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I Forge Iron

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john and big foot - you said it better than i could really, i think we all know that before we can use marks competently and with any visual strength, we need to be able to make stuff mark free. then

Don't be silly, of course we are all not master smiths, and most of us will never be worthy of the title.,and as for mediocrity, Isn't that equality ? Master/ expert Know a lot about a little or kno

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Excellent question, kst1! I have a "favorite" ball pein hammer, a four pounder, that I made myself. The edges of the face I hand filed at an angle, which miminizes hammer marks left on hot steel. First chance I get, I will take a photograph of that hammer, and post it here. I file the same bevel on all other hammer faces; even the "store bought" hammers I acquire at flea markets from time to time.

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Thomas Powers, I have never tried a rectangular hammer handle, but I am not adverse to experimentation. All my hammer handles are the oval variety spun on a lathe by my handlemaker, who also turns the wooden handles I use in manfacturing longshoreman and hay hooks. As far as "pitch" and "roll", I am not familiar with those terms, but I am going to research them right now, to better understand your question.

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Thank you so much for expanding my horizons, Thomas Powers! I just looked up Euler Angles of Rotation, and you are right, the placement of my thumb controls all three angles of rotation in an Eulerian Reference frame. The practical application of Euler angles is generally referred to in aerodynamics as pitch, roll, and yaw. You just taught a very old dog some new tricks!

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Yaw, Pitch and Roll: I learned them wrt Space capsules when my father worked for NASA in the 1960's. I believe they came from aviation and even earlier ships.

They basically refer to motion about 3 different orthogonal axii

I noticed that many europeans make handles from flat boards when I visited there a couple of decades ago rounding the tops and bottoms of the handle but having a flat on the sides. Didn't know if it was cultural, due to handle materials available or what.

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Thomas you hit on the solution I missed telling. the length and shape of the handle is important. I like my stick to be from inside my elbow to my cupped palm. the shape of the stick where i grip it is a flat oval , a rectangle with the corners rounded smooth , I want it no fatter than I am able to wrap my fingers around and touch the fingernails to my palm, That handle geometry works for me. A sears crosspeen is a good weight hammer,and soft enough that misses don't ding the anvil face. The head needs some smoothing with a sanding wheel around the edges as well as the cross. The hammer comes with a stick that is way too long and fat , providing plenty for modifying to fit.

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Smithy 1 et al.,

Never grinding or filing? Get serious. 90% of the sounds in a colonial gunsmith's shop was from filing. Same way with old time locksmithing. Furthermore, you grind and sharpen a tool AFTER tempering. One definition of a milling machine that I heard in Germany: 'an apprentice with a file.' I finish my forged hammer heads, top and bottom tools, by touching up with sanding, sometimes going to the ScotchBrite wheel for a final.

What gets my goat is when your demoing for the public, and a guy sees you hot file or cold file a little, and he hollers, "You're cheating!" And let me tell you, he doesn't know a dang thing about blacksmithing! And he usually has his girlfriend standing next to him, so that he can show off his non-knowledge.

P.S. Files, to my way of thinking, are one of the most misunderstood, misused tools in the shop. But they ARE used in the shop.

P.P.S. Although I am a wrap-around thumb guy, I once met an elderly smith who had carved a slight concavity on top of his handle, and he swore that he always put his thumb in that depression. I know of no long term studies that show repetitive use syndrome by keeping the thumb on top. It seems to me that there might be a tiny loss of range-of-motion in the wrist by the thumb-on-top placement. If that is true, we still don't know whether it is a detriment to forging skill or whether it might cause medical trouble down the road.

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When I was younger, my dad told me that the best way to hammer was to place your thumb on top. we often re-nailed roof decking down by hand because it was simpler than having too many nail guns running off our compressor and the fact that often we would be removing sheets of metal and then replacing with new ones as we went. not full tear offs like a composition roof. In my life I have broken my thumb 3 times which now has arthritis(not from hammering) and after a day of driving nails that way, the big joint in my thumb would absolutely ache, so I evolved into what would be referred to around here as the hofi hammer technique. when I was introduced to blacksmithing, I was happy to see that there are many supporters of this technique. I have been fired from a blacksmith shop for refusing to use the top thumb technique or any techniques that caused me discomfort. I thought tomato, tomato. Looked at as disrespect. you know what, two finger pinch grip on the shortest handle possible. My forging hammers handles are less than 11 inches long and I love it. doesn't stress my thumb,shoulder or my elbow. I can hit hard, the hammer seems to leap off the anvil, I have reasonable control, and the shorter handles allow more of the face of the hammer to be utilized. I found that my handles were too long while I was playing at the anvil, making little mockingbird hammer noises checking the rebound all over it. when I would be at the end of my anvil with the handle past the edge I found a few more hammer blows(near side to hand corners and edge) it felt comfortable choked up from nearly all the way up to the head of the hammer back a few inches and then at some point in the length of the handle I would find that it no longer felt right. That is the point that I cut my handles off. Since that discovery for me, I have modified most of my hammer handles according to what feels right for my pinch grip and the intended purpose of the hammer.(my little lightweight sledges ie 2-4lbs have longer handles than my precision hammers)

I hate fiberglass and love steel handled framing hammers. they are constantly reliable and within reason indestructable. estwings are all right but I don't like the claw geometry. for me its the vaughn steel eagle 19 oz california style framing hammer with the waffle pattern sanded off. it is one butt-kicking hammer and the claw geometry lends itself well to punching holes in light gauge sheetmetal as well as plywood. light soil excavation. I can easily sink a 16 penny nail in 3 hits all day and can often drive them in 2 hits when I am on fire.

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Good post, Origami. Like you and Rusty I don't like fiberglass hammers. Why risk those nasty fiberglass slivers when there are better handle materials available?

Steel handles are durable but they're harder on your wrist than wood. Plus they warp when you use a straight-claw for pulling nails by twisting it sideways. A good Vaughan wood-handled straight claw is best for that. But I still keep a couple Estwings around.

As for waffle patterns, they wear off with use. grin.gif As a young man I once drove a full 50# box of 16d sinkers by myself in a day. I could drive one in two blows but I planned on three. To do it in two required a hard blow to set the nail. Too risky for anything other than showing off (which I did). One blow to set and two blows to drive was my norm.

Origami, if thumbs up doesn't cause you any grief then go ahead with it. Excessive hammering with that grip gives me tendinitis. As always, your mileage may vary.

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for me i think it depends on the hammer, the handle, the task, i think my thumb moves about depending on these things! that may be quite a sketchy method, but there might be something in the variety of shapes and movements that is a good idea? RSI is from doing the same thihg all the time yeah? for me the worst thing is thick hammer handles, they make my palm ache and my arm ache, i get my friend to make them smaller in my palm and also i like the hammers that are very narow on where your actual finger tips and thumb area are - its personal preference isnt it? all ouyr bodies are completely diferent, so so many variables, customisig is the only way! interesting the habits that we learn when someone is teaching us something early on - i do all the stuff frank mentioned earlier, blow the anvil scale off each heat, working hammer face towards where your going on the anvil with the next heat - all that kind of stuff, which makes perfect sense to me. my teacher was very fast and furious in the workshop and got extremely verbal if things were not handed to him correctly the right angle the right direction the right speed with zero chat (so difficult for one like me) but it did help me learn, i wish i had more time with him now really. his name is michael roberts, and he is a wonderful bloke and a wonderful artist and smith. i must drop in to see him!!..

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To Mr. Turley et al:
The less grinding and filing you do, the better! If one can forge an item to near-complete in finish, minimizing hammermarks and the need to grind or file, the better! This is the Eastern-European mentality on forging, forge as smoothly as possible. A forging with a ton of hammermarks was considered "shoemaker's fare" by the master who taught me, with scorn dripping from his mouth! Keep in mind that shoemakers used to inhale shoe glue all day, diminishing their mentality. For some unknown reason, every russian I ever worked for uniformly called poor work the work of a "shoemaker, NOT A BLACKSMITH"

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This debate about thumbs up, thumbs down reminds me of a joke I heard once.
A native american walks into a trading post, complaining that he can only cut down ten big trees a day with his tomohawk, which he also complains is exhausting. The trading post owner whips out a chain saw, and says "with this device, you can cut down hundreds of trees in a day, with almost no exhaustion".
Two days later, the native american returns to the trading post, with his hands all bloodied and bruised, angry as can be, demanding his money back. He tells the trading post owner "I tried this chainsaw for two days, and worked my butt off, and could only cut down three trees in two days". "I want my money back"!
The trading post guy then takes the chain saw, pulls on the starter cord, and the chainsaw starts right up.
The angry native jumps back and says "heavens to betsy, WHAT'S THAT"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I wish someone who actually knows about FILING would start a thread. Hot filing is a mystery to me, and it is something I would love to learn. All the files I own rusted to a smooth surface almost immediatly,,, well,,, almost EVERYTHING in my shop, the smith included is old n rusty.

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i would have thought using a file was most helpful, and sometimes faster than other methods, and for that reason totally valid. your never going to get something totally and utterly mark free, and im not sure youd want to - i personally wouldnt, i like the marks... also its lovely to watch someone filing work properly, not with manic pressure but with long methodical strokes - nice :) like sharpening something, even chainsaw sharpening can be quite a meditative thing... not sure i would agree that files etc should not need to be used in the forge... i like you rusty would like to hear words of wisdom re filing sharpening. an art/subject in its own right...

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Hot filing: I use only farrier's rasps and keep a stack of them in progression: Bought used: sharp ones are used for wood, slightly less sharp are used for hot filing, dull ones are forge stock for blades, hawks and rasptlesnakes.

The important thing in hot filing is to not push the hand holding the file against the hot metal! Most projects I use the finer side of the rasp unless there is a wide area I need to hog down and then I may use the coarse side first. Trying to use the coarse side on a thin area is quite difficult and frustrating.

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Depends on what you are doing. I've had little luck draw filing the tang holes in guards, perhaps it's due to only having 1/8" "throw" when trying to use a file that way.

Draw filing sure is a great way to rough out the sides of a blade though.

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I like a shoe rasp, then a clamshell rasp for hot filing. The clamshell goes a long way to removing the rasp marks and is good for truing up. Only slightly more pressure than floating the file is right, too much and filings will gall the teeth and the heat will draw the temper to normalized pretty quickly.

Draw filing is for fine work and sharpening. In shop class we had a longish section on draw filing, starting with dice, then a cribbage board, I don't recall all the steps but you wouldn't get much of a grade if you couldn't put a shaving edge on an axe blade.

Frosty the Lucky.

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This may seem silly to a lot of people but I did not realize it till I heard Jim Batson say it one time. He was demonstrating draw filing on a very rough bowie. The smaller the file the finer the teeth. When draw filing you can progressively go to smaller files the same as going to a finer grit sand paper. I was amazed at how fast he was able to put a nice finish on a bowie someone else had forged. For years I had files that people had given me or accumulated somehow. I bought a new file one time from a nice hardware store and could not believe what I had been missing out on.

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