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Lets talk about choosing a hammer


C Craft

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My forging experience is still in its infancy stage. The majority of my knives to this point have been made by the reduction process.

 

So rather than bore you with all the details of how this great revelation came about, the short of this story is I had the occasion to swing my store bought 4lb. cross pein, repeatedly for several minutes and................ then I was worn out!

 

So this led me too the revelation that as a everyday forging hammer, this was probably going to be too much! Yea it is great for moving a lot of metal in a short time but it allows for little finesse and the tireder you get the harder the control is. I often use a 28oz ball pein that I have, the weight is good and I have good control of it! However there is times when I feel a little more weight would be beneficial!

 

So I decided a discussion on forgoing hammers was needed! I know a lot smiths use a custom hammer but, I would like to know more about what you were using before you went to the custom hammer, as well!

 

1. What is/was your go to hammer, and its weight??

 

2. If you could only have two hammers what would you choose (weight and design) and why??

 

3. For those who have chosen to go to a custom hammer.

What about your preferred hammer, made you decide to go to a custom hammer??

This last one is not so much a question as an invite to share your experience.

4. Any insight/info you might want to share that your experience in forging has given you about hammers, their weight, design, use, etc.,

would be greatly appreciated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

C Craft Customs ~~~ With every custom knife I build I try to accomplish three things. I want that knife to look so good you just have to pick it up, feel so good in your hand you can't wait to try it, and once you use it, you never want to put it down ! If I capture those three factors in each knife I build, I am assured the knife will become a piece that is used and treasured by its owner! ~~~ C Craft

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My first ever hammer was made for me by Josh Burrell, a 2lb horizontal straight pein made from split and drifted EN9 (image below). It has served me extremely well and is still my absolute favourite hammer I use for all my forging which doesn't require much drawing out. I also have a 6lb sledge which I use for most of the drawing out. I intend to have a go at making my own hammer at some point and I think I will go with a vertical or right handed cross pein due to the difficulty of using the pein to draw out when it is horizontal, the work needs to be going away from you instead of holding it along the length of the anvil! Anyway, hope my newbie's experiences can be of some small help!

 

JH

 

IMAG0091 (479x800).jpg IMAG0095 (479x800).jpg

Edited by James Higson
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Excellent topic!! I'll attach some pictures of my go to hammer at the bottom.

As far as weight, I like anywhere from 2.5lbs, to 4lbs or so. My current main use hammer is just under 4lbs, and I have a second and third of the exact same design (with different face profiles) at 2.75lbs, and 1.5lbs respectively. I also very much prefer forward weight hammers!! When I first started forging, I was using a 3lb double jack type mini sledge. Basically a general use hammer that I'd dressed the face on. It worked, but it wasn't anything to talk about. When I made my first forward weight hammer however, that all changed. Dramatically. Moving steel was easier...with less overall effort. Due to the lesser amount of effort, my work became much cleaner and more precise (like you mentioned, more control). I've found that forward weight hammers work like hammers as much as a full pound heavier (for me). I think this is mostly due to ergonomics, as well as the natural human tendency to pull a blow at the last moment before it lands. This is the same reason that in every martial art I've been involved with, they tell you to strike THROUGH your target. If you're going to punch someone in the nose...aiming for their nose will have far less effect than aiming at the back of their head, through their nose, lol. The 'forward' striking face of the hammer isn't as intuitive to the balance point as a typical hammer, and so your blows land slightly earlier than your brain anticipates, and thus...land more solidly.

 

Anyhow, those are my thoughts...let me see if I can dig up a few pictures :)

 

First is my 3.75lb hammer.
Second is my 2.75lb hammer.

DSCF2821.JPG

IMG_20130524_142756.jpg

Edited by C.Anderson

Slow is smooth, smooth is steady, steady is fast, fast is deadly... Erik R.

http://www.facebook.com/scorpionforge
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I started forging this year, and I totally thought that, being I'm a tiny guy (literally no mussels at all) and I would have to use a smaller hammer. well during class it took all of one day for me to put my small hammers away and drag out a 3lb cross peen. but for me much of it had to do with the anvil I was working with, the rebound from it was enough that I really didn't feel any negative effects.

 

because I still have trouble with hammer control - instead of attempting to control he 3lb hammer - i'll use it for rough shaping, then change to a 2lb cross peen for the majority of the work, and for delicate things, I have a tiny (ancient) German styled cross peen from the old country that my great great grandfather probably brought over on the boat that's maybe 1/2 a lb or less.

 

do I feel a difference between a quality anvil under the hammer yes. I use a block of steel at my shop at home (not heat treated), and my hammer might rebound 4 inches at max off of it. during class the anvil I was using rebounded the same hammer nearly a foot.

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it's really dependant on anvil size - there's no real point in using a hammer heavier than about 1/50th the weight of your anvil. to me, fast blows with a light hammer shift just about as much metal, on reasonable sized stock (less than 1/2", say) as slower and heavier, without the control issues that you get when your muscles are flooded with lactic acid. better cardio vascular/aerobic workout as well...

Jake Cleland - Skye Knives

www.knifemaker.co.uk

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

 

Albert Einstein

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I find that new folk often go for the heaviest hammer they can swing, which is a recipe for ruined elbows if you're not careful. I show most of mine in the "forging a tomahawk my way" thread. For general blacksmithing I like my 2.5 lb crosspein, for blade work I almost only use my 2lb crosspein. Owen gave me a sweet dog-head hammer when he was here this year, and I am learning its strengths as well. For beveling and setting tips it's the king, but it does take some getting used to for sure. I rarely use my 4lb hammer, and the 10lb sledge almost never.

 

Use a hammer you're comfortable with, and practice technique. That means loose-ish grip, elbow close to the body, let the anvil throw the hammer back at you. Read the "what's wrong with my hands" thread http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=18084 for more on this, and keep in mind if you give yourself tendonitis from too heavy a hammer or poor technique you will not be forging for six months or more. This is the voice of experience speaking, I still wear an elbow brace. I do not appreciate having to do so.

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I use a 1200 gram Swedish pattern hammer for most of my work. I got it from blacksmithdepot.com. My small hammer is a 800 gram Swedish. I use a 2.75 lb Japanese style hammer for my blade edge work from Glen at GS Tongs. For blade straightening I use a Ace Hardware 16 oz ball peen hammer. Over the last 3 years I have accumulated over 15 hammers. I nearly always reach for the 2 1/3 lb Swedish hammer and I use a 110 lb anvil.

 

The small 800 gram one was my first hammer.

Edited by GBrackett

”Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor!”

 

George Brackett

American Bladesmith's Society,

Apprentice Member

Hialeah, Florida

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Glad too see everyone joining on this thread!

 

I am about to try and buy my first true hammer, dedicated to forging, all I know for sure at this point is, I am thinking about in the 2lbs+or- area for weight! Not sure what type/style of hammer I need to be looking into! That is one reason I am trying to get all the feedback I can before I make a purchase!

Edited by C Craft

C Craft Customs ~~~ With every custom knife I build I try to accomplish three things. I want that knife to look so good you just have to pick it up, feel so good in your hand you can't wait to try it, and once you use it, you never want to put it down ! If I capture those three factors in each knife I build, I am assured the knife will become a piece that is used and treasured by its owner! ~~~ C Craft

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My main hammer is a 4lb sledge. The wide face and weight help to move metal fast. Light taps with the edge can get you into a tight corner.

 

Someone absconded with my 3lb cross peen and I've laid a curse on their house, whomever it might be. I really like a 3lb cross peen for most general work on stock smaller than .75".

 

Lighter hammers don't get used very much except on the smallest stuff I make.

 

The two big criteria for me are face shape and handle size. A lot of folks round over the edges of their hammer's face so they don't leave a sharp-edged ding in the metal. This is a good idea, but there is such a thing as too round. If the impact point of the face is too far from the edge, you've eliminated a lot of the usefulness of the hammer. Being able to get right up to the edge is really handy!

 

I just recently returned from Tractor Supply Co where I was hoping to find a 3lb cross peen on sale. Sadly, they were all full price and I didn't feel like spending ten whole dollars.

 

Two things I noted, though, was that the faces of all their hammers were crowned so heavily that you couldn't get within a quarter-inch of the side of the hammer. You would need to remove at least .200" of steel to get the face back near the edge. That's not a good design, in my opinion, when you consider that you don't know what kind of metal these cheap imports are made from. If they're case-hardened, you could grind right through the tough part.

 

Secondly, all of the handles were very spindly. I don't know who came up with this idea, but they need to be schooled. A thin handle is a bad thing to have on a hammer of any decent weight. May be good for light hammers that do light work, but for something like a 3lb hammer, you really need something substantial to hold on to.

 

It's not a question of being beefy just to be beefy. A thicker handle fills the hand and translates to easier control.

 

I've never tried an off-center hammer. I have an old railroad flatter that's pretty heavy and I'm seriously thinking about cutting it off just short of the eye to make a one-sided hitter. It would probably come in around 3lb, maybe someone lighter, but it would be a fun project. The face is immaculate and it would only take a bit of dressing to the edges to get it in fighting form.

When reason fails...

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Try that with the rail hammer Vaughn...you might just be surprised :).

 

One thing I'd like to note about handles...is that they do need some give to them. When I was a kid I did some framing for my uncle. I showed up to work with a shiny new Estwing framing hammer. You know, the all steel kind with the rubber handle? Anyhow...I was laughed off the jobsite. Literally. My uncle made me leave and told me not to come back until I had a hammer that wouldn't kill my elbow.

The same goes for forging hammers. That's why I hollow the necks of all of my handles, to absorb shock by letting the handle flex a small amount with the blow. The fact that I like shorter handles (about 12" or so from butt to head) impacts this as well. Short, thick hickory handles are stiffer than hell, and need relieved some to use safely. The slot I put in the neck does this nicely.

Slow is smooth, smooth is steady, steady is fast, fast is deadly... Erik R.

http://www.facebook.com/scorpionforge
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On a side note...Glen from GS Tongs makes some really nice hammers, of all types. Being a smith the faces are dressed pretty much perfectly when you get them. You may end up modifying it once you know what you like, but until then...you won't get a much better start. You can google the name in order to find him.

Slow is smooth, smooth is steady, steady is fast, fast is deadly... Erik R.

http://www.facebook.com/scorpionforge
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I have to agree with Sir Anderson about handles. I find that a big thick stiff handle is unusable for me. I am not a small person (six feet tall/200lbs, glove size large) but most factory smithing hammer handles are too big for my comfort and control. I like a thin rectangle cross section with rounded corners to make a sort of soft octagon section, thinned quite a bit for a few inches below the head for a suggestion of give. Think of the octagonal handles on normal 16-oz claw hammers and you have my ideal handle shape and size in hand. The flats make it very easy to control and to tell just exactly how tilted the face is, plus it allows instant indexing when I spin the hammer from pein to face on the upswing. The thin rectangular handles on the Hofi/Habermann type hammers are fine with me as well, although I much prefer a longish handle for more power when needed.

 

Wood handles only, unvarnished. After shaping to suit I will leave the finish around 120 grit and give it a single coat of boiled linseed oil. A trick my first smithing instructor taught was to drill a 3/16" hole about two inches deep into the butt end of the handle and fill that with light machine oil when you know you won't be forging for a week or so. With the hammer stored handle-up, of course. The oil will wick through the entire handle that way, and when you notice the whole top end in the eye being oily you're done. What this does is totally prevent the wood from drying out and crushing, so you never have to worry about the head coming loose. Repeat the oil treatment every year or so.

 

On dressing the face, it depends on the section (square face or round face) and what you want to do. again, I went into this quite a bit in the hawk-making thread, specifically in post #7 : http://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php?showtopic=26567#entry250596 I didn't have the Owen Bush Doghead then, so it's not pictured.

 

For general blacksmithing I like a round face a with a good crown (hammer on the left in the pics in that link), because it moves metal quicker than a fully flat face, leaves no edge divots, and leaves that faintly wavy "hand forged" effect people seem to expect from blacksmith stuff. Obviously you don't want that faintly wavy effect in a blade.

 

For most blade work Vaughn is right. Flat face in the center with a very slight radius on the edges. This will teach you hammer control quickly since if you're a bit tilted you'll leave really deep marks. The center hammer in that pic has a dead flat face with the edges barely radiused, and can work right up to a sharp corner. A professional hardware smith friend of mine uses only a 20-oz. ball peen with the face ground dead flat and the edges nearly sharp to make "early American" home hardware like hinges, door latches, and so on. His hammer control is so good he can make a true 90-degree inside corner when necking down flat stock for a thumb latch, and leave a surface you'd think had been ground, but that's what happens when you do that full time every day for several years in a row.

 

Incidentally, that center hammer in the link is one I'd had for years but rarely used because I got tired too fast. It's a 4lb, and a couple of years ago I needed a heavier hammer for a certain procedure. With the facory handle I could swing it for maybe four or five heats before it wore me out because I had to grip the handle so tight since it was huge. Once I realized that, I ground a full quarter inch off all four sides of the handle and then rounded over the corners. Now I can swing it for hours with no hand fatigue because it fits me.

 

The little 800g (1.76 lb, not 2 lb, sorry!) French pattern crosspein with the rectangular face is what I do almost all of my knife and sword work with. The face is flat in the center and is very slightly rockered from side to side, so that in effect it's crowned in only one direction. It can be used to do distal tapers and such faster than a truly flat face and still leave a flat finish.

 

 

See, the old saying is true! Ask four smiths, get twenty answers, all of 'em are right even if they don't agree at all! :lol: Who needs internal consistancy anyway, eh? ;) Get a cheap wooden-handled hammer at a flea market and play with shaping the handle to fit your hand, then find a better hammer elsewhere. Sears has a decent wooden-handled 40-oz crosspein for around $30, as does Ace Hardware. The faces need a lot of dressing, though. Or find yourself a country hardware store that sells horseshoing equipment and get a cheap 2lb rounding hammer. They have one domed face and one flat face, and at least one true master smith (Don Fogg cough cough) used one of those for a very long time with what some would say were decent results... :P

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Thank Alan and others for the schooling, much appreciated!!bow.gif

C Craft Customs ~~~ With every custom knife I build I try to accomplish three things. I want that knife to look so good you just have to pick it up, feel so good in your hand you can't wait to try it, and once you use it, you never want to put it down ! If I capture those three factors in each knife I build, I am assured the knife will become a piece that is used and treasured by its owner! ~~~ C Craft

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I tend to use the bare minimum of tooling whenever possible, but hammers seem to be the exception; I've gradually collected a range of shapes and weights. All were cheap...most of them were bought used, and often modified one way or another. Since my forge is outdoors, most of them have had many handles, too.

 

My most used are a 3-pounder with very rounded edges and a big fat crosspeen, used for rough forging, followed by a 2 1/2# crosspeen with a flatter face for finishing up. I frequently use several different small hammers under 1# for forging fine details. My other fave is a huge, short-handled 10-pound sledge (called, rather obviously, the Big Hammer, which should be prounced as Arnold Schwartzenegger would..."big hamma" :D ). Big hamma gets used mostly for forging axes, including slitting and drifting the eyes. I use it some for for upsetting, as well; I think a higher-weight hammer works better for moving metal 'inside' a billet, where smaller hammers work the surface more.

 

I find myself using wooden hammers and anvils pretty regularly...an example would be pre-bending knife blades before shaping the bevels, or bending an object that's already mostly finished. Awful nice to be able to push steel around without denting the surfaces up.

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

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I don't have a hammer over 3 pounds. I built a press for when I need to really move metal. Swinging a hammer at glowing steel is sexy, and helps tone muscle to help make smiths sexy (and we need all the help we can get, right?). But at a certain point I just don't have time and energy to break down big stock. I only have a couple store bought hammers not worth really mentioning. I am loving all the talk about handle design as I feel that is extremely important. I'm going to be making myself a dog-head hammer with a sweet handle in the near future.

Thanks to all those sharing their thoughts on hammers, I need it!

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I primarily use a 2lb Swedish pattern.

 

I dressed the face really round on the edges but still flat dead-center. Also blunted and rounded the pien.

 

I first thought that I would eventually shorten the factory handle, but I have learned to rely on the longer handle. If I'm doing something like beveling a blade, I tend to choke up on it for the added control. But if I am needing some power, I can choke back near the end and use the extra length to gain momentum.

 

I have a little 2lb Pexto cross-pien that I like but the handle needs to be replaced. Also have a big 4lb German pattern that I use on rare occasions.

 

I am looking forward to trying one of the weight forward / dog head hammers one of these days.

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I like a thinner handle with a little bit of whip to it, and oblong enough in cross section to enhance control- like what Alan described. My two favorites are 4 lb. cross peens, they each have the face and peen dressed slightly different than the other for different jobs. For blade work, I like a pretty flat face with only mildly dressed corners, and a mild drawing peen. In fact, the cross peens on many hammers I find are too sharp to suit me and I usually grind them to a less acute radius.

I did a fair amount of breaking down big stock with big hammers in my day, 7-10# sledges and 1.5" round 52100, 2-5/8" round W2. All I can say is, take to heart all of the safety stuff you read about tendonitis and correct technique, because I didn't and I have to be careful with my elbow now when I feel it getting sore. Later I got a 50# LG hammer, so no more breaking down big stock by hand!

 

I agree that straight peen hammers work better for most drawing out work; I wish used ones were easier to find in the 3-4# range, though.

Please come and waste some otherwise perfectly good time, looking at my knives!

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