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Ergonomic Hammers Im Sorry Uri Hofi


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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.
 

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Hi Ken, I like the story. It's always one of the high points of a hammer-in, working with your high energy bordering on the edge of over-amperage self. Does the exclusive sales statement mean you won't be doing your sales booth at meeting anymore? I'm sure your passion for the craft has drawn more than a couple of passers-by into the addiction.
mh

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I can tell you one thing Hofi did not invent the angle faced hammer blow see page 55 of "Plain and Ornmental Forging" by Ernst Schwarzkopf copright 1916. I was taught to use the edge of the anvil as a fuller in the summer of 1992 by John Folks a Long Island Blacksmith he told me he learned it from an old german blacksmith in the early 80's. I beleave his first demo was in the USA was in 1993. This stuff has been around for a long time. The old work a day smiths of the past forgot more than we now know.

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I'll not weigh in on the Hofi debate. No need to go over that territory again and there are several other threads where that debate will continue nonstop.

Ken, if anyone is due an apology here it may be you. Someone came on and complained publicly about your work before giving you a chance to make things right. I know the original complainant tried not to name names, but your dissertation above makes it clear that you felt the need to defend your good name.

Mistakes happen and eventually one of them will slip by and get to a customer. The first person that customer should talk to is you, especially if that customer is another smith. Public shaming should be the last resort, not the first.

Lewis

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I have no idea what the mistake was or who the other party involved is... But I can say Ken is without a doubt a very professional and upstanding business man and blacksmith. The only thing Ken might be guilty of is trying too hard or moving too fast. Its tough when you make mistake, something slips by. But its only tough if you care about what you do, your proud of the product you make and you take personally the pledge to stand behind your product.

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I don`t understand why everyone is so concerned about who originally came up with what and when. The point should be that if we stumble over something that is useful and has the potential to improve even one other person`s life we should share it.
If you go out of your way to share and repeat what has helped you and it makes it better for the group or larger community then that`s like handing someone the key to growth and progress isn`t it? Why would we want to diminish that by arguing about who invented the first lock?
I say bravo to all the Uris, Grants, Larrys , Glenns and Brians as well as everyone else who takes the time to contribute whatever knowledge, no matter how large or small, into the pool others may drink from.
Why do we continue to allow the almighty dollar sign to always cloud and change the way we look at any exchange?

Thank you Ken for taking the time to write your in depth post and remind us we`re a sharing community rather than a collection of individuals trying to climb up onto one another`s shoulders or knock others down so we personally can have the best view.

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I'm with Bob! "First" is a very slippery concept as any discovery of some smith somewhere doing it that way can supersede it.

I'd suggest working on *best* something to be proud of indeed!

(I was at the knifemaker's Guild Show back in the 80's and met a maker who was all excited that he was going to be the "first" to make a knife with a gun barrel in the center spine that would fire the tip like a harpoon---"Just like the one in the Arms and Armor Annual---"A Wheellock Dagger From the Court of the Medici"?" I asked him? He was quite put out that his great idea had been done centuries before...)

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Well put Ken, albeit somewhat long-JE calling it a 2 Scotch job? I'll bet he meant his usual pours and not regular drams! Sadly I drift from what I meant to say.
Having seen Ken work and looked closely at his products, I can't think of a better "Hammermaker" in both product and person and I doubt that he would ever not 'make good' any problem real or percieved with his product.

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Like the saying goes you can't make everyone happy all the time. I know Ken tries to make his product the best it can be and that's all anyone can do. No one is perfect and things can happen. What sets people and companies apart from others is the way they deal with it. I'm sure ken would do all he could to make a customer happy. Your reputation is the most valuable thing you have. No one wants to have their reputation tarnished through legitimate or perceived complaints. I agree that people if they have a complaint they should take it up with the individual or company first before posting their grievances or issues on the net. I recently had a customer call me up and say a bow that I made him several years ago broke. He wanted to buy another replacement bow from me. I told him that I would replace his bow for free. He couldn't believe I would do that but I told him I would rather have a happy customer than the money. When you're dealing with crafts as old as blacksmithing it's very difficult to invent something new. Usually it's an improvement or different way of doing or looking at something that's already been done. I hope Ken has a long and respected career making the tools and things he loves to make.

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Ken that was a great story and it sounds like you are doing a good job making some quality tools.

I'm surprised the said customer hasn't stepped up with an appology here to you Ken, being the net is so available for conversation
I went back and reviewed the other thread- http://www.iforgeiro...__fromsearch__1 - the original post mentions an ergo hammer that had an offset eye he got from Peih tool. His next post (post #3) was that he hoped the exchange one is perfectly balanced. That leads me to believe his problem was solved at that point. Then other people started riding him for dissing Hofi and it all snowballed from there. He did not even bring up Hofi or Stumptown though he did have an opinion stated after a lot of badgering by others. I am not surprised he is not here on this thread.
r smith
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I don`t understand why everyone is so concerned about who originally came up with what and when. The point should be that if we stumble over something that is useful and has the potential to improve even one other person`s life we should share it.
If you go out of your way to share and repeat what has helped you and it makes it better for the group or larger community then that`s like handing someone the key to growth and progress isn`t it? Why would we want to diminish that by arguing about who invented the first lock?
I say bravo to all the Uris, Grants, Larrys , Glenns and Brians as well as everyone else who takes the time to contribute whatever knowledge, no matter how large or small, into the pool others may drink from.
Why do we continue to allow the almighty dollar sign to always cloud and change the way we look at any exchange?

Thank you Ken for taking the time to write your in depth post and remind us we`re a sharing community rather than a collection of individuals trying to climb up onto one another`s shoulders or knock others down so we personally can have the best view.


Not tiring to tare anybody down just tiring to set the record straight. It was stated above that he saw these things first. But yet I was taught them by others before he even came to the US so you could see how one would want to say something. I would have a long way to go to equal the accomplishments of Mr Hofi. Though I am not exactly a slacker and I have not been at it as long. I really have no other ax to grind other then to challenge peoples claims when they don't reflect the facts. I do not teach I do not have hammers, DVDs or books to sell. I bet that more than a few can swing a hammer longer faster and harder than me as well. I am not here to offend people so I apologize if any of you take this personally. I am here to learn, debate and share what I have learned.

As for the Ergo hammer I know nothing about them. It sounds like the maker will make good on it and fix it and will stand behind his product %110. Amy Pieh is a stand up person I have dealt with her for years, she will take care of the problem no questions asked. I also applaud you for your efforts in working to build a solid line of tools and being passionate about the craft we all love.
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Stumpforge
"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."....
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have watched Uri Hofi's Video A friend lent me his copy to watch he wanted my opinion and help understanding it better. Uri calls his hammer an ergonomic balanced Hammer. there is a video which is his add for his video and out of his mouth he makes the claim at about 2:55 in the add video. In his video he states it places it on the anvil and then takes hand away. Yes I did make the statement but based on the video I watched. I am not trying to belittle or shoot any one down I just have a simple question maybe you can answer it for me.

If you make the claim that you have a product and it is ergonomic hammer where is the science study to back up the claim?

Here is my logic I make a good hammer at a good price and there is the same amount of metal in front of the eye as the back of the eye. Can I claim then that I make an ergonomic balanced hammer as well?

I was tough the same method of hammering way before the video came out. but I like a fiberglass handle that is 14" long. So when I want to put a lot of viscosity in to my swing I have that option. I through a 5 pound hammer. Is that wrong?

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  • 3 weeks later...

the definition of ergonomic is : intended to provide optimum comfort and to avoid stress or injury .. . . . . so you cannot base wether something is ergonomic by its balance unless balance truly does affect ergonomics to which there is a very probable correlation.
just to put that out there.... :)
alec

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  • 1 year later...

I attended Ken's class on basic blacksmithing a couple of summers ago.  It included an in-depth discussion of what makes a hammer work well.  I learned several things: 

 

1) How to swing a hammer better than ever before.  Heck, it continuously amazes me how quickly wood splits with a hatchet now, or how quickly 16p nails get driven with an 8 ounce hammer.  Nothing really new here, just physics.  just the other night, I hammered some old u-bolt 3/4 inch thick into a leaf.

 

2) a definition of "balanced" for me: I watched ken idly tapping his hammer on an anvil when he was talking about something else.  I noticed that no matter what angle he struck with the hammer, it always bounced straight back up.  Its what made me choose to buy his hammer.  (that and the discount from taking his class.)  Later that day, I watched from the other end of the room him bouncing the hammer on the anvil, and how the hammer would fly up next to his head: without his hand on it.  He just plucked it out of the air.

 

3) Hammering, like child-rearing, is more about what works, rather than which theory is correct.

 

4) The question about whether Hofi can back up his assertions with science: I think it may be enough he could hammer without pain.  Ken noticed the difference right away.  Do we really need studies by guys in lab-coats?  I am a bit biased too.  Master blacksmith...me nothing: I do what he says.

 

5) This is the first actual hammering method I learned.  There are clearly other ones out there, and in future classes when hammering styles are a topic of discussion, I will give them a fair shake too.

 

Ken, thanks for your words.  Not only inspiring, but it re-asserted a couple things you touched on in your class that I had forgotten.  :)

 

--jason

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Francis,

 

OSHA is many things but it's absolutely not a dictionary.  I've read many of your posts about hammer ergonomics and I respect the thought you've put into your conclusions.  That respect keeps me from attempting to change your mind on hammers.

 

After all these posts it seems like you'd see there are folks that like a type of hammer for personal reasons that are as valid as your own.    It's pretty obvious that the different hammers exist out of these personal differences. You aren't supporting your conclusion by dismissing contrary evidence and opinion.

 

That nobody leapt to defend the Hofi/Ergonomic Hammer's honor at your inquisition doesn't lead to your conclusion being irrefutable.  

 

You're asking for scientific evidence of a claim made on a video you watched one time.  You're asking members of a forum to provide you with this information within three hours.  More to the point, you ascribe hype and B.S. to the "marketing" simply because these folks didn't answer you.  

 

Here's a link to a fiberglass hammer

 

The description could be called hype and B.S. depending on perspective.  They're claiming it's a New England pattern.  I submit that's going to be tough to prove.  They're boasting of "extra strength" coming from it's forged steel construction.  Extra compared to what?

 

Here's a hammer marketed as Ergonomic made by the same company:

 

Feel free to request their scientific evidence but be prepared to wait more than three hours.  I hope it gives you all you're looking for.

 

I've seen pictures of work you've posted and you're a good smith.  Taking every opportunity to harangue anyone expressing interest, enthusiasm, or opinion on ergonomic/Hofi hammers isn't good form.

 

Winston Churchill once said "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't talk about anything else".  It might be time to let this one go so you can get back to blacksmithing with the hammer you like.

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Th hammer you posted in the first link is a new England pattern.  Its a fairly widely accepted name for a hammer of that shape some times also called a western pattern.  Being that Stanly tools is a very old company going back over 100 years and is biased in new England.  I would have to say they are an authority on it.  I would say they could call it extra strength because there are poor quality "blacksmith" hammers on the market made from unhardened steel. 

 

As for the second link. I have seen a film on the second hammer it actually has a turning fork inside the handle that dampens vibration.  Stanly tools spent a whole lot of money and time developing that hammer using advanced engineering and scientific analysis to develop it.  I have yet to try one but I have been tempted.  My main sticking point is that I am not a big fan of rubber or plastic around hot metal.

 

The video you are talking about says unequivocally if you don't use a hammer like me you will do harm to your self.  There are many smiths who do not use this style of hammer and have not done harm to themselves.  There is proof enough for me that claim is lacking in merit.  

 

Use any hammer you like but you will probably get better results stretching and doing some strength training than buying a special hammer although the placebo effect is well documented and may help.

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Timothy,

 

You might be right about the name but I can tell you that same hammer is on local store shelves labeled as a "Blacksmiths Hammer".  Today was the first time I'd encountered the term "New England Pattern" for any hammer let alone a cross pein.

 

I didn't post that link to disparage Stanley or their tools.  I posted it to illustrate that hammers are commonly marketed without the scientific proof that Francis is looking for.  I posted the second hammer to illustrate that efforts have been made to improve on his preferred fiberglass handle under the label "Ergonomic".  It would be poor form to demand he explain why he's not using something that's "scientifically superior" despite the fact there's a huge company backing the claims with research and so on.

 

Up to Francis' post, the thread was about Stumptown Forge and it's history.  My entire point was that it's poor form to harangue others for showing interest, enthusiasm or opinion on a tool. 

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For the majority of the united states that is the blacksmith's hammer it is reasonably priced. It is based on the hammer most smiths used in the united states in the 19th and 20th century back when being a blacksmith was a common profession.  If there was a better design of hammer that somehow made work easier all of those generations of smiths would have stumbled upon it long before now.  I'm not saying it is the best hammer ever I don't use one and I would prefer one of my hand made hammers that has some personality.   It is a reasonably priced tool that someone could get a bunch of work done with and would require some dressing to make it an efficient tool.  It has none of the good feelings attached to a hand made hammer that many smiths favor.  For more information on the history of blacksmiths hammers hand made and manufactured in the U.S. look at "Blacksmiths and Farriers Tools at Shelburne Museum" Pages 70 to 104 1966.  Also look at "Practicable Blacksmithing" M.T. Richardson 1889-91 there is a large section on hand hammers as well. 

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