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I Forge Iron

Stumptown Forge

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  1. 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 xxxxx xxxxxx 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 xxxxx xxxxxx, 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.

  2. You know I am one of those production guys making nice rounding hammers for Farriers. I have learned the value of a good tool. I pride
    myself every time I hand forge a hammer that it bears my mark. I think to myself, wow. I kid you not, I like making fine tools or at least the
    best I can make them.

    Whether you sell them wholesale or retail the money reflects the considerable amount of thought, time and skill that was put in by Blacksmiths
    many of us doing this for a living. I say what was told to me in a story by my first Blacksmith teacher Dan Klug.

    "The young apprentice was admiring a hammer that a Blacksmith was using. The Blacksmith unimpressed looked at the apprentice and said, " you like it?
    your a Blacksmith, go make one."

    We pride ourselves as Blacksmiths wether we make sculpture, Railings, Gates, knives or hammers. I sell my tools with pride. Made by me the best I can make them.
    If you have a better hammer use it and enjoy. Or better yet you figure out through years of hammering what you like and make your own. We are after all the tool makers.post-601-0-13896700-1296508818_thumb.jpg

  3. Guys I have been using handles that are glued as my teacher Hofi and my friend and fellow smith Arnon have been using for years. We find that it is huge advantage first It is not glue but a flexible rubber sealer Sika Flex. You fit your handle and then as Hofi does you grind a groove the around the top of the handle then you glue and let it set. Being in the Northwest in the wet handles become loose usually within a year. I have had these handles as long as 8 years and in every case the handle failed first. Now the best part you simply heat the eye portion of the head when a handle breaks with a small torch and the old handle falls out and you simply glue a new one in!

    I am telling Farriers who buy my hammers to glue their handles in and all of mine that I handle are prepared this way. No more soaking hammers.

  4. I have used both H13 and 4340 with great results. I have access to a very good heat treating plant and they charge about $80 for 80lbd of 4340 Usually I can get 3-4 pairs of dies treated for this price. These dies have functioned much better than those I have heat treated and quite frankly at that price I cant afford to heat treat dies myself.

  5. Sound like you have a successful way to move the hammer around. I simply rented a large forklift. The anvil weighs 5000 pounds on my 4 B and does have a hole which with I believe a 1 1/2" shaft makes moving the anvil around rather easy. So far the best mounting I have seen for the hammer is to do your pour with room and access ports on both sides of the anvil this allows you to change the timbers or material if it should compact over time. I saw this done on another hammer. The hammer weight is 12,000 pounds which is still pretty easy to move with a large forklift.

    Cant wait to hear more on this project!


  6. After seeing John Emmerlings 400lb De Moor and several large Chambersburgs her in the PNW. Including Larry's nice 3b. I also got the bug for a larger hammer. I am currently playing with my 4B and when the 4N came up....well lets just say its a heck of a hammer. Larry is really accurate about needing to know your long term intentions when you get one of these big hammers. 18,000 pounds does not move easily.

    Thank goodness for the knowledge in the NWBA and on this site to help everyone. There are great ideas out there for not only making these great old hammers work but work like new. Also your foundations choices make an equal impact to the operation of these hammers. Frankly for most of us buying the hammer is the cheap part.

    Plan to spend at least double on your foundation, moving and rigging the hammer, part replacement etc. Not to mention the work to replace and check all the parts. Big hammers sound great and they are, but make sure you are ready for the work that they require. These are not for the faint at heart.

  7. This pursuit truly is about the tools and I have many. Like some have pointed out, a tool is only as good as you have the abililty to use it. I have learned from one of my best blacksmith buddies to be realistice about my use.

    My tool lust began with hand tools, anvils, power hammers etc. However in each learning curve, I learned what I wanted and what I didnt want. I learned the way I wanted the tools to be that I manufacture, and what makes a good tool. I have also learned how to fix, machine, modify and learn about the machines I have possessed and also the ones I have chosen to sell. In fact a lot of my journey as a blacksmith is the tools and tooling itself. How do I work faster how? How do I imporve quality? What adds to the process? How do I find a new voice in my work?

    I now look at my shop as an organism. If a tool goes unused for a year or more its not earning a spot in the shop. I no longer buy tools for what I would like to do but in what I do now and what I will do if I own it. Many of my tools make me a better smith, not because of the tool but becuase of the door it lets me open. However, in the end each tool must earn a home.

  8. Take it from someone not smart enough to learn the old adage that a wire wheel is is the most dangerous tool in our shops. First let me say that the one and only time I have gone to the emergency room blacksmithing was from a wire wheel accident. I have always taken safety precautions but in this event I was brushing an item that was too large with too many bends to be safe. I other words I was rushing. It ended up that the wire wheel grabbed the item and threw it back into my hand. Some major internal washing to remove dirt by the doctors and 14 stitches an I was good as knew. However, I have now started to take a lot more precautions. I starting using air powered angle grinders which do not have nearly the kick-back of electric grinders. I have also started using much thinner diameter wheels and wheel widths.

    I want to remind everyone is that is is probably still the most dangerous tool in the shop. If you get that feeling that you might get hurt, stop. Our bodies are our most important tools in this craft protect yourself

  9. I have to agree with Brian that it is not a good material if you are just starting. First because of its excellent properties it can cause some pretty bad habits because it is so forgiving. More importantly its tuff stuff and because of the narrow forging range needs to be forged quickly.

    Forging H13 especially in the 3/4 to 7/8 range for hand tools is really power hammer work. I use this material for nearly all hot tools in my shop. It is important to soften the striking side of the tool as previously discussed.

    I find that I prefer the S1 - S5 and S7 steels for cold cutting tools or edge tools that I use in the fly press etc.

    This is a great material to use. Its consistent, has great durability but it has a learning curve and you need to be very careful not to heat up past critical tempature.

  10. I feel so lucky to be able to do something I love. Good days in the shop and bad days (we have all had them) there are days when I cant do anything right. You know I still enjoy the day because I learned something. I also try to make the day fun. I decide what to work on every day and what my goals are. This makes everyday feel like a win when I accomplish my goals.

    No matter what you do, you need to build in time to advance your skills. I try to reinvent myself every couple of years to stay relevant. I will go back through my library and try techniques I have never done before. This has opened many doors to me to push through my own comfort levels.

    I think like many things you have to have passion for the work. If not....why bother its too hard.

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