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Wrist pain


Drewwadford

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Hey everyone! I've been reading this forum for a year or two and finally figured out how to register. It's funny... none of you know me and yet some of you on here already feel like a type of family. I'm very glad that this exists as a resource, as otherwise I would have never found my way around these things and would have given up.

Sadly, my first post is a bummer. Sad emoticon thingie here.

For about three years, and just recently ending, I've worked as a butcher. It actually involves a lot more heavy lifting than you might guess, and as most people who have worked those sorts of jobs will recognize, the OSHA approved lifting practices are a goal you never quite reach. Point being that I skated out of the job with a pair of wrists that are extremely easy to hurt. They have had so much weight yank them in every direction they can go, and some they can't.

As a smith of any sort I still consider myself to be beginning, having only done it a couple years and the vast majority of that time has been reading instead of pounding. I'm at a point now, however, that I feel I ought to be learning how to do it, well... more ergonomically. I have not hurt my wrists while doing any smithing, but I do see my bad wrists and smithing on a collision course I'd like to avoid.

Does anyone have much experience with wrist pain? Pain in general? Prevention?

First off, any stretching/weight training experience would be appreciated. It seems that one of the best ways to offset repetitive stress injury is to do a balanced set of activities with whatever part might get hurt, but I don't honestly know how to follow through with it for this particular problem.

I put this in the tool section, however, because I'm particularly curious about hammers, technique, and pain. Has anyone used a hammer style or a technique to fix a physiological problem? Anvil height? Hammer weight?

My set up currently is a western anvil that sits on the ground. Western because that's what's around, and on the ground because it helps my back. While the "knuckle height" rule may or may not be applicable/accurate, I've found that I spend at least half my time lowering myself to the anvil to get closer to the stock. This can be awful for my back (hunch hunch,) but working off the ground allows your legs to take the strain and your back to stay straight. I just raise up or sit back down on my legs instead of leaning over with my low back as the pivot.

I use a four pound, short handled sledge. Just always felt right. Much lighter than that seems to take too much energy, though I do use a 1.5 lb. hammer when I just can't get soft enough planishing strokes. My observation has been that while a heavier hammer is more work for the upper arm, it does seem to allow less effort from the wrist/finger part. They just don't seem as much "whip" and "slam." Just sorta pick it up, drop it, and kinda guide it loosely down with the hand. Maybe I should be working with lighter hammers to save my wrist, though. Just because something feels right now doesn't necessarily mean I'm not tearing myself up in the long term.

Now, the two models I have in mind are Mr. Hofi, though I don't know the full story on that, and the way that I've read Don Fogg works. Both involve heavy hammers (yay), but it seems Mr. Fogg would opt for a heavier hammer to do the same work and would immobilize the wrist. Why? Does it help?

Do any particular hammers help? I could see Japanese hammers with their cocked handle making a better and looser wrist angle if you don't work with the anvil at knuckle height. I also thing the Hofi type hammers make a lot of intuitive sense.

Anyway, hopefully I'll have some more cheerful posts in the future. Thanks for reading.

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My set up currently is a western anvil that sits on the ground. Western because that's what's around, and on the ground because it helps my back. While the "knuckle height" rule may or may not be applicable/accurate, I've found that I spend at least half my time lowering myself to the anvil to get closer to the stock. This can be awful for my back (hunch hunch,) but working off the ground allows your legs to take the strain and your back to stay straight. I just raise up or sit back down on my legs instead of leaning over with my low back as the pivot.

I just purchased a small 50lb anvil that I mounted considerably higher than my main anvil, I plan to use it for finishing work, riveting, and other light work. I got tired of bending over to see what I was doing too. For heavy shaping my main 140lb anvil is great at knuckle height, but the surface has seen better days.

 

I recall seeing a photo of a smith from either Nepal or India working with an anvil (in his case just a big block of steel) that sat on the ground, with him sitting comfortably in front of it, hammering away on a kukri. It struck me as a good idea, but I've not tried it.

 

Alot of older smiths I've met have elbow problems. My theory is to use the wrist, elbow, and shoulder equally in order to wear the entire arm out instead of just one joint... all kidding aside, in my case most of the brute force for power-forging is generated in the shoulder, with the elbow and wrist doing as little work as possible. Considering that 95% of the time spent making a knife is not done in the forge but at the bench, maybe my shoulder will outlast some of my other favorite body parts, maybe even the ones that keep me alive.

 

I've seen a modified hammer that quite a few smiths swear by where a good chunk of the wooden handle is replaced with hard rubber. I'll see if I can find any information on it for you, I saw directions on making them somewhere.

 

Welcome to the forums!

Edited by GEzell

George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."
Buffon


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Welcome to the Forum. First I would like to say that you should probably use a lighter hammer. About 2 pounds should be good. You can use a longer handle to increase the velocity and the power of the swing. It will save your arm. Right now I use a 3.5 pound hammer on a fairly long handle. It looks like a club, and acts like one too. It's good for drawing down real heavy stuff, but for normal forging, I need to switch to something a little bit lighter and faster. The heavier weight gets you twice. You have to lift more weight, then it doesn't rebound as much. Another advantage of a longer handle is that you can keep you hand father away from the hot metal. Good luck.

Bob O

 

"When I raise my flashing sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance upon mine enemies, and I will repay those who haze me. Oh, Lord, raise me to Thy right hand and count me among Thy saints."

 

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Welcome aboard. Most hammer injuries occur when the handle is gripped too tightly. This transfers the shock to the elbow and an already tight tendon. It helps to do stretching exercises before you start to hammer.

 

As to hammer weights, break down with a heavy hammer then move to successive lighter hammers as the blade comes closer to final shape. I use Tom Clark hammer's and like the feel and balance, Hoffi style. I also have a Japanese style finishing hammer that I favor.

 

Anvil height should be set so you don't bend over and strain your lower back. The knuckle height rule is for blacksmiths who use tools on the anvil. My anvil is almost buckle height. I would have one lower if I were breaking down stock, but I use a power hammer or press for the heavy work.

Don Fogg

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I found something interesting while i was teaching one of the guys from the local tech center how to make a knife at my shop.

 

My primary forging hammer is a 6 lbs sledge with one face cut off and the handle shortened to around 16", so it weighs roughly 4.5 lbs. from face to back it is only about 4.5- 5" long. and all the weight is forwards

 

I recently purchased a 4 lbs peddinghaus cross pein, and I hadn't used it yet, so I refaced it and I let the guy I was teaching use it in conjunction with a large brick of mild steel for an anvil.

 

He was having considerable trouble with this hammers rebound, so i thought it was just a symptom of not having forged anything out before and i let it go.

 

I told him how to correct the problem, and it didnt help. He suggested I let him use my hammer, so I did, and it solved his problem.

 

I tried out the peddinghaus and it seems that it is too long from face to peen and it is nearly equally ballanced. This makes the hammer recoil in a left - right manner that just tore my wrist up after a few minutes. I grabbed my hammer back and it solved my problem. it seems that my hammer being fore-weighted stopped it from torqueing my wrist on the return movement because all of the weight is forward

 

I think that if you are going to use a heavy-ish hammer you must almost iliminate wrist movement from your stroke. I have taken it to habbit to do so, and I am happy with the power and accuracy that I can get.

 

I think that a japanese stlye forging hammer would be your best bet for your wrists, Or one like I have described. (if you look in some of my posts you will see said hammer in question)

 

I have my anvil at fist height and I am always bending way over to see what I am doing real close. I do the same thing when I am welding, I have to get my face in my work... So I bend over my anvil and dont have anything to say about anvil height that might help.

Mike Lambiase

Burning Man Forge

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Anvil height is entirely up to you, but the old "knuckle height" rule is for big shops employing a striker with sledge hammers. For single-handed standing-up use, the anvil should be set so that the hammer face is level on the anvil just before your elbow straightens out with your back straight. I'm naturally a bit hunchbacked, so include that in my figuring.

 

The two biggest mistakes I see people make when forging are, as Don said, the death grip on the hammer, followed by lifting the elbow. Hold the hammer between the thumb and first finger only. The other fingers are just there to guide. Keep your elbow touching your side. I know one instructor who was finally forced to tie a student's arm down to make him do this. :lol: Don't force the elbow into your side, just let it hang naturally so that your arm motion is all in one plane. To do otherwise is to end up with tendonitis.

 

Also, see yourself as a stationary tool. You move the work on the anvil while the hammer strikes the same spot, you don't chase it around with the hammer.

 

I use a 2-lb square-faced hammer for almost everything. I would dearly love a Tom Clark / Hofi-style 3.5 lb'er, but the cash isn't there yet. Plus I have a 2.5" bar of 4140 that is destined to become one someday. ;)

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Maybe you are holding your hammer all wrong.

 

 

Choose the right hammer:

 

http://www.iforgeiron.com/lb-000-100/lb000...ng-hammers.html

 

 

Then use that hammer effectively:

 

http://www.iforgeiron.com/blueprints-300-4...-technique.html

 

My personal advice? why you come up and raise your hammer let your shoulder elbow and wrist move altogether do not keep one joint stationary. When you come down it is like "paint fence" in the karate kid, just up and down nice and smooth let your whole arm flex. When you get going faster it is like Bruce Lee, crack your whole arm like a whip.

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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Sam,

 

You forgot this one!

 

How NOT to hold a hammer

 

I use a 2-lb square-faced hammer for almost everything. I would dearly love a Tom Clark / Hofi-style 3.5 lb'er, but the cash isn't there yet. Plus I have a 2.5" bar of 4140 that is destined to become one someday.

 

Alan,

 

Check this one out!

 

Hofi Hammer Eye

“All work is empty save when there is love, for work is love made visible.” Kahlil Gibran

"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them." - Alfred Adler

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Nice B thanks! Alan, try a hofi/tom before you buy!

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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Nice B thanks! Alan, try a hofi/tom before you buy!

 

 

HA! I have. I got to use Don's hammer for a bit at Harley's this spring. Talk about trust... :ph34r: Doug Merkel also makes the same pattern, and he's here local, kind of. I have also played with the "official" ones Big Blu sells, which is how I arrived at the weight I'd like.

 

And B., thanks. I'd seen that, but it never hurts to re-inforce the issue.

 

One thing nobody has mentioned yet, the handle shape. We've discussed length, but cross-section is more important for preventing strains in my opinion. A fat, round handle will hurt you by forcing the dreaded vulcan death grip. Try shaping your handle to a rounded or octagonal rectangle, about 1/2-3/4 inch thick side-to-side by 1.25-1.5 inch tall. It's a lot easier to get the right grip with a tall, narrow handle.

 

Finally, to clarify the elbow thing, yes, it does move in one plane. What you don't want is to have it flopping around like you're doin' the funky chicken dance! :lol:

Edited by Alan Longmire
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I dont think that i am holding my hammer the right way.

 

I just tried the recommended method, and I dont think that I could get any work done in that manner.

 

I slam the hell out of my hammer, and I let the recoil "reload" my arm. It comes back up to hieght with just the force from going down. I thin that this is the most efficeint way that I have found.

 

When I choke up on my hammer I tend to almost punch the metal... Its less of an arc and more of a straight line.

 

I guess I am just all goofy.

 

Mike Lambiase

Mike Lambiase

Burning Man Forge

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I slam the hell out of my hammer, and I let the recoil "reload" my arm. It comes back up to hieght with just the force from going down. I thin that this is the most efficeint way that I have found

 

Mike,

 

I think in ten years you will regret using your hammer in this fashion, once in a while is not going to hurt you but, if you do this everytime you hammer it will. The idea is to let the weight of the hammer do most of the work, not saying you do not add some force of your own to it but, not so much that you jar the hell out of your wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Think about mostly using your muscles to lift the hammer back up. Gravity, and the weight of the hammer, will take care of the rest. This came off sounding too forceful. I apologize. I just hate to have you injured by something that is supposed to be fun. I also have tried Hofi's method of hammering and have a problem shifting my grip from downstroke to upstroke the way he does, it just seems unnatural. However, all the points that he makes are good ones. Oh! Whoops! I forgot the link to the other half of this. Here it is.

 

Hofi Hammer Technique II

 

Bruce

“All work is empty save when there is love, for work is love made visible.” Kahlil Gibran

"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them." - Alfred Adler

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I really power my blows when I need to put some steel elsewhere, Like when I am forging the stock into a blank. If I am not moving some serious mass, I feel like I am wasting alot of time.

 

I lock my wrist for the majority of the stroke, and as soon just as i hit the steel I let all downward tension out of my joints and muscles. I let the hammer rebound, and nothing is really jarred, unless there is the rare ocassion that i miss the metal enough to have a part of my hammer hit the face of the anvil. Then I am taken by suprise and the hammer accelerates upwards as quickly as it accelerated downwards... I have a scar from the first time i missed on an hay budden. right in my eyebrow. and that might jar my arm a bit.

 

When I am forging in the bevels and such I am letting the hammer fall until just before the point of impact, and then I put a bit of shoulder and elbow into it, and that rebounds and raises my hammer substantially.

 

When I was working on my crappy cast iron anvil that was stuck to a log I could not get my hammer to rebound at all. It was a dead blow. That Is when my arm was getting tired, when I had to lift the hammer every time.

 

My anvil now has a steel face and a cast base, and it is properly secured and it rebounds my hammer alot better. I can swing all day now.

 

I dont argue that it will possibly screw up my arm, but right now I think that the most damaging thing I can do is drawfiling. I feel the tennis elbow starting to set in after about 5 mins...

 

I still dont think that my points are valid, because I am young and my joints are fairly healthy, but I can't say that what I am currently doing is not working for me...

 

Mike Lambiase

Mike Lambiase

Burning Man Forge

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I still dont think that my points are valid, because I am young and my joints are fairly healthy, but I can't say that what I am currently doing is not working for me...

 

Take from someone who's just about old enough to be your grandfather, young health joints don't stay that way. What you are doing now will follow you into your later years where they will show up as aches and pains. You don't know how many patients I take care of say that their bum knee/ankle/back/wrist/elbow/shoulder came from the stuff they did as a "kid". Also bad habits that you form now will be all the harder to break later. Learn and use good techniques now and use them so that you won't have quite as many aches and pains as you get older. Also, as you get older, you will not heal as well or as quickly as you do now. You might want to consider dropping the weight of that hammer, very few men use anything over 4lb for a single handed hammer and fewer still use that heavy a hammer for their main hammers. I've seen your work, Mike, you probably have more tallent for making knives than I'll ever be able to develope. Don't do things now that will put you out of business by the time you're in your middle years.

 

I immagine that you hate lectures, especially from some old dude that you don't even know. I doubt that I'd care for it when I was your age either. Sometimes I just have a hard time stop being a Corpsman.

 

Doug Lester

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

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Mr. Lester,

 

I will take into consideration what everyone has said, most on this forum have years and wisdom on thier side.

 

I was not attempting to sound beligerent, and I may have come off as so, but that was not my intent.

 

I will try out the Hofi style.

 

I also have my power hammer now, and I wont have to spend nearly as much time breaking stock down to size by hand as I have in the past, so that should be a step in a preventitive direction.

 

I think that I have robbed this thread, but I have also clearly laid out what not to do...

 

Mike Lambiase

Mike Lambiase

Burning Man Forge

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That is the weakness of the written word, the inflection of the voice has to be immagined. No offence was taken, just as no offence was ment.

 

Doug Lester

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

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Thanks to everyone!

I feel that talking about ergonomics/body mechanics may be one of the tougher things to really get on the same page about. To begin with we're all, of course, built differently. Perhaps when I say I use a four pound hammer it would strike someone here as being, relative to oneself, heavier or lighter than that means for me. Then it's also tough to even have the body awareness to completely know what it is that you're doing when you hammer. I'm sure some of you have had the chance, but I know I'd probably have some surprises in store if I ever saw a video of myself working. I really do THAT?!

I prefer less swing and fewer strokes... I rarely raise the hammer above my head and if I need to I normally switch to a heavier hammer to keep my short little punchy stroke. I guess I am using more hammer mass to create less arm movement. I agree, alan, that one of those 3.5 big blu rounding hammers seems perfect if the cash is there. In no small part I'm asking this stuff because my preference is always to have as few hand tools as possible, but to know them more intimately than one could if you had a rack of 50 hammers. Switching around seems to break up the intuitive connection and bring you back to having to "control" the hammer.

Quick question... in what position is your (all of you) wrist at point of impact? I know it changes depending on what you're doing, but generally? I notice that the classic "knuckle height" rule implies a dead straight wrist and a sideways grip of the hammer, but that many people hold the hammer on top (Hofi) and seem to impact with the wrist bent backwards. If I had to guess from a purely physiological point of view, it would seem that you would want almost zero wrist cock and to have the force of impact both minimized by a free grip and also moving front to back on the wrist (as opposed to side to side). That would mean, though, palm down and an impractically high anvil (elbow height plus length from hammer eye to face). Thanks again everyone!

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I had to think about that, and do a few slo-mo hammer blows to see. :lol: For me, my anvil face is midway between my knuckles and my wrist. With most forging blows on blade-sized objects my wrist seems to end up cocked very slightly upwards at impact, palm mostly parallel to the anvil face. I usually do not feel the impact at all. With my 3lb American-pattern crosspein I feel it in my elbow if I hit wrong. If I forge too long with any type of hammer I feel it in my shoulder. Nobody's perfect, eh? :lol:

 

The nice thing about the Hofi technique is you can vary the power of the blow from anything to a tap using only the wrist to a full-force slam using the whole arm from above the head without ever having to change your grip orientation or strength. Plus, it works with any handle length, from short and blocky to long and whippy.

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Take from someone who's just about old enough to be your grandfather, young health joints don't stay that way. What you are doing now will follow you into your later years where they will show up as aches and pains. You don't know how many patients I take care of say that their bum knee/ankle/back/wrist/elbow/shoulder came from the stuff they did as a "kid".

The guy who said "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" apparently never suffered a knee injury... <_<

George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."
Buffon


view some of my work

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Yeah, have to agree. Joint injury is scary. You don't just get to rest up for a bit... you're out of business for a nice long time and may well carry those problems with you forever! Ultimately, I would still like to be discussing what would be appropriate stretching/strength training for doing this stuff. The muscles (and more importantly tendons) you use while smithing get their work-out in process, but the other ones... the ones that balance you out and I think ultimately prevent injury when they are also strong, could probably use help too.

Alan, one thing that I think is nice about your anvil height, and something that I think seldom gets talked about, is that between your knuckles and wrists is also the height at which tongs/bar-stock will naturally hang when parallel to the anvil face. Any lower than that and you just don't have any more arm to give out and you have to lower your tong hand by bending your back. If you do that, then you end up with effectively the same distance from anvil to shoulder on the hammer hand... but at that point you have a bent back. Doesn't it seem natural that the anvil should be no lower than what you can put stock on flat without bending over? That is assuming that you're working by yourself?

Also, I had not realized that the Hofi technique began with the wrist for lighter work. It makes sense that the more force you need, the further up the arm you would involve your joints. It makes a fluid, wave-like motion to begin with fingers for light taps, then the wrist, then elbow, then shoulder. I wonder, for myself, if it might not be better though to bypass the wrist... keeping it stationary and beginning with the elbow... involving the wrist only at the top of a stroke to build speed.

Is the rule that were talking about essentially that if you can prevent rigidity in ALL joints at the point of impact, and keep the joints moving in their desired plane of motion through the stoke, then we've got what we're looking for regardless of hammer weight/technique?

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Which would ultimately be that fingers... well, they do the only thing they can. Wrists are much more fluid and stable moving front to back than side to side. Elbows only want to move parallel to the forearm/upper arm plane (no lateral motion/chicken dance.) It seems shoulders are both ball joints and also strong and can do anything so long as it's in keeping with what the elbow needs.

Short story... palm down, fingers loose and primarily holding the weight of the hammer with the thumb and fore-finger. Elbow stays in a plane that is vertically in line with the shoulder. That seem right?

You know, I played the drums or about 11 years now, and it reminds me of the progression that most drummers go through with their stick motion. To begin with, you have a tense "hammer grip" and flail your arms around a lot. A very course motion. Over time, most people put their palms down and work in a whipping "snap" that moves the fingers most, the wrists less, the elbow less than that, and the shoulder only occasionally raises a bit for extra oomph. It's just more energy efficient. The only difference would be that hammering requires more force than drumming, and it might be that to use an appropriate weight of hammer for it would necessitate using a bit less of the weak-link joints in that system... wrist and fingers.

I don't know so much, but thanks. Also, somebody buy me a fancy hammer! Please?

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You know, I played the drums or about 11 years now, and it reminds me of the progression that most drummers go through with their stick motion. To begin with, you have a tense "hammer grip" and flail your arms around a lot. A very course motion. Over time, most people put their palms down and work in a whipping "snap" that moves the fingers most, the wrists less, the elbow less than that, and the shoulder only occasionally raises a bit for extra oomph. It's just more energy efficient.

 

Bingo! And yeah, with the weight of the hammer and the need to move the steel, we use the elbow and shoulder most of the time. It took me a few years to figure out how to forge to shape leaving a minimum of hammer marks to clean up. The answer? Hammer control first and foremost, a properly crowned hammer face second, followed by doing the finishing heats with a lighter hammer and/or light blows at a lower temperature.

 

Yes, this means more heats, but proper normalization afterwards restores the steel's structure.

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I se a 4 lb sledge hammer for most of my forging. i've never had any joint problems as of yet. i do agree with don though it's of vital importance not to grip the tar out of it especially at the point of impact.. i find that i can generate incredible amounts of power and still have a relaxed forging technique. providing. i'm standing up straight, well balanced, the hammer is hitting flat on.

most importantly i'm relaxed. if you pay attention you can feel your body absorbing a great deal of shock if your tensed. that shock is damaging you as opposed to moving steel. Also never put your thumb on the back of the handle. Doing this acts like a spring and may seem like a good idea if it werent for the fact that your thumb is a peice of flesh and bone not 5160. one smith seemed proud of the fact that what he was doing was crippling him..

 

As far as the hoffi hammer is concerned. i've used them and i just dont like them. while i do advocate a hammer that is ballanced front and back i find the heads too squat for my personal liking.. his hammer tricks seem sound but i dont draw anything out with the edge of my hammer anyhow. i can just use a cross pein on the edge of the anvil just as effectively if not more so on acount of aim. personal choice i imagine

 

starting out your going to be sore regardless, but if your careful and pay attention to what your doing you can avoid a great deal of injury.

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