The Grasshopper DOES look busy. Perhaps it's even more work to build
than other hammers - I don't know because I haven't built any others.
To allow for the need to properly build the thing, the plans for it
are detailed. I think they're easy to follow.
But let me explain WHY the Grasshopper looks so different from other
The original premise of the Grasshopper was to have a vertical-motion
hammer that did not rely on sliders or rollers. Remember, Sheppard's
Big Lick (slider-mounted vertical-motion hammer) and Spencer's
vertical-motion hammer were inspirations for the Grasshopper. Both of
those had been developed before I started on the Grasshopper.
So why no rollers or sliders? Both of these mechanisms are subject to
dirt and wear. Blacksmiths shops are nothing if not gritty. (That
scale from your hot iron and that ash from your coal both make pretty
good abrasives.) Furthermore, though sliders and rollers seem simple,
and may be simple to construct, I suspect some continuing effort has
to go into keeping them in adjustment.
But the big reason is stroke. Both sliders and rollers must engage
the ram over a considerable distance, and the stroke of the hammer is
thereby limited. With the Grasshopper, the hammer stroke is 34". The
clearance over the anvil is something like 22" (See the website for
better stats.) That's unique for a vertical hammer.
If that were all there was to a Grasshopper, you could drop off two
major subassembly - that makes the thing look busy. Those
subassemblies are the eccentric pulley and the kickback adjustment.
You can build the hammer without these, but you'll be missing a lot of
the advantages. The eccentric pulley provides for a completely
weightless ram. The springs don't lift the ram, they balance it. You
can position the ram anywhere in the stroke and it stays there.
Hence, you don't have to fight the springs as you work.
Now, to compensate for the lack of lift by the springs, it's necessary
to add a little lifting force right at the bottom of the stroke. I
call this "kickback". The mechanism to create the kickback looks
imposing but is rather simple in fact.
Another major advantage of the Grasshopper is that the adjustments
(kickback and treadle position) are made from the front, and are so
quick that they can be made between pulling your iron out of the fire
and putting it on the anvil. (There ARE other adjustments, but
they're made once when the hammer is first set up, then left alone.)
This means you never have to stop to make an adjustment and you never
have go around or reach around the side of the hammer to make the
adjustments. That's quicker and safer.
Hope this helps.