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Hammering Technique

Alex Melton

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I am very new to knifemaking and bladesmithing and I am confused about hammering techniques and more specifically which side of the hammer to use for what.

My hammer that I use is a 2lb engineer's hammer found at harbor freight that I modified into a rounding hammer on one side. I don't know if I made the "round" part well. I just ground off the edges until the face of one side of the hammer was dome-shaped.

My understanding is that the rounding hammer is used to upset the metal in order to move it around quickly. This is because the force of the impact is concentrated into a smaller area when using a round hammer rather than a flat-faced hammer.

So from this, I believe it wound be best to use the rounding hammer when forming the tang of the blade and forming the rough shape.

Bevels are where I become confused. I'm not sure if I should use the rounding hammer or the flat side.

Does anyone have a list of when/where to use the round and flat side of the hammer? Or is there another thread I can read?

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Flat is a relative term.  All my hammers, and I have too many, have a slight crown to them.  I do have a rounding hammer but I use it less and less and prefer a square or oblong faced hammer.  A round faced hammer moves the steel in all directions more or less equally regardless of how much it's crowned.  A square faced hammer will move the steel in line with it's sides and an oblong face will move the steel more in the direction of it's long side.  Also the more the face of the hammer is crowned the faster it will move the steel in the direction of the crown.

The problem with your hammer, as I understand it, is that the round face may have too much of a crown.  This could leave dimples in the steel that can not be flattened out with the flat face or by grinding.  Too little crown and the edges of the hammer will tend to leave indentations on the blade that will cause the same problem.

As far as when to use what hammer only experience will tell you that.  First of all you are starting out with a good weight.  A 2 lb or 1 kilo hammer is a hammer that you can swing all day.  They may not move steel as fast as a three or four pound hammer but the heavier hammer will tire you out faster and cut down your forging time and, in the long run, cut down your productivity.  Also a heavier hammer can cause joint pain which can put you out of action for weeks.

Just to get terms straight upsetting steel is done to drive the bar into itself to cause it to thicken not to thin out or reshape the stock.  It's a technique that is not used much in knife making.  About the only thing that I can think of is to make a broken back seax .


HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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I actually was just at a local forge where an instructor gave me some pointers on how to use a rounding hammer.  I've never truly used one before but with the proper technique it really moved stuff around faster than what I expected.  It also didn't hit the anvil face because of its roundness. 

A lot the technique he showed me was on and off the near and far edge of the anvil. As well as glancing blows or skipped.  This was done while making a point on the far edge of the anvil, although I was aiming for the edge of the anvil, holding that hammer at an angle, letting it strike and then skip into the direction of the point.  In other words, not just letting the rebound of the anvil bring the hammer back up, but pulling it in the direction I want the material to move.  Now there's probably only a tinny weeny fraction of force that is actually pulling the material in that direction, but it seemed to me to make a difference.  You don't need a rounding hammer or a super crowned hammer to do the same thing. But the rounding hammer is more forgiving if you're not right on the edge of that anvil.

Having used one for more decorative work, I like it, and I do prefer when the face of the hammer is square instead of truly round. That way, if you see a peek in your work, its a line and not a crescent.  You aim for that line and knock it down.


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1 hour ago, Doug Lester said:

Just to get terms straight upsetting steel is done to drive the bar into itself to cause it to thicken not to thin out or reshape the stock.  It's a technique that is not used much in knife making.  About the only thing that I can think of is to make a broken back seax .

I upset some times when forging a drop point hunter or something similar to get some depth into the belly of the blade but if the stock has been drawn too thin it just bends. And it is something that needs to be done in a coal forge. A propane forge tends to heat the whole workpiece where a coal forge you can heat up sections of the blade.

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Alex, It is not as easy to tell someone how to hammer as it is to show someone, so I think the best thing you can do is get in touch with your local blacksmith organization and attend a hammer-in or demonstration to get some hands-on training or at the very least, a good visual demonstration. Matthew Parkinson showed me how to improve my forging control and hammer technique 200% in about 10 seconds at the anvil.

That being said, imagine if the face of your hammer was as big as a bowling ball and you dropped it in a mud puddle. Which way would the mud move? Now think about the steel as the mud and which direction you want it to go. Now look at your hammers and go back to the mud puddle image. Choose the hammer face that moves the mud the way you want to move the steel.

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  





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Take a look at these sites, some are more about jewelry work than steel but , the technique of moving the metal is pretty much the same!

One of the suggestions in this was to get some modeling clay and see what direction the metal was moving. In other words you can see the movement by light taps of the hammer!






Hope that helps some!

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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