed vfds are easy to rig up and cheap now.

 

If you want flat get a macdonnald mill built .

 

Hot punching blade slots changed my work , as did a fordham tool.

I could live without a press.

 

I really need a hot water urn for making tea!

forging soul in to steel

 

owenbush.co.uk

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get a hammer.... stay away from tirehammer"s and lg's if you can.... if your having issues finding a hammer... pm me i know where there about 12 different hammers for sale... above and beyond what you will find here on here or anvilfire

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart,and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart...

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get a hammer.... stay away from tirehammer"s and lg's if you can.... if your having issues finding a hammer... pm me i know where there about 12 different hammers for sale... above and beyond what you will find here on here or anvilfire

 

If you don't mind expounding. What is the down side to the tire hammers? I have owned a 50# LG so I am familiar with them.

I am planning to build a Japanese style spring hammer but with a tire drive.

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Variable speed, reversible, high power motor on the KMG, along with a long platen and grinding wheels from 5/8" up to 10", is what I'd do.

I spend a lot less time doing finish polishing when I can incrementally work up to 600 grit on the machine.

A really good rotary shaft tool with lots of carbide bits (no dremel crap!)

A vertical mill and lots of tooling. If you are making complex blades, especially folders, vertical mill is a must have for precision milling and drilling.

I have a big drill press with X/Y table and a mini-mill for very precise milling.

I'm with you on finish work. It's no longer the polishing that takes so long, but the fit of the fittings, handles, bits like that.

I don't know how many 90% finished knives and swords are lined up downstairs that just need a few hours of finish work and a sheath. I wish i had some fittings and saya makers in town to finish these up for me. And a good polisher.

Edited by Brian Madigan
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I got a 55 pound air hammer last year. I definitely did not "need" it as I already had a press and am only a hobbiest. That being said, the hammer is the absolute coolest tool or toy I have. there is just something about 55 pounds hamnmering a piece of hot steel at a rate of about four beats per second that makes me smile.

www.jmjonesknives.com

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Don't you already have a press btw? or am I thinking of someone else?

 

If so you likely have absolutely zero justifiable *need* for a power hammer. They are undoubtedly the coolest toy in the shop, but I can't think of anything a bladesmith would need one for that they couldnt do on a press, and that's including all pattern welding. A general smith/toolmaker has plenty of justification, but a press is 100x more useful, just like hammers, its all about the dies. If you've got less than a dozen, there's no way you're using the tool to a fraction of its potential, I say that, as someone who only has a few sets for my hammer.

 

If you don't have a press, i'd suggest getting one before a hammer. Drawing, squaring, flattening, texturing, forge welding, etc etc can all be done as well or more effectively with one, assuming you've got the right dies. Only thing its not really good for is replicating tasks you do easily on the anvil, like tapering, dimensional shifts, etc. So unless you need "forged" shapes from larger stock than used for knives, its not that advantageous.

 

I try to make myself forge anything by hand that can be, since using the power hammer just promotes laziness and keeps my technique from progressing. Brian Brazel can forge 1+ round stock faster by hand than I can with my 75lb air hammer.

 

 

Anyway, just something else to think about, obviously plenty will disagree with me.

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Don't you already have a press btw? or am I thinking of someone else?

 

If so you likely have absolutely zero justifiable *need* for a power hammer. They are undoubtedly the coolest toy in the shop, but I can't think of anything a bladesmith would need one for that they couldnt do on a press, and that's including all pattern welding. A general smith/toolmaker has plenty of justification, but a press is 100x more useful, just like hammers, its all about the dies. If you've got less than a dozen, there's no way you're using the tool to a fraction of its potential, I say that, as someone who only has a few sets for my hammer.

 

If you don't have a press, i'd suggest getting one before a hammer. Drawing, squaring, flattening, texturing, forge welding, etc etc can all be done as well or more effectively with one, assuming you've got the right dies. Only thing its not really good for is replicating tasks you do easily on the anvil, like tapering, dimensional shifts, etc. So unless you need "forged" shapes from larger stock than used for knives, its not that advantageous.

 

I try to make myself forge anything by hand that can be, since using the power hammer just promotes laziness and keeps my technique from progressing. Brian Brazel can forge 1+ round stock faster by hand than I can with my 75lb air hammer.

 

 

Anyway, just something else to think about, obviously plenty will disagree with me.

 

if you think that hand hammering is preferential and or better than using a tool for the same job that is powered you are missing a trick or two . if Brian Braziel can out forge your power hammer, maybe you should try turning it on turning it on?

 

power tools make your work faster and if you are skilled they can make your work just as good , in some circumstances better . I taper , bevel and forge to almost finished shape on a power hammer ,

forging soul in to steel

 

owenbush.co.uk

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I try to make myself forge anything by hand that can be, since using the power hammer just promotes laziness and keeps my technique from progressing. Brian Brazel can forge 1+ round stock faster by hand than I can with my 75lb air hammer.

 

 

Javan,

I will happily be the steam powered machine to ANYONE'S John Henry.

I do not care if a man is the strongest in the world with the best technique ever seen...hour for hour, pound for pound the mechanical tools will flat out work a human with a hand hammer.

Now then..I have seen and used some piss poor power hammers out there...some 90 pound air and mechanical hammers hit like me with a five pound hand hammer, but they can hit all day with a squirt of oil...and I need to rest.

 

I forged 1,200 pounds of steel total weight (each part was only six pounds hot..so 240 pounds of actual "forging"..the rest was the unaltered center of the bar) last Sunday under may 3B Nazel and only broke a sweat when I moved the stock to and from the forge...now that is a 235 weight hammer, but I think you get the point.

 

 

as to the thread purpose.....you can rent time on a hammer for larger runs of work...but having a good grinder makes that 3 in the morning job go faster. I like the Bader Spacesaver...there are five on Ebay now in Ohio.

 

If "flat" is what you are after then a surface grinder is the ticket, but it can only do that job...you may be able to rig up a good platen jig to do a similar, but not same job.

 

Ric

Richard Furrer

Door County Forgeworks

Sturgeon Bay, WI

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I agree Owen.

 

Javan if you are less efficient than ANYONE with a hand hammer on your powerhammer, either your power hammer really sucks or your technique does.

 

Power hammer does not promote laziness. Also, less then a dozen dies or the hammer is not being used to it's full potential? That's BS, on a press or a hammer.

 

Tapering and dimensional shifts not good on a press? man you need to study up on how to use things.

 

most everything you state in your post is ludicrous.

Let not the swords of good and free men be reforged into plowshares, but may they rest in a place of honor; ready, well oiled and God willing unused. For if the price of peace becomes licking the boots of tyrants, then "To Arms!" I say, and may the fortunes of war smile upon patriots

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