Harbor Freight hammers

I picked up a few inexpensive Chinese hammers from Harbor Freight a few weeks ago, just to see how they work out. These have wood handles and smallish heads, in the 1-2 pound range. When you look on the top of the head in the eye where you'd expect to see a wedge, there is a smooth white plastic looking filling. Today I was using the smallest one for the first time and the head flew right off. I realized what that white stuff is. It's hot glue, like from a hobbyist hot glue gun!

I like the hammers so far but it looks like I'm going to have to rework all the head fastening. Takes some of the joy out of a new 2# crosspeen for $2.59 ..

Grant Erwin Kirkland, Washington

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On Mon, 15 Sep 2003 15:33:38 -0700, Grant Erwin

Chuckle..been there, done that. Unlike the fiberglass that is in the top of an Irwin, etc..that simply cosmetic.

I always make a point of digging that stuff out of Chinese hammers/hatchets etc and pounding in a wedge. Once you do that. they are useful.

Gunner

" >> ......The world has gone crazy. Guess I'm showing my age... I think it dates from when we started looking at virtues as funny. It's embarrassing to speak of honor, integrity, bravery, patriotism, 'doing the right thing', charity, fairness. You have Seinfeld making cowardice an acceptable choice; our politicians changing positions of honor with every poll; we laugh at servicemen and patriotic fervor; we accept corruption in our police and bias in our judges; we kill our children, and wonder why they have no respect for Life. We deny children their childhood and innocence- and then we denigrate being a Man, as opposed to a 'person'. We *assume* that anyone with a weapon will use it against his fellowman- if only he has the chance. Nah; in our agitation to keep the State out of the church business, we've destroyed our value system and replaced it with *nothing*. Turns my stomach- "

Chas , rec.knives

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Grant Erwin wrote:

I think you just disclosed the origin of that olde expression, "Now, don't fly off the handle about this, but..."

Jeff

-- Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)

"If you can keep smiling when things go wrong, you've thought of someone to place the blame on."

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I'm surprised the lawyer types aren't all over this. Surely someone could claim some kind of injury and sue for big bucks couldn't they? Lane

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Lane wrote:

Don't encourage them!

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Grant Erwin wrote:

I had to replace my HF 2# cross-peen hammer yesterday. The head started flying off. Once the glue fell out, I put a wedge in the top of the handle, and did the "soak in water upside-down" trick. The handle is just too small at the top inside the hammer casting. I ended up getting a made in USA 2# cross-peen for $6.50 at a REAL hardware store. No glue, and a nice & tight hickory natural finish handle.

Hope this helps

--
John L. Weatherly
Nashville, TN
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wrote:

...>>

i have had a HF 24oz Claw hammer for 5yrs, still as new but it only gets occaisional use, which is just about what they are suited for. a lot of HF hand tools are like that, if you intend to make a living with them, good luck. --Loren

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As of late, I've been filling my axe handles with 5 minute epoxy. It's been an experiment so far, but I did a 5# axe and an 8# axe and the handles haven't budged at all since. I got the idea when looking at some axes in a store and noticed that most were filled with epoxy. I figure if the handle breaks, I'll just drill & chisel the junk out.

--G--

On Mon, 15 Sep 2003 19:27:26 -0700, Grant Erwin

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I got a nice Chinese cross-pein hammer from Pacific Industrial. Handle attached to head with a steel wedge. The first time I used it in earnest, the wood handle shattered in my hand. After digging them out with an ex-acto, the splinters and the rest of the hammer went in the trash.

Bob

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On 16 Sep 2003 19:24:08 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@dogpatch.com (Bob Powell) pixelated:

"Next time you might try holding it by the wooden part and using the -metal- part to strike your object, Bob." said the guy who -has- replaced sledge handles before. ;) - Interpreted Interpolations Done Dirt Cheap. ----------- http://diversify.com Website Application Programming

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Grant Erwin wrote:

Choose from the following responses:

1) You get what you pay for. 2) Buy American, your job depends on it. 3) Fast, Good, Cheap, choose two. 4) Of course the Chinese deserve WTO status 5) All of the above 6) None of the above

Charly

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It has been a while since I posted, but I thought I would pass on several comments regarding Harbor Freight hammers, and hammer handles in general.

First, the quality of the Chinese hammers varies to a great extent, but most are actually pretty good, so far as the steel goes. I bought a large lot of 2 pound smithing hammers a number of years ago to pass out to my apprentices, one to each man at the start of his time in my shop. The first task he has to do is remove the handle, clean out the "potting," reshape the hammer handle to fit his hand properly, and then properly set the handle. It takes most of them a full day to do this right.

Since I now make or remake most of my hammers, especially Repousse' hammers, I always put a lot of time and care into shaping the handles to fit my hand correctly. I recently learned the importance of doing this carefully and correctly. I had a piece of ironwork that needed to be cold "adjusted," and it was a simple matter of inserting a feather wedge and driving it home repeatedly, and testing the fit each time I removed it. It was a task that took half a day to do the four parts that needed precise fitting. For such general bashing of cold 1/4" thick by 2" wide iron I don't use my good smithing hammers, but one of the Chinese hammers that I reset the head on, but never bothered to shape the handle. That was a huge mistake. By the time I was done I had a distinct pain in my right hand at the base of my middle finger. Over the next few weeks the pain got much worse. I finally gave in and went to the doctor. I was quickly referred to a specialist in hand problems. I had created a problem called "Trigger Finger," and after six months of treatment I can either just live with it and be careful, or have an operation where they cut one of the "pulleys" in the hand. What struck me right between the eyes was what the doctor said to me. He asked me if I had been using a hammer with a straight handle a lot lately! When I explained what I had done, he explained the reason to form the handle carefully. A straight handle will apply the impact shock to the exact same location on your hand each time you strike, where a formed handle distributes the force, and also shifts the point of impact on the hand each blow, preventing the damage I had caused.

Well, I can tell you that my general "bang around shop hammer" now has a very nicely formed handle, like all the rest of my 50 or 60 hammers. It was pure stupidity, and laziness for me not to have worked the handle on that one hammer too. It has caused a problem that I will live with until I lay down my hammers permanently. I have been hammering iron since 1958, and not until this year did I manage to cause permanent damage to my hand. Now-days most of my heavy forming and shaping is done with my power hammer, or I use my fly-press, but one time of carelessness and ignorance cost me the remainder of my life to have a painful problem I need to care for and be careful of. Shape your hammers carefully, and that means they need have a very narrow neck to take out the shock, a smoothly contoured swelling in the center to allow you to grasp it firmly, and another narrow section toward the back end for the contours of your hand to fit into.

My personal mentor, Nahum Hersom, an 85 year old Repousse' artist, taught me how to form my handles years ago so that you can hammer all day without having your hand get tired. As he showed me, you should be able to come up behind any smith at work and basically lift the hammer right out of his hand at any time during the stroke, except at the moment of impact. The hand needs to be relaxed, with the shape of the handle keeping the hammer in place in your hand, preventing it from flying out. Shaping your hammer handles correctly is arguably the most important thing you will do in tooling up of your smithy.

Heed the above words, or not. It is only your entire future of hammering that may be at risk if you don't shape your handles carefully. As I said, I have hammered since 1958 without a problem, and four hours of hammering with a poorly shaped hammer handle and I now have a permanent lifetime injury. Don't do that to your hand. Being lazy or careless just isn't an excuse. I regret my stupidity, and will continue to do so for the 15-20 years of my remaining life. I have learned how to work around the problem, but it was sure a lot nicer when I didn't have to.

Yours,

Ron

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wrote:

Great report . Can you show a picture of the shape. I swing a Estwing brick hammer alot everyday pounding concrete nails and chipping gunite. With the Estwing claw hammer I can't set concrete nails for the life of me , I'll pull off a job if I forgot the brick hammer at home. I just looked at it and its straight except it has a wider end. I have about 10 hammers and would like to know more about what your saying. I had to retire my old one , I call it the shaw shank redemption hammer. I wonder if they would send me a new one if I shipped it to them. I have one china hammer somewhere , it feels bad , sounds horrible ( the handle is tight ) , and a plain piece of junk IMO. Maybe the dog will find it a choke on it.

Don't believe those MD's , I was cured of tennis elbow by a guy I ran into in a post office. His card says Theraputic Massage, Reflexology, Polarity, & Reiki . I was to the point of seriously changing jobs cause I couldn't swing a hammer and many other things for months. I'm pretty skeptical and when this guy grabbed my arm with arms that seemed as big as my thighs I was worring about other things. Within 15 seconds the pain was gone. I have noticed that I should stay away from the air powered chipping hammer , which did it in the first place. Check it out before you let them cut on you !

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On Wed, 15 Oct 2003 01:44:12 GMT, Sunworshiper

I don't know if it was tennis elbow - never played tennis in my life - but several years ago I developed an annoying ache just outside of my right "funny bone". Finally my doctor got me an appointment with a physical therapist at a rehab centre. On my first visit the very pleasant "eye candy" 90 pound therapist looked me over and said "You've been on crutches for a while in the last couple years, haven't you." Then she went on to explain that the use of crutches strengthens muscles along the spine, giving a hunched back, and if not remedied by exercise, affects nerves from the arms. Five minutes of straightening exercise twice a day for a week and the problem was gone after more than a year of discomfort. It's amazing how little it takes sometimes. Gerry :-)} London, Canada

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Great info there Ron!

You just explained why my hand was sore after I spent about an hour and a half chiseling off a "bulge" along one edge of our home's 120 foot long blacktop driveway.

We'd had the old driveway completely torn out and replaced last spring.. I complimented the paving company on the nice job they did and paid them off. A couple of weeks later I noticed the line of one edge didn't follow the same smooth curve as the other edge, but bulged out about 5 inches wider than it should have been in over about a 20 feet portion of its length..

Once I saw that I couldn't stop noticing it and got pissed off every time I looked at it.

I figured it would be easier and quicker to DIY it than to try and get the paving contractor to come back and do it. I attacked it with a 4 inch wide mason's chisel and my old 5 pound short handled sledge. The job went easy enough as the weather was hot and the blacktop was still "green", but took lots of heavy hammer strokes to complete. When I got through my striking hand was hurting and remained somewhat tender for about a month.

I don't think I did any permanent damage thank G-d, but that hand sledge of mine has a straight stiff handle. This weekend I'm gonna attack it with a spokeshave and belt sander and shape it like you described. I hope I know when to stop when thinning nown the neck part, or I'm gonna get a graphic description of something "flying off the handle."

Jeff

--
Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)

"If you can smile when things are going wrong, you've thought of someone to
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Ron Reil wrote:

Do you have any pictures that show the correct shape of a handle? I'm a really visual guy & I'm having trouble figuring out where the bulges should be.

Thanks much, and good luck with the hand!

- ken

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I received a lot of e-mails, and there are some postings here also, about the shape of the hammer handles I use. If you will look at the following image,

http://www.reil1.net/hammers.jpg , it shows a variety of my hammers, all with the same basic handle design. I form every one by feel, and no two are identical, which is probably a good thing, because switching hammers changes any potential pressure points. The hammer that is second from the left is the offending hammer that did all the damage to my hand, and that is now properly shaped. It is a Chinese hammer, and is one of the hammers I give to my apprentices. I do not have all of my hammer handles shaped this way, only those that I tend to use for long periods of time, or to use with a lot of force. The Repousse' hammers on the right can easily be in my hand for 8-9 hours in a day. The Peddinghaus hammer in the center has a new looking handle in it, even though I have had it for three years, because I simply have not used that hammer like I thought I would. I bought two of them of different weights, and have not found them to be hammers that I will normally choose for a task. The Ferrier's hammer on the far left is my favorite hammer, and the one I use more than any other for general forge work. The hammer to the right of the Peddinghaus is a converted ball peen. It has a 45 degree angled peen on the ball end (hard to see), and the other end I formed into a square shape. I use that hammer a lot too, as well as several others. BIG ball peen hammers are wonderful to forge into hammers of this type, and are far more useful for everyday forging when reshaped like this than their original shape, although you do want a full assortment of normal ball peens in your rack too. Most ball peens in my opinion have too small a radius for the ball on the end. I like to reform them to have a flatter curve in many cases. When you are dishing the backs of leaves, a flatter curve does a much nicer job if the curvature isn't extreme. And of course, dish them hot on the end grain of some kind of hardwood log. I make wood anvil tools that are simply sections of Madrona tree with a hole drilled in the bottom, and a 1" square rod driven in to allow it to fit the hardy hole on my anvil. I have four anvils in my shop and two of them are on removable casters so that I can roll them over under my exhaust hood for work such as hot dishing of leaves, otherwise the shop would be full of smoke.

If you are interested in my shop layout or tools, go to my Shop at a Glance page, http://www.reil1.net/glance.shtml . I have lots of images there of all parts of my shop and my tooling. It is there, as well as my Shop Construction Page, which is linked from the Glance page, to give beginning smiths ideas that may be of value to them for tooling, general shop layout, and specialty features to consider when building a shop.

Yours,

Ron

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pixelated:

Cool. Just a bit of rounding makes all the difference, putting the bulge in the middle of your hand?

Do you have one of the bulbous-ended, thin-handled Repousse' hammers? I've seen them in repousse' books. They look like a cross between a ball peen and a bodyman's hammer, with a large, thin face. I read that the handle was thin and flexible to allow the recoil to be absorbed, saving the silver/goldsmith's hand/wrist.

I always wondered why they had that precise shape when most usage had overlapping taps. The last time I used one like that was in 8th grade shop. <blush>

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Do you happen to have some pictures you can share? I'd sure like to see what you're describing.

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