My name is Ken Mermelstein. I own and operate Stumptown Forge with my wife Catherine in Beavercreek, OR. Blacksmithing is everything to me. You see I was able to live my dream one year ago today to become a full time blacksmith. In my previous life I made a lot of money but pined to be in the forge every waking hour of the day. I was 35 years old and realized that if I was going to do what I love that I better get after it. I did some metal smithing in college so I felt comfortable around fire and metal so I signed up for a metal welding class at Clackamas Community College. There I learned how to mig and tig weld in short order and learned how to really use a cutting torch so I started making fish as I am an avid Fly Fisherman. From there I couldn't keep my hands off metal. Every waking hour outside of my xxxxxxx corporate job was spent at making. You know just xxxxxxx making things with your hands. Gosh I have never felt as alive when I swing the hammer.
My wife of 22 years saw my passion and purchased as blacksmithing class from Dan Klugh in Portland Or. It was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. I spent the best weekend of my life in a forge bleeding and smiling. I became a searcher.I wanted to learn everything blacksmithing. I joined the NWBA, I joined ABANA, I went to every class I could afford. I trained with Berkley Tack, forged for 1 year at Fort Vancouver on the weekends. And lets be honest for those of you who know me, I looked somewhere between an Oompa Loompa and a wedge. But you know at all avenues I was encouraged. After 2 years of forging I began reading anvilfire when it was cool and then this forum and learned about a man named Uri Hofi.
I read Uri's very giving information on hammers and after a couple of years my arm would hurt as much as I was forging. So much so that the one outlet I had from work was being tapered down. Again, for those who know me more of a hyper active Ooompa Loompa, anyways, I don't like a lot of down time. So I set out to take a class with Uri Hofi. Imagine my wife's Catherine's surprise of me telling her 60 hour corporate husband, weekend blacksmith now wishes to spend time away from the kids, not have a vacation, and spend $900 bucks for a class!!!! Oh yeah the proverbial*********** (after begging forgiveness) and got on a plane from Oregon (First Class as I had the frequent flier mileage) and went to New York were I went to Ed Mack's place for a class with Uri.
Uri's classes are well documented so I will save the forging details. However for me it was life changing. You see I grew up as an athlete, you know wanna be wrestler, mini football lineman, hockey, soccer, and karate. So when Uri spoke about the technique I heard things for the first time I hadn't heard anywhere. Not only how to hold the hammer but, check it out this 60 ish old man is kicking mine and everyone's butt. Now when you see Uri Forge all the ****** about his credentials stop. He is a master blacksmith. He has earned all of our respect. He had some amazing revelations not that anything was new he just saw it first. Now its like saying well it was always there but yeah like Einstein the atom has always been there but until someone spends the time to think. You know that grey stuff getting used...then and only then is it a revelation!
These are only a few:
1. Your body is a tool that should be protected.
2. The hammer handle should be double tapered so that it forms to your hand and your hand "KNOWS" where it its
3. How to hold the hammer gently between your first two fingers and thumb so that you can hold your wrist palm facing down so that you have no stops causing joint damage. By the way this is as far as I know how it became known as an ERGO Hammer. Certainly before my time
4. That a hammer should be used as a fullering edge while forging by striking with the edge of the face of the hammer
You understand at the time he was the only one saying this stuff. People around me were murmuring like passed gas in church had just taken place...not that I'd know...this isn't true= E + MV2 and E=MC2 and how can this old Hofi guy kicking my butt.
But you see as they say....the truth will set you free. Hofi was right about his style. That he really understood something cool. You see as a Fly Fisherman there is this cool trick called a double hall cast. This means you cast forward and you pull the line with your hand. This pre-loads the rod and with your forward shot you can cast another 50 feet, I mean 20 feet of line. But Hofi figured out that if you used the hammer and the anvil and fullering edges that your work output would be dramatic.
This is why the hammer head is never struck flat but always at a slight angle when forging. The degree of the hammer tilt determines the aggressiveness of the divots or fullering effect , or drawing out. Now you see, or may not how cool this is. Now by tilting the hammer not only can we steer the metal any way we want it to go but ...bam...no wasted motion....and check it out you can even use geometry to start your points back on the point to preserve heat.
Well you know why he is famous. Why Jesse James went to Isreal...kinda funny...to train from Uri...Its also why I worked for one year studying all aspects and corresponding with Uri. You see I got very, very, lucky. Uri made a phone call to some Russian guy. Seriously you can hardly understand him. He was his student. He was a Japanese Knife Maker.....ya tya da whatever. I got on the phone and met one of my now best friends and mentor Arnon Karmazov of Bridgetown Forge.
Lets just say it was a match made in heaven. Like a groupy I drove to Arnon's Shop dressed in business wear watching a real full time ***** Smith. For those of you who have watched Arnon to say he is excellent is an understatement.
There I met a whole gang of full time blacksmith's in Oregon and Washington. I took every class I could and really learned the art of smithing from my teacher Daryl Nelson who spent the last 8 years dealing with the fact I wouldn't swing the hammer his way but I copied everthything else. Among my teachers and probably regretting it are Mark Aspery, Joe Elliot, I met my dear friend John Emmerling who was the first smith I remember saying wow what a business man and artist. You can see his one heat tong jig on you-tube and all of using ribbon burners today owe John a nod. But you see, even though I was a hobbiest, worse a corporate retail guy, and they still welcomed me, encouraged me and mentor me to this day. Not just in blacksmithing but in life. Over the years these guys gave me the knowledge and confidence that now at 43 I can say I have had the best year of my life.
So what does this have to do with Ergonomic Hammers....Well you see one year ago I was reading this very forum. Several complaints and like many comments about Ergo hammers are just plain ignorant of how the tool is used. Let me give you an example. I still read on this forum that a balanced or ergo hammer is supposed so balance with the hammer in the air. How silly. I can make this do that on a 3 lb but on a 1.5lb oops too much handle. No.... its just that this type of hammer has a specific use. Its designed for moving metal fast.....
Now if you want to learn the Hofi method buy his video. etc...or go to the students of Hofi's to learn what he as taught us.
You see my journey didn't stop. I went back to Hofi again for his advanced class, and then later spend a couple of weeks at his Smithy in Ein Shemer Kibutz in Isreal. You can read the reflections of that trip in Iforge in Hofi's Blueprints. His method of forging works that is why he is what he is. Probably the most influential Blacksmith teacher of our time.
This is where the ergonomic hammer story begins. You see I realized that I loved making tools and that there was a real need for high quality hammers in our market. When Tom Clack passed away, which buy the way he copied then marketed all of Uri's ideas, which was the backbone of his entire business save power hammers. I was watching Ebay and seeing poor copies of well lets just say polished chinese hammers being sold as Hofi Hammers.
Now nothing ticks me off more that one guy trying to get over on another. Now if you really want to **** me off do that with blacksmithing tools. This stuff must be good. Our work and lives depend on our tools.
This lead me to developing my line of Ergonomic Hammers and Farrier Hammers and Tools
Imagine an American made hammer not made in some machine but hand forged that was already ground and polished had the scale removed and you could get it reasonably. I mean **** $130 bucks for a hammer is just too much.
Since August my wife and I have made several thousand hammers that have been sold all over the world. I have designed a hammer that unlike my teachers hammer can tilt at 41 degrees giving it the most aggressive fullering effect on the market. Why....because the hammer is Balanced to Tilt. NOW we can understand how the terms Balanced, and ERGO hammers were created. First because for business or personal reasons the people copying Hofi's hammers decided it was just easier to re-write history then to deal with Hofi.
Whatever the reasons who ***** cares......
The fact is that we owe this type of hammers origin to Uri's Design. My company Stumptown Forge is trying to push the envelope of how aggressive and well balanced we can get each weight of hammer. In fact the reason our tools are doing well is that darn it we made good hammers. Our standard rounding and cross peens are made from 4340 and our Ergonomic Hammers are made from 4142. Each billet is hand forged by me. They bounce straight for conventional smiths. I am the blacksmith. You see. I made the bad tool posted on this forum purchased from a reputable Blacksmith tool dealer. To the dealer and customer I am sorry. I am also sorry as a craftsman that if my poor work caused a person to be disappointed. You see I purchased one of those 130 dollar hammers once and was very disappointed with my purchase. This is why we stand behind each and every tool we make. You see even in a tool failure like the mis-punched hole is a chance to keep on smithing.
You see I know that every hammer you purchase from our smithy represents the hopes that I had when I first lit a forge. The dream of the perfect tool, heat, making....
I can tell you that since August when we started we have almost no defects in our hammers. My hammers are professionally heat treated, tested, and batch certified because first and foremost a blacksmith tool should be safe. I can tell you that now, due to demand... thank all of you, we are now having both standard and short ergonomic handles made by one of the oldest handle manufactures in America. The same company who made the Model T's spokes. The 4142 that we use allows a much deeper hardening than 4140. We harden to RC 52-54 + - 2. I will also say that my family prepares all parts of the hammers like most family businesses.
You see I am not nameless. I teach blacksmithing. I serve on the board for the NWBA, I have donated my tools and my knowledge to numerous orginizations. I am proud to be a blacksmith and that it is why I forge each tool. Not spit then out with no care for the user. You see I am not perfect, do not make perfect tools, perfect things. I am however a craftsman and take pride in each and every tool and seek perfection. When I make a mistake I apologize. Say I'm sorry and fix it. In fact, if you ask around I have replaced every hammer handle that my customers hasve broken free of charge. Why...I love what we do we all break handles.
You see I work everyday to perfect my craft. I am sorry I made a very public mistake. However, I can make another. I can make it better. I can do it again. Thank you all for supporting Stumptown Forge Tools.