Gday all, After making a hammer a while ago and modifying one recently, I got to thinking what makes one hammer feel good, balanced, while another similar hammer just feels wrong, or not as good? So what is it? Is it the proportion of the head that is either side of the handle eye? Length of handle?
It's a lever problem. That makes the ratio of head weight to handle length to forearm length a subject of consideration. Ideally, a hammer should be tailored to the arm that swings it, just like a sword. Lately, hammer manufacturers have begun to curve the handles to take advantage of the 'ergonomics' of the human wrist. Think about a hatchet handle; it's curved in the grip. Look at some of the newer framing hammers; curved grips. You might try probing Stanley's website for specs.
I was thinking about this the other day, if you hand is closer to the head you have more control, a the expense of velocity i.e. the end of a long stick moves faster than the end of a short stick moving at the same rotational velocity.
It's a matter of finding the balance point that suits you, and can be done by selecting the "right" hammer or making a custom fitting.
Swords in history generally weren't tailored to the individual, they were just made and sold. Swords of the Viking ages were especially subject to this "mass" production. The common length of a swords grip from this time was 8 - 9 cm. "But Vikings had smaller hands" is the statement I usually get, this is an assumption based on the small size of some archaeological finds. Fact is the people from this time were pretty much our size, and this is based on skeletal remains. I have no idea why the grips were made this small, but have to assume that the wielder would have had to get used to the sword (which was a luxury item).
I've seen hammers with extreme bends in them, I haven't used them myself and am a little wary... anyone used one?
Yes and they are akward if you learned to use a hammer right. Most folks just swing it with no regard to anything other than trying to hit the target. A proper swing starts with the shoulder. If you just start swinging most tend to start with the elbow. That is weak, diffuclt to control and causes joint problems. A hatchet is a different beast and has a different swing and requires a different handle. The "egronomics" is a way to compensate for someone not wanting to learn correct procedure or not using the tool often enough to get use to using it right.
What makes a balances hammer depends on head weight, distributation of head weight, handle lenght, the hand and arm of the swinger and finally the shape of the handle where held.
I did say 'ideally'... I tailored my swords to the weilder whenever possible. Measure the hand, the arm, the length of the fingers. This will give you the spec for a one-hander. For a bastard sword (yeah, I know, all my swords are Bastard Swords...) you extend the arm length measurement to the center of the chest. For a greatsword, you measure from the ground to the sternum for the blade and to the nose for the grip. Balance a one-hand 1/7th of the distance from the guard to the tip. For a thirty inch blade, this works out to a shade over four inches forward of the guard.. You'd be surprized at just how alive it feels in your hand when you get it moving.
A long time ago I heard a rule of thumb for hammer handle length. Grip the head in your hand then measure to the end of you elbow. It's a good starting place to dial in minimum effort for maximum work. I know there is the Uri Hofi school of thought that espouses heavy heads with short handles but it never worked for me. This puts all the stress and effort of swinging the hammer in your forearm and my arms are not proportioned like a gorillas. Plus those guys always seem to work hunched over the anvil with their faces inches from the work piece...... not for me boys! With a longer handle and lighter head I can stand up straight, swing from over my head with complete control and put my entire body into the effort. Feels good, no back ache, more like playing tennis and no scale burns on my face.
But this only indirectly relates to "balance" and balance is probably not the right word to use in regard to a comfortable hammer. A hammer is not a sword! To achieve that sort of balance you would need a counterweight on the opposite end of the handle. Not too practical I think? The "eye" is the source of a comfortable and efficient hammer. It needs to be carefully centered (in all planes) within the hammers central mass. If one end is heavier than the other it will always tend to wobble when the heavy end is up, facing you. Where the handle passes through the eye it is vital the head and handle are at 90? to one another. Double face hammers that have cocked handles will always favor one end and you will definitely feel this. Plus this cocked position will constantly cause the head to come loose due to shock stresses. Hammers that have long bodies (end to end), like for raising or body work can have faces that are slightly pitched down and in fact work much better this way but still you need the handle vertical to the central mass. There are other issues as well. A stubby hammer (very short end to end) is difficult to use because the face is so out of whack with the arc of your swing. I have a "rounding hammer" like this that is just impossible for me to use (pretty though). Finally: flat face vs.crowned face. A softly crowned face is more forgiving than a perfectly flat faced forging hammer. A very close "approximation" of a smooth flat surface is achieveable by even a newbie with a slightly crowned face. A hammer face dressed dead flat is a nightmare of chinks and divots for someone not used to it. BUT, if you practice, practice you will gain control and be able to forge surfaces that look like you used a "flatter" on them. It is a skill that takes time to develope but one that pays off if you make a lot of tools or knives and such.
Offset Japanese hammers evolved that way because Japanese smiths use their anvils at ground level. Which greatly improves the angle of attack for those striking. I have a set of U.S. made "saw tuners" hammers which are almost identical in shape. These however were used for tapping on circular sawmill blades, not hot forging. They do take getting used to and honestly I see no advantage for forge work done at a knuckle height anvil. They do look cool though. As for so called ergonomic curved handles I say bullocks. Think marketing B.S.here. Save the curved handles for scythes and adz's. Instead put more effort into shaping a straight handle to fit your grip. Play with the proportions of the handle taper to get a bit of springiness without sacrificing strength. I am no Luddite but there are good reasons why some basic designs and proportions have and should remain unchanged for millienia.
Strike while it's hot, Glen G. in Pgh, Go Steelers
For me, a handle's length is not as important as its shape. I skive my hammer handles down until they are slab sided and about half the width of a stock handle, then sand them down until they're as smooth as a baby's butt. I think it's worth the effort because it makes for better hammer control, more accuracy, and less fatigue.
Hey Charles, You know, I had it spelled correctly then changed it. Just an ignorant Yank here! Actually I cut my handles to measure from wrist to elbow. I make a lot of my own handles. Years ago i cut down an Ash tree and sectioned some chunks to handle length. Now I just split off "blanks" as needed and shape them with a draw knife and hand tools. A sort of slab sided oval cross section works for me. I like to use a cabinet scraper for final shaping and smoothing. Then I run a "fine"wood rasp over the grip area for a bit of extra traction. I follow the rasp with enough smoothing to take off the nubs and splintery bits and I'm done save for some wood oil.
Well, I know this isn't so useful, but I'd have to say that a lot of it depends...
First, on me-- am I "in shape" for forging? If I haven't really used a hammer for a few months my hands and wrists get weak and I just can't swing a really heavy hammer all day. If I've been getting in a lot of forging in then I can swing a four or five pound sledge for hours on end. So I need to fit the hammer to myself, first.
It also depends on the job... When I'm driving a drift through a fairly thick piece of metal I like a short-handled sledge, and I give it a good pounding... When I'm working on more delicate stuff, like small knives or s-hooks, I like a light hammer, maybe 500--750 grams.
I think the forging hammers I user the most are: General-purpose "go-to" hammer: 1,000 gram Peddinghouse Swiss-pattern hammer. For Heavy work: 1,500--2,000 gram French-pattern Peddinghouse Rounding hammer (the ones I have are pretty standard -- not sure of the weight)
I don't think I have any hammers that feel bad to use... maybe just too heavy. Just so you know, I have about 15 hammers, some cheap ones from Harbor Freight, and some hand-made ones for sheet metal work.On all of them I sand the handles to gently undulate so they fit my hand better. I don't like straight-handled hammers, but prefer them to have a bit of a swell where I hold them. I try to put one "swell" where I usually hold it, and another farther down the handle so I can get a good swing going. I tend to like long handles, at least for medium (1,000 grams) to light weight hammers.
I have a Uri Hofi-style hammer, with a shortish/squarish head and handle, and I've been trying to get used to it. The one I have is a smaller one, and I think I need a heaver version to really do it justice. I've seen demos with people using that style of hammer, and they really kick ass at moving metal, but I haven't been able to get the good hammer mojo going... So far I prefer the 1,000g Swiss-style Peddinghouse.
Now that I think of it, the only hammers I've had that feel bad to use have needed their faces dressed properly. Once the face was ground and sanded a bit they have all worked fine.
Chilla wrote in news:452ad13a$0$11969$ firstname.lastname@example.org:
Well.......first off ya' gotta aquire a baby. Makin' your own is quite a bit of fun. Whole lot more fun than raisin' the critters is. After ya' get a baby lay it on your anvil butt up (no diaper), get your hammer handle and start comparin'. Prett' simple really.
I read a book the other day about off set turning, can get a nice ovoid from a wood lathe, can get some really different shaped and makes a change from perfectly round... guess I'll have to make my handles too :-)