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Ethan Cheney

Which hammer for me?

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Posted (edited)

In just my very short journey into knife making, I've already seen a lot of folks gearing up like mad when they started just to realize a bit later that this trade is hard and require a lot of patience and there's no instantaneous reward. Then we see those equipment for sale a few months later. 

I'd advise you to begin with just minimal equipment and gear up slowly along the way. You'll learn which tool you need most and how to use them. 

Edit: of course I am not trying to discourage you! This trade(or hobby) can be extremely rewarding and fun if you put enough effort. 

Just my 2 cents. 

Edited by Joël Mercier

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I started with a 3.5 lb crosspein I got at an antique store (and had to re-handle after five minutes of use) and a 40-ounce from Ace Hardware. I still have and use both, but the 40-ounce cross pein is my go-to after 20 years of doing this.  I also wear a tennis elbow brace while forging because I used the 3.5 pounder too hard while I was tired and brought on a case of tendonitis that still flares up from time to time.  One time working wrong can hurt you forever, in other words.  My blade-only hammer I use for swords is an 800-gram French pattern cross pein with a rectangular face.  It is heavy enough to get the job done, and light enough I can swing it all day with no problems.  I have several other hammers, we all do after doing this long enough,  but the one type I don't have is a double-face.  I just never saw the need.  A cross pein is the most useful style for forging.  wooden handles are a must, you can shape them to fit your hand and they don't transmit shock.  I find most modern hammer handles to be too fat, which makes you grip too hard, which leads to joint problems and lack of control.  Don't be afraid to modify your tools to fit you and your style of working, and once you have a hammer that works for you don't let anyone else use it.

A cheapo angle grinder from Harbor Freight (often $10 on sale) will get you started.  Be sure to get the extended warranty, then they'll just give you another one when the first one dies.  

For vises, and they are a great help, check out pawn shops and junk stores, flea markets and yard sales.  You don't absolutely need a leg vise unless you're forging axes, but a decent-sized bench vise can be a lifesaver.  I have three, a six-inch I bought new for $50, a three-inch I got from a yard sale for $5, and a little 1" that clamps to the bench I inherited from my father-in-law.  They all have their place.

All that said, hook up with your local forge group and go watch them work, maybe get a little hands-on experience.  You really won't have a good idea of what you need versus what you think you want until you do this.

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13 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

French pattern cross pein with a rectangular face.

You disappoint me

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4 minutes ago, Gerald Boggs said:

You disappoint me

Hey, it was free! :P  I rarely use the pein side, though, the geometry is a bit funky for my taste. 

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1 hour ago, Alan Longmire said:

I started with a 3.5 lb crosspein I got at an antique store (and had to re-handle after five minutes of use) and a 40-ounce from Ace Hardware. I still have and use both, but the 40-ounce cross pein is my go-to after 20 years of doing this.  I also wear a tennis elbow brace while forging because I used the 3.5 pounder too hard while I was tired and brought on a case of tendonitis that still flares up from time to time.  One time working wrong can hurt you forever, in other words.  My blade-only hammer I use for swords is an 800-gram French pattern cross pein with a rectangular face.  It is heavy enough to get the job done, and light enough I can swing it all day with no problems.  I have several other hammers, we all do after doing this long enough,  but the one type I don't have is a double-face.  I just never saw the need.  A cross pein is the most useful style for forging.  wooden handles are a must, you can shape them to fit your hand and they don't transmit shock.  I find most modern hammer handles to be too fat, which makes you grip too hard, which leads to joint problems and lack of control.  Don't be afraid to modify your tools to fit you and your style of working, and once you have a hammer that works for you don't let anyone else use it.

A cheapo angle grinder from Harbor Freight (often $10 on sale) will get you started.  Be sure to get the extended warranty, then they'll just give you another one when the first one dies.  

For vises, and they are a great help, check out pawn shops and junk stores, flea markets and yard sales.  You don't absolutely need a leg vise unless you're forging axes, but a decent-sized bench vise can be a lifesaver.  I have three, a six-inch I bought new for $50, a three-inch I got from a yard sale for $5, and a little 1" that clamps to the bench I inherited from my father-in-law.  They all have their place.

All that said, hook up with your local forge group and go watch them work, maybe get a little hands-on experience.  You really won't have a good idea of what you need versus what you think you want until you do this.

Thanks for that. Im going to try took hook with up them ASAP. They have meetings every other Friday, but I just need to find out which Fridays. Thanks a lot! You are really making this more understandable. :D

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Posted (edited)

Im planning on making the beginners propane forge that Jeremy Blohm posted early in this column.  Does it matter which bricks I use? I can easily go to a dump and buy bricks for dirt cheap. I also found some other bricks that are specialised for forges. Does it really matter? I could spend $2 or $40. Just wanted to know because money is money and every bit I can save I can put into this later on! :P

 

Edit: Also does anyone have the dimensions for angle iron that I should use for the propane forge? I read it over and over and still can't find them! ;P Speaking of my forge, its propane so I'm wondering how long propane will last.

Edit #2: For my hammer handle does it matter between hickory wood and fiber glass?

Edited by Ethan Cheney

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Wood only.  Read. Remember.

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Posted (edited)

The angle iron I used was 2 inch but it can be just about anything. Do not use regular bricks. They need to be a fire brick of some sort. Soft fire bricks would be best but hard ones will work. 

Try to get these

https://www.axner.com/k-23-firebricks.aspx

For the burner I use this.

https://mall.direct/30-qt-aluminum-turkey-fryer-pkg-21in-tripod-50-000-btu-cast-iron-p98758

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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Good catch, I missed the brick question.  Ordinary brick will crumble or explode on the first firing.  Insulating (soft) fire brick is best, hard brick only if that's all you can get.  Hard fire brick will heat all the way through and radiate a LOT of heat for a long time.  For quick-and-dirty use they work, but are kind of dangerous and inefficient.  Speaking of efficiency, if you score some soft brick this sort of forge will run a very long time on a 20lb tank of propane. 

I am primarily a coal burner, but I recently got a little soft-brick forge for demos and those times I want to forge a little blade or something fast.  With coal, the work pace is : fire it up, wait 15-20 minutes to have a good coke fire going (shorter if you have a pile of coke left over from the previous session), do your forging, take another ten to twenty minutes after you're done to pull the fire apart and safely make sure it's out.  With propane it's: fire it up, wait five minutes for it to come up to heat, do your forging, turn it off, done.  No clouds of green smoke rolling across the yard, no black boogers.  Well, fewer black boogers.  ;)  

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From what I can tell, the propane forge can stand up without something holding it up? If so, could i use a regular brick to hold it up?

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If you go with Jeremy's plans, some extra angle iron is great, or use firebricks for a hard brick forge.  A soft brick forge can stand on ordinary bricks since the outside won't get too hot.

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If you are looking for a quick, cheap, relatively effective way to hold blades for filing and don't have a good vise or 5.  I first used (and often still use) a short length of 2x4 (2x3, 2x2) clamped (or screwed) to a sturdy work bench.   Leave about 12"-18" or so extending out from the bench and use a pair of small clamps or a narrow slice of pipe and wood wedges to secure the blade - just make sure the blade tip does not extend beyond the board since impaling ones self is generally a bad idea.:wacko:

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, MikeDT said:

If you are looking for a quick, cheap, relatively effective way to hold blades for filing and don't have a good vise or 5.  I first used (and often still use) a short length of 2x4 (2x3, 2x2) clamped (or screwed) to a sturdy work bench.   Leave about 12"-18" or so extending out from the bench and use a pair of small clamps or a narrow slice of pipe and wood wedges to secure the blade - just make sure the blade tip does not extend beyond the board since impaling ones self is generally a bad idea.:wacko:

Haha thanks.  If I impaled myself my parents would kill me. Oh wait...

Edited by Ethan Cheney

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My opinion on hammers is start with the lighter hammer than what you think.  Most craftspeople are using a 2lb hammer.  That is pretty much my main go to hammer. You start out with a heavy 3lb hammer, you will probably cause a little pain and damage to yourself.  I am looking to go after a Swedish 1000gram hammer at some point in time because I like the square dies on the hammer face.  That is just more of a my preference sort of thing.  You cannot go wrong with just a good old cross pein hammer.  I believe harbor freight does sell these in a few different weights.  If not, you can always find a ball pein in various weights.  

I do have a harbor freight 3lber and have not yet had major issues with it.  However almost any hammer you buy - will need crowning done to it. Also the handle - make it so that it's a comfortable grip for yourself.  Work with the factory handle for a bit, once you know what you don't like about it, shape it how you think it should be.  For me I make my handles thin. 

 

If you start building up a propane forge - keep in mind that hard fire bricks retain heat for a very very long time. I fire watch my forge for 4 hours because I still have a few that I use for doors.  I also do not have the proper refractory lining in the forge with causes a lot of stored heat after I'm forging and have shut down.  I also have to replace these bricks pretty often because they just don't hold up.  I got about 16 at the time I built my forge and have not gone through all of them yet. 

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So I was doing some looking around for vises and drill presses when I came across a drill press vise. Thoughts?

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Better than nothing, but they can't take being hammered on at all.  On the plus side, one bolted to a bench will help you hold stuff while drawfiling and sanding.

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I’ve actually decided against it. I currently have no space in my garage. My dad uses a bay for tools and stuff and the other 3 are for cars. I decided to use the bag my dads car is parked in when he is at work. I would take out and put everything away. Is it possible to have the bricks cool down faster or are there other bricks that I could use that don’t retain heat well but my forge would still work?

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Soft (insulating) firebrick like the ones Jeremy linked above.  They cool off fairly quickly, and you can carve out a nice rounded chamber with a simple steel bar.  They're that soft.  

Note if there is not a pottery supply place near you you will have to order them.  Get used to it, almost everything we use we have to order from elsewhere.

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1 hour ago, Alan Longmire said:

Get used to it, almost everything we use we have to order from elsewhere.

This is soooooo true. I've spent a lot of time and resources looking for stuff locally and ended up settling for sub-par crap and then ended up having to order it in the end

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I've actually found that I really enjoy using my little 2 pound harbor freight hammer.  It works quite well.  Not only that it's so in expensive that if I break it or damage it in anyway or if it just wears out over time I can just simply toss the hammer and get a new one.  Although I would save the metal from the hammer and use that for something.  Either way I also have the harbor freight 3 pound hammer.  I like them both.  They are very in expensive and the work just fine for me.  You don't need to spend 30 bucks on a hammer.

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2 minutes ago, AndrewB said:

You don't need to spend 30 bucks on a hammer.

I spent 50$ :P  Ive always had a pride issue with buying cheap things, Doesn't help with the little money I have..  I know you can get cheap things that work well, but for some reason I want to have the best of everything I get. 

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5 minutes ago, Conner Michaux said:

I spent 50$ :P  Ive always had a pride issue with buying cheap things, Doesn't help with the little money I have..  I know you can get cheap things that work well, but for some reason I want to have the best of everything I get. 

If I find something that's in expensive and it works then I have no issues on it what so ever.  Buying tools can get extremely expensive.  So I'll stick to my harbor freight hammers lol.  I highly recommend them.

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Yea. I found a nice hammer on amazon. $18. Hopefully I can find nice things for low prices. I also found a somewhat good vise for starting out. It’s at Lowe’s for $50 

Could anyone send me a link to soft Bricks that I could use in a propane forge?

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2 minutes ago, Ethan Cheney said:

Yea. I found a nice hammer on amazon. $18. Hopefully I can find nice things for low prices. I also found a somewhat good vise for starting out. It’s at Lowe’s for $50 

Could anyone send me a link to soft Bricks that I could use in a propane forge?

You want want is called fire bricks those are cheap I would also recommend getting yourself some refractory cement that can withstand temps of 3000 degrees.  

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