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get a grip


Nathan Hall

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I have noticed a few post on here were guys have cut groves in their hammer handles, and even found some mention to wrapping in grip tape................ all of mine are smooth, somebody please correct me if Im wrong, but wouldnt groves, or grip tape, just make blisters? Or am I missing out here

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All a matter of opinion...

I like smooth, tapered fatter towards the butt end, shaped for my hand hammer handles.

I have used a hammer that the handle was perforated with small holes that were dressed smooth. In the greasy environment it was living it it was very easy to hang onto.

Phil

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My dad was, in my humble opinion, a very wise man. He would "dimple" his hammer grips with a 3/8" or 1/2" drill bit for added grip. He was a mechanic and didn't have to swing those hammers all day long like a blacksmith would. I was a fitter fabricator in a large steel light pole and power transmission standard manufacturer for 20 years, and did swing a hammer a lot during the course of my work; still, not as much as a full time blacksmith, but a lot. On one of my first 3# sledges (my main tool as a fitter after the tape measure and cutting torch), I dimpled the handle as I had seen Dad do for many years. After about a week I re-handled the hammer with a new, smooth, wooden handle. Those little dimples working back and forth in my hand started to form blisters on my hand. Since then I have never had issue with grip on a smooth, wood handle. Sorry, Dad ;) But it seems (for me, anyway) that if the handle is smooth, it "slides" in the hand rather than stick. The sticking area can be an area where a blister can start to form. With a proper grip and swing technique, one should really not have to worry about the hammer slipping from one's hand.
Over the years that I have been learning blacksmithing, I have seen a few smiths shape their handles in a rectangle. I never really believed this could be comfortable but I tried it on a hammer I re-handled recently and, WOW!! I probably will be shaping the rest of my hammers this way. I rounded the corners a bit more than I've seen others, but its those flat surfaces that make the difference. Its comfortable and I feel I have better hammer control with that hammer. I can imagine that one could go a step further and fine tune the "aim" of the hammer using this method :)

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All a matter of opinion...

I like smooth, tapered fatter towards the butt end, shaped for my hand hammer handles.

I have used a hammer that the handle was perforated with small holes that were dressed smooth. In the greasy environment it was living it it was very easy to hang onto.

Phil


Phil makes the perfect point about the proper place for those dimpled handles ;)
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good advice, I prefer a shorter handle as well, this is probably a habit developed from using a shorter hammer when I started in order to have more control, what is your thoughts on handle length? I personally use mainly shorter handles, with the exception of a few of my larger sledges. I even use one 34" long handled ten pounder that I tuck the handle under my under arm and use for drawing down thick stuff............. No tire hammer yet........ but Id say ninety percent of my work I do with a short handled two and half pound cross pein, how bout you?

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Handle length is also a matter of opinion.

I have the opinion that smaller, lighter hammers should have proportionally longer handles than hammers that are heavy for one-handed use. My regular hammer (3# heavily dressed drilling hammer) has an 8 1/2 inch handle on it...it wants for an inch or two more, but the hammer came with this very short handle.

My other hammers I use frequently have 10 inch handles. I went an measured.

Phil

Edited by Phil Krankowski
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It is interesting to me how personalized each smiths tools get to be, and how each smith gets his favorites, my favorite hammer is nothing special and I am positive that there are many better, but it was the first one that I started using that I really liked, and I used it so much its just kinda grown on me.............. I need to "lose" it so I can get a relationship like that with a better hammer lol!! But somehow that just feels wrong to me

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first of all you do not want to be gripping the handle where you would want it to be floating free in your hand. you are throwing it towards the anvil and catching it on the rebound off the anvil which helps you lift it up for the next strike. I like a 14" handle it gives me the option of full length or choking up on it. weight length of handle and speed = volisity here are two videos I did on the subject hope it helps.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R8c2B3zOKU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtV1oJWQWA4

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I have all kinds of hammer handles, smooth, dimpled, groved, short, long, fat, skinny and the one I use the most is a 2.5lb cross peen with a 14inch handle that has 4 finger groves and a thumb grove on both sides. I think it's all about you and what works for you. Try a few different handles and see witch one you like best. My best friend plays hockey and all his hammers have the same tape on them he uses on his hockey stick...I can't stand it but he loves it!

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There's been some good tips in this thread, but a subject that has come up with our members is regarding the thickness of the handle. We have members who prefer a thick handle and then some who say they prefer the handle at a thickness that allows your finger tips to touch the palm of the hand. What is the general consensus regarding thickness?
Also, while on the topic of handles, what is the best wood for handles? We predominately use hickory but is there a stronger, longer grained timber around the same weight we could use?
Thanks for your thoughts folks.
Rob K
Secretary
Artist Blacksmiths Association South Australia
www.artistblacksmithsa/org.au

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You are correct Francis, and I kinda missed name this thread it was my feeble attempt at naming one well, but what I was getting at was starting a discussion on handles, because they are an often over looked thing when starting out I think.

Son_of_Bluegrass, I agree a thicker handle is best for me too for the same reason, and I learned quick that is a bad thing.

As far as materials go, I havent tried many besides hickory, but I suspect that like you mentioned anything that resist splitting would work, now I have a question in regards to that as well................ turning frame from splitting in the sense of a handle and to splitting in the sense of firewood........... most woods that seam to be used in handle making actualy split fairly easy with the grain like if you were splitting them for fire wood I suspect this is do to the long strait grain that is desirable in handle material also makes wood easy to split for the stove.......... so with that in mind I would think that anywood that splits fairly easy in the manner one wood split for the fire would be a candidate for handles, some that come to mind are hickory, oak, walnut, and cherry........... is my reasoning way off base here or what do you think?

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The hickory and white oak are good choices, same with ash, pecan and hard maple. Soft maple, red oak, and cherry tend to be brittle, but would still work. Springy woods like elm, yew, osage and others also resist splitting very well, and are well suited.

Pretty much all hardwoods that are dense and flexible enough to fit and wedge will do the job, although some are better based on service life.

While I would hesitate to use softwood (conifers: pine, cedar, redwood) for a hammer handle, it probably would be acceptable for a top tool, and would likely work in a pinch for a hammer if you select a clear piece with perfect grain.

Phil

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I like to take a fresh clean handle, remove the varnish, get my hand dirty and use it all day. By the end of the day where I hold my hammer will show and the more worn dirty areas are where I will sand and shape, its almost triangular once I do this a few times and will fit my hand like a glove I have a fairly long hand so I prefer thicker handles. You might also find in doing this you want different shapes on different areas, as most people will change grip depending on where they are holding the hammer at the time.

Also after watching 50+ students go through horseshoeing school that the guys/galls that just accepted a smooth handle would get a blister or two and callus up quickly... The few that did vet wrap or tennis wrap handles would be ok till they had a long days work then they would re-blister every time! or on some occasions rip off a callus. With the wraps its not as easy to dry off the handle once it was saturated with sweat, but like most things this is all my observation and not fact lol

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Unfortunately I am not that familiar with the woods available in Australia---however european tools were often hafted with fruitwood from orchard cuttings. In particular crabapple has a very springy tough wood.

I'd ask around the "old folks" what they used to use locally before everything got shipped from all over; or perhaps woods used for self bows in your area.

I'd say that one really doesn't *own* a hammer till they have re-hafted it a time or two. My first hammer had a commercial red finished wood handle on it. When I replaced it I found that I had to finish the new handle red too as it was the way I instinctively looked for it---however the next handle was plain as it was no longer my primary hammer and my hammer rack has heads up and handles down.

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  • 3 months later...

I like to take a fresh clean handle, remove the varnish, get my hand dirty and use it all day. By the end of the day where I hold my hammer will show and the more worn dirty areas are where I will sand and shape, its almost triangular once I do this a few times and will fit my hand like a glove I have a fairly long hand so I prefer thicker handles. You might also find in doing this you want different shapes on different areas, as most people will change grip depending on where they are holding the hammer at the time.

Also after watching 50+ students go through horseshoeing school that the guys/galls that just accepted a smooth handle would get a blister or two and callus up quickly... The few that did vet wrap or tennis wrap handles would be ok till they had a long days work then they would re-blister every time! or on some occasions rip off a callus. With the wraps its not as easy to dry off the handle once it was saturated with sweat, but like most things this is all my observation and not fact lol


I HATE when that happens! I especially hate when the handles on my hoof knives develop that greasy sludge from my sweat! I've gone so far as to scrape them, wash them, scotch brite them..... nothing helps. Considering a coating.

As far as handle shape, I can pretty much guarantee that we can't all wear the same tight fitted leather gloves. Some of us have thick hands, some don't. The only thing that's definite is.... "It depends".
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  • 2 weeks later...

What I like to is get my farrier's rasp, and file the sides of a stock hammer handle, so it's skinnier and parallel in cross section. This is remmomended in Mark Aspery's first book, and it makes the handle nicer to hold. I leave it rough from rasping so it's a better grip.
I'll post a picture in a couple days when I can get back to the shop :)

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I like the smooth myself, I will have to try the rectangle, is it a good size flat or more of an oval shape?


I did my rectangular and I've used the hofi style hammers and they are all pretty sharp rectangular. I used a rasp to cut them down. I went pretty small as typical oval handles from the store are way too fat for my hand.
I flattened mine out until the corners met and then flattened the corners.
It's very comfortable, but that is personal opinion not blacksmithing law.

Play around until you find what fits you.
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I believe the benefit of the rectangle "ish" handle is that when you have a flat on the handle you always know the handles orientation in the hand. Whereas the oval shape can be off slightly without notice.

I think it is supposed to make hammer control easier to learn.

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As I needed to rehandle my 4 lb I went ahead and reduced the size by grinding into a rectangle shape with the corners knocked off. After seeing how the ergonmic handles were shaped I tried to do the same. I thought that the grip was too small and the handle too short. Plus it was terriably smooth. I wraped it with friction electricale tape like we did with baseball bats. After using it all day today, my hand does not hurt, I have no blisters and in use I found that the handle is not too short.

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I use pecan wood for my hammer handles , the second choice would be hickory. I want it the length of my inside forearm, holding the hammer head with fingers up, and the end of the stick just fitting in my elbow. flat sides with rounded edges so my fingertips just meet the palm of my hand with a swelling on the end as I use ALL the handle, not choking up on the stick. If all you are gonna use is four inches of handle, saw it off short!

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  • 2 weeks later...

After meeting Brian Brazeal and Lyle at a demo I am switching to rectangle handles. they fit my hand better, feel better and the hammer orientation is easy to tell. All I have is hickory handles but saw Brian use Bois D'arc for a handle at the demo. The purplish wood looked fantastic! Never heard if it lasted but it sure was "purty". If I could find a sawmill around here I would try it on a couple hammers and see how it works.

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