Sign in to follow this  
Chris P

Power hammer

Recommended Posts

How much does/would a power hammer help on the business end of blacksmithing? Does it up the production rate? Does that allow you to lower your prices? Or does it just save on bodily wear and tare?

I was debating on picking up a second anvil, and figure I could probably make a PH for a little more than the anvil would cost. Just not sure which, if either, would be more cost effective.

Thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know how large your current anvil is, but I found a large shop anvil was a great addition to my shop. (I went from a 90 pound to a 280 pound.) There was a great increase in efficiency.

I also added a power hammer!

From having the two here is my suggestion.

If your anvil is bigger than 50 pounds and has some decent edges, then fasten it down VERY securely to something VERY heavy and VERY solid and buy/build yourself a power hammer.

That's my recommendation!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Way more production, way less wear and tear on you, and you might as well keep the prices the same.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Get the larger anvil AND a power hammer, both will pay for themselves many times over in the course of your use of them. And I totally agree with Nuge...keep the same price or even up it some. Your work will/should improve so you should get more for it. BTW, even if you use a power hammer totally on a project it is STILL hand made....the material didn't jump from the forge to the hammer and come away as a finished item on it's own!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience as a business man and blacksmith the more money/time you invest good equipment the more productive you will be. By the biggest best you can afford. Think long term.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think one is essential, two is better, three is a luxury,and more than that you need a good reason, or not.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the moment, I can't fit or see a reason for more than one.. but god knows that's never stopped me before. ATM I'm parting the scrap together to see what else I need to acquire from outside sources. I'm debating on the Rusty style or the little giant tire style... I'm leaning toward the Rusty just because I have a few sets of leaf springs lying about.

Thanks for the replies guys. Pretty much what I figured, I just kinda needed someone to blame when the wife finds out what I'm doing, lol ;).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the moment, I can't fit or see a reason for more than one.. but god knows that's never stopped me before. ATM I'm parting the scrap together to see what else I need to acquire from outside sources. I'm debating on the Rusty style or the little giant tire style... I'm leaning toward the Rusty just because I have a few sets of leaf springs lying about.

Thanks for the replies guys. Pretty much what I figured, I just kinda needed someone to blame when the wife finds out what I'm doing, lol ;).



From the information I have gathered, using used leaf springs for a Rusty is not advised. I've never used a Rusty or a helve style for that matter, but I have used the tire hammer and enjoy it alot. Little more complex to build though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris,

Like yourself, I went through the whole build, buy, design decision matrix. The objective is a servicable machine; read safe and functional. Keep in mind that your head is next to this device while it is operational and any miscalculations , design flaws or material defects can and will make your life very difficult. A USMC aircraft machinest, Gunnery Sgt Robert Darnell, frequently told us that "nothing hurts like pain" and it hurts worse if caused by stupidity.

Buying is quick and easy and you get a proven product but it is hard on the check book. Building requires a workable and hopefully proven design along with material availability. Building takes time and a shop. Time spent building the hammer is time not spent turning out product.

The Tire Hammers are of a proven design but going outside of the design with for example, a bigger tup weight or stroke length entails considerable recalculation of the mecahanics of the mechanism. The reciprocating forces are counterbalanced with both weight and mass. If you miscalculate, you wind up with an oscilating 7 foot tower that would dance about the shop. The tire hammers have the capability of roughly 300 hits a minute. The estimated piston speeds would be somewhere near a medium speed engine. Assuming a 7 inch stroke that yields 5.8 Ft per second at full speed. These are real forces at play so you have to be prudent and careful.

The Clay Spencer workshops are hard to beat because the cost is reasonable, the time is minimal and you get a reliable product. The economy comes from the group build labor and the bulk material purchase. There is an entertainment factor as well, because you get to meet a dozen or so like minded individuals, tell bad jokes and exchange sea stories.

Good luck with your decison.

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's like asking "what size shoe should I get"?


Sorry, was kind of in a rush when I wrote that. Perhaps I should have just asked for the specs on his tire hammer. I just assumed that info would have carried along with the answer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How much paying work do you get? If you can fill your time making stuff for customers then making a power hammer might be an expensive luxury! It is almost certainly better business to buy one new. Of course if you have the time to make one do so but if you have that much spare time do you have enough work to turn pro?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A friend of mine built one since he had more time than money at the time and it allowed him to turn out more and bigger pieces of art work, to totally change the direction of his art and thus make enough money to finally buy a commercial hammer from Turkey. He sold his home built air hammer for a goodly amount of money to another smith that didn't have enough time to build a hammer. The hammer is on it's third smith and still making money for each subsequent owner. A power hammer is almost a necessity to make smithing a paying occupation whether it is a home-built or a commercial one

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My personal two bits is forget the power hammer, get a bigger anvil, and spend some time on you.  Technique and posture are essential to having a good work day.  I am a kung fu practitioner and apply stances and form to working the forge.  Also, GO AMBIDEXTEROUS! Be adamant about it,  brush your teeth with both hands even.  switch hands for bevels, every forge reheat etc.  You will learn FAR more about your body, technique and muscle isolation.  I used to forge right handed only with a 4 lb hammer.  I developed a overlarge right arm, and very mild scoliosis in my back (crooked back).  I cant believe more smiths aren't concerned about this.  Switching up to two handed / ambi techniques, i fixed my back, moved to a 10hr work day, and switched to throwing twin 10lb sledges.  I still don't think its as good as a power hammer, but part of playing the blacksmith role in my opinion is looking like one ;)

This all ties in really well as an athlete in rock climbing, martial arts and cycling.  And if you are a coach or instructor like myself, it really benefits what you can show others.

What left learns is from right, what right learns is whats left.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, youth and vigor! I vaguely remember those days. They pass so quickly!

That might work for a year or two, but it is no replacement for getting the right tool for the right job in the long run. A weekend vegetable gardener will do OK with a rototiller and a shovel and a wheelbarrow, but a restaurant supply farmer needs a tractor and attachments to not work himself into an early grave.

Having known professional smiths who had to have shoulder/elbow/wrist surgery due to years of overuse, if you do this a lot, you need a power hammer. I turn 60 in a few months, and I am 'tore up from the floor up' from an only mildly exciting life. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember that a "traditional" smith would have a bunch of strikers in his shop and there are a slew of paintings and woodcuts from the renaissance showing water powered triphammers and the earliest powerhammer I saw good documentation on was pre 1000 AD.  (Medieval Technology Conference at Penn State personal communication)  Now there are a ton of "Venus at the forge of Vulcan" paintings that show water powered hammers and in on 5 people striking while one holds the piece; but Venus is not a IFI friendly deity; however The forge by Goya below shows a "traditional" smithy.

The-forge-goya.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to ask Kevin, do you smith for a living?  Nothing wrong if you don't,  and there are lots of amateur smiths who are better smiths than some pros.

But smithing for a living is what the OP was asking about and unless you are in certain niches (lockwork and similar detailed work springs to mind) making a living in the first world is hard enough with a power hammer let alone without.  A power hammer allows you to forge many more hours in the day and do much more work in those hours.  It also allows you to work  heavier stock than is possible by yourself and with bigger power hammers you can forge bigger material than is possible even with strikers. 

I don't forge even close to full time here but there are weeks where between myself and a helper the hammer is going 40 hrs a week usually with a press going as well.  99% of the jobs I do I would be making less than minimum wage, working by hand . Working with a power hammer several of the repeat forging jobs are very profitable. and I do OK on the others. 

I do agree that becoming ambidextrous is a good goal and can be a very useful skill.  I do know another smith who had to learn to smith left handed to finish a large commission after an injury, he finds being able to smith with 2 hands very useful.  He has  a Nazel as well however.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well said John. I'm a hobbyist with occasional lapses into paid work. One such product that is always on back order are doffers for use with drum carder, these are tools to remove carded wool from a drum carder without damaging the wool. I came up with one that's more ergonomic so the ladies don't need the hand strength to use them and they look pretty cool. Forging by hand doesn't matter which anvil I use though the 125 Soderfors moves steel better than the 206 Trenton, same same. By hand and charging $79.95 ea. was just break even on shop rate. Using my 50lb. Little Giant power hammer on the other hand turned a 45+ minute job into a 15 minute job and I could turn out more in a day without getting so tired. A power hammer doesn't draw wages above board and keep, doesn't complain about the hours and never takes a sick day.

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this