I have experienced the first twinges of RSI, but this was in my student
years doing computing, not beating the crap out of a piece of hot metal.
I don't get any pain at all from impact, so can forge until the muscles
bunch up and become too swollen to move. The reason my arms are like
this is due to a side effect from some strength and coordination
exercises I do.
The exercises can be done by yourself, however a partner will give a
The equipment :- a sledge hammer handle and something to hit, either a
solid wooden post in the backyard, or a partner similarly equipped with
a sledge hammer handle. It is advisable to get a cricket glove for your
hammer hand if you have a workout partner.
Basically the sledge when striking a solid object will transfer some of
the vibration and impact into your forearm. The first few times your
forearms feel like they're going to explode, however your muscles adapt
and you learn to hit without getting damaged. This means that you can
hit with solid force and be fine.
Sounds like crap, but it worked for me. I could video the exercises if
anyone wanted them.
One of the things my silversmithing instructor recommended was leather
bicycling gloves with gel-packed palms. It helps absorb the vibrations.
You can get fingerless ones and wear them under regular leather gloves as
I've found soreness in the holding arm more common than in the hammer
arm. Lots of beginners hold the work with a death grip. Since that arm
isn't moving as much, it gets sore then numb. Even the subconscious
apprehension of a flying piece of red hot steel makes them grip harder.
Later, as they develop both hammer and tong control and maybe do some
exercises to work harden the arms and hands, the problem solves itself.
They develop a better feel for how tight a grip is adequate to the task.
Sooner or later, everyone is going to have something slip and fly. It
does take a while to learn just to let a workpiece fly and pick it up
after it lands. Above all, don't try to catch it, even with good gloves
A trick some of the folks on theforge have mentioned is to drill a
couple of holes a few inches apart in the hammer handle near the head
and jigsaw a cut between them. I haven't tried that, but it would give
the handle more flex and absorb more shock. I just hold my hammers
lightly but firmly and ease my grip just as the hammer hits the steel.
I guide the hammer more than grab it.
I'd guess that you were working the steel too cold and a lot of
vibration was being transferred to you hand. Personally, if I feel any
of that bone-numbing vibration, I stop doing what I am doing and figure
out a different way to hold the work.
I'll bet you had some rather long pieces. That just makes things worse.
You also may have been holding things at odd angles while doing the
work and that will just make things worse.
As you probably already know, you shouldn't work spring steel as cold
as one sometimes works mild steel (or as hot---- nowhere near a welding
Hope I'm close on one or two counts,
Get a bigger hammer. A two pounder is kinda light for spring steel. I use a four
pounder for rough shaping and a three pounder for fine work. Medium orange is
about the right temp, roughly 2200 F. When it goes back to red, back into the
fire. I've beat a LOT of 5160 in my time. It works just like mild steel, just use
a bigger hammer.
I don't 'swing' the four pounder, I let gravity do the work and I just steer it
way down. If your arm wears out quickly, then you're working too hard. Here's
to build endurance... take a one gallon milk jug and fill it halfway with water
curl it while you're watching TV. Do this every night until the arm starts to
Don't count reps. In a week or so, it'll become automatic and you'll be able to
for hours on end. It won't give you bulgy arms like Popeye, but it will
muscles to the repeated strain. I used this when I was tourney fighting in the
build up my shield arm, worked like a champ. That ten pound shield weighed less
less the more I did it. Now, no one wants to fight me; they all say I hit too
really can't figure this out, just because I can pick up a cylinderhead with my
fingertips is no reason to wuss out on a little fighter practice.
Sometimes when I'm pissed off with the world my arms get tired faster
and the 4 lb hammer takes its toll ;-)
I use HA shields myself, they don't need to be as thick as SCA shields,
as we use metal in combat not rattan cane. A club will do more impact
damage than a sword.
I thought the point of SCA combat was to hit as hard as possible, well
that was the reason an SCA friend gave me for the non-HA armour i.e. 12
gauge sheet and lots of padding. So your friends shouldn't complain.
You need to find more friends that are a little tougher... getting hit
with a sledge hammer handle (my training sword) without armour toughens
you up a little.
P.S. Although you go down like a sack of potatoes when hit in the
When Chilla put fingers to keys it was 2/6/07 4:28 PM...
The object is to hit the other guy just hard enough to get him to take it.
_Usually_ that's not "as hard as possible". I've never hit anyone as
hard as I could. No need.
I've only intentionally hit a few guys harder than I think is
reasonable. Once it was after I had killed all his squires with
reasonable shots and hit him with several reasonable shots then some
shots that were reasonable+. I did finally give him a good clobber, I
hope his kidney armor was good. Even that shot was _slightly_ moderated.
Most of the time the fighting and calibration is quite reasonable. I'm
proud to say that my armor is not all that thick and it has very few
dents, because I don't _make_ the other guy hit me that hard.
-- Carl aka Meister Frydherik Eysenkopf, OL, OTC, etc...
I don't hit as hard as I can either. Usually 'planish' is more than enough. I
have four force levels; planish, bend, forge, and weld. I have only had to go
to forge once, and that opponent had to be helped from the field. But... he
was a notorious rhino. Do you remember the guy with the bowling ball on a
post that went around the Knowne Worlde in the mid eighties? I ran across him
at a Pennsix and managed to move the ball a little over seven feet with my
'too hard' shot. When he published in TI, I ran the math on the shot and the
answer came up a little over 3000 ft/lb/secs. Damn, that's almost five
horsepower! I really try not to hurt anyone, this is supposed to be just a
game, after all. My tank suit is made from roadsign aluminum. It protects me
from the Bruise Brigade, but I can feel the lightest tap, as I don't wear
padding under it. Only fourteen pounds, nose to toes. Yeah, it's not a period
metal, but it's infinitely better than ABS. I call 'em pretty light, bruises
and contusions interfere with the 'evening activities'.
Charly, the Last Dworf in Ansteorra
I've only been hit in the 'janglies' once. It picked me up and tossed me back
about ten feet. Good thing I had a steel cup on that day. 12 ga
sheet? Must have been from the East Kingdom. Tourney fighting in the SCA is
more of a martial sport than a historical recreation, so there is
considerable lattitude given in the equipment end. Long ago, we used to use
freon cans for helms, and carpet for body armor. Thankfully, those
days are long gone with the increase in good metalworkers that a maturing
organization brings. Down here in Ansteorra, (Texas and Oklahoma) we
still have a lot of leather armor, due to the heat/himudity of summer in the
area. It's tough to hang out in 98/98 in the ohtoobright sun in
steel plate and still be able to go four rounds or more of elimination on the
field. There have been times that the field was the winner, Gulf
Warz I springs to mind. The event has since been moved to mid-March. South
Mississippi in June is a real killer.
You might consider a treadle hammer. It's in between a hand hammer and a
powered hammer. The muscles in your legs do the work. And each blow
can do a lot more work. The treadle hammer also allows both hands free
to hold work and tools. Depending on the design, one can be built for
as little as $250 or so, depending on your ability to scrounge.
When Rob put fingers to keys it was 2/5/07 9:26 AM...
Too much shock is being transmitted to your hand, find ways to cut that
down. Things that might make a difference:
Ease up on your work grip. Use fingers instead of the palm.
Find ways to hit the work that don't make it buck (as much) in your hand.
Don't hold the work by the end.
Slip some thin closed-cell foam into the glove, if you can do palm,
fingers, and thumb, that'd be great. I have a glove for armoring that
has foam in the thumb and forefinger, it's a big win.
As has been mentioned, work hotter. (The bigger hammer will make the
work go better (if you can work it) but the shock-to-the-hand is a
separate issue, and could be made worse by the bigger hammer, depending
on what is causing your problem.)
Use tongs. Real tongs, not a vise-grip. You want the slightly sloppy
connection, so that the shock is not well-transmitted.
I read a book about automotive spring steels and they only named off
and discussed the most common and that was about a dozen of them. ;)
60 types was mentioned as a total number of different alloys used,
and this was a late 80's book.
No kidding they can swap steels and sometimes not even have to
modify the process times or temperatures from what they were using
for the steel they happened to be using before.
I go along with calling all that-steel-5160 as much as anyone, but
want you to know that's only a good(?) guess. Even my spark testing
wouldn't necessarily tell me either, a blacksmith could prob'ly tell
me quicker "how it feels under the hammer" that two automotive
spring steels are different.
5160 vs 6150 vs 9260 for example.
Alvin in AZ
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