Gerald Boggs

Mark Aspery Hammer Challenge

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At a show last year (royal cornwall show) after the public had gone home we had a little beer money challenge amongst ourselves. We each had 3 minutes to draw a piece of 12mm square out as long as possible, 2" had been isolated on the end of a bar and the timer starter when we put the metal to heat. About 6 or 8 smiths, some full time and some hobiests took part. You could see almost every smith try at least a couple of different techniques for drawing out the bar, some using big heavy hammers others using light hammers, some on the anvil edge, others the bick, others the end of the hammer. In the end most were within a couple of inches of each other. The two longest were a good way longer than the main group, but only about 1/2" different from each other.

Not sure it showed us much about which drawing technique workes best, but it was a bit of fun :D

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I watched Mark take a piece of 1"Sq about 6" long upset it to 1 3/8 sq then draw the point out and up set in the hardy hole for a platform to make 1/2 round to make rose hip on his steel rose ...

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I was busy doing some other stuff this morning, and had to help load up my old treadle hammer this afternoon. So, I just now got to try this out again.

The first try was over the edge of the anvil. I used my 2 1/2-pound cross peen and tried to take a more methodical, sane, controlled approach. I got farther than I did the first time, but one problem is that I can't get the middle of the bar moving, resulting in a gigantic hole in the end of the bar that would end up as a cold shut. Completely unacceptable for any taper!

So I gave up on the edge of the anvil approach, and switched over to the horn. A much larger rate of success attended my efforts although I am still no where close. No cold shut formed though and the metal moved pretty easily! For one my taper is too short (about half the length of Mr. Mark's,) and the tip is about twice as thick. (Mine is 1/2-inch and Mr. Mark's appears to be about 3/16 or 1/4-inch.

My arm handled it much better since I kept my head screwed on straight and didn't try to squeeze the hammer handle in half, or hammer my anvil into the ground. I think I'm going to try it again after supper, allow a bit more metal for the taper and see what happens. If that doesn't work, my steel supplier has a 12 foot bar of the suff in scrap for 25 cents per pound. I'll get it one way or the other.......look out Mark, another 30 years I'm gonna catch up! LOL

DSC03944.jpg

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allow a bit more metal for the taper and see what happens.


Don't do that, live on the end, get the point and all will follow.

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it took him 2 heats on the video.


I've never made a bottom tool blank in less than three heats - typically, I like to create and dress the taper in one heat. The second heat is used to upset as much of the steel that I can in the heading tool. I work from both sides of the steel to offset the arc of the swing of the sledge. The third heat is used to dress the sides and then re-upset the tool in the heading block.

Why this method of construction?

I don't do this type of work everyday - not even every other day BUT, I do want to work efficiently with my hand hammer - regardless of stock size.
Developing a good hit with your hammer as well as a good eye and an understanding about how steel moves, goes a long way in increasing my productivity in a day and it also improves the look of my pieces.

With fewer blows and fewer heats the piece does not look overly heated or forged. It looks crisp and not tired.

It takes a given amount of energy to make a given item - this energy is divided between heat and effort - the more heat, the less effort required to make the steel move.

Where to forge on the anvil is another factor of efficiency.

A fuller in the hardy, the round edge off the anvil face or the bick (horn) all help divide the material lengthways (fullering) while minimizing the growth width-ways - which is something we don't want in a taper.

Each time I work at the anvil, I'm practicing - I want to get better - the heavy draw down is just another means of practice.

Let the hammer do the work - Kinetic energy = 1/2 x Mass x velocity (squared) which is just an easy way of looking at Force = mass x acceleration.
It's the speed of the hammer that does the work - you need a bit of mass to the hammer to give it momentum (punch), but work on the speed of the swing - not how many blows in a minute.

Cheers, M

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WE all are waiting with bated breath for book three. However, for those interested, all this information is in book one.

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I can tell you all that no-one will be happier than I, when book III comes out.


I just saw those in the blacksmithdepot catalog.....looks like I know what's going on my birthday list. I don't have any of them yet! :( Maybe I can beg someone into getting me all three when my birthday comes around.......will it be out by the end of July?

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I gave it a try one heat. I used a 3.5 hammer Maydole plow makers hammer a very similar pattern to the hammer used by the esteemed Mr Asprey. I worked over the horn. I found my problem was my arm ran out before the heat did I think with a bit of practice and a bit of cardio training I could have gotten the full 3-3/4" I made about 3-1/4". I think I did a respectable job for my first shot. I got the point down to 1/4" square.

post-2348-0-34839300-1328061343_thumb.jp

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Nice job! 3.5-pound~that a BIG hammer! LOL
I've found that in certain applications I can get more done with a lighter hammer.....maybe your arm would last better with a 3 pound or so. I did the same thing....started with a three pound and ended up dropping it 'cause my arm gave out. I switched to a 2.5 and hammered through the whole heat without tiring myself out.

One thing I have to work on, in addition to getting the whole taper, is the finish. Mr. Mark's taper is smooth with broken corners. The taper needs to be finished in time to remove hammer marks and break the corners.

Not an easy task by any means.
I've been doing prep work for the spring garden the past two days so I haven't been in the shop. Today it's raining here though, so I'll try again as a warm up, this morning.

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I'm just a hobbyist, so I'll always defer to people who actually know what they're talking about, but one factor I'm surprised I don't hear talked about more often when it comes to applying a lot of force is using more than just your arm. Think of it like a swing of a baseball bat or, for us Canadians, the swing of a hockey stick - the real power comes not from your wrist or your arm muscles but from your entire body, its a transfer of energy that starts in your legs and works its way up.

The other tip I learned from years of cutting firewood is not to aim for the surface, but to aim for a point well below it, the equivalent of having a good follow-through.

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I'm just a hobbyist, so I'll always defer to people who actually know what they're talking about


The only difference between a hobbyist and a professional, is whether you do it for free or pay. Being a professional, in no way endows you with skill and knowledge. Just as posting a lot, doesn't mean you know what you're talking about, getting paid, doesn't mean you're skilled.

As for the body. I prefer to keep my body quiet, however, some smiths do quite a bit of body movement. Peter Ross and Lee Sauder are two that come to mind.

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Gerald play nice I have actualy learned a thing or two from the arm chair crew. Lets see some other people try it. Don't be shy.

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I'm just a hobbyist, so I'll always defer to people who actually know what they're talking about, but one factor I'm surprised I don't hear talked about more often when it comes to applying a lot of force is using more than just your arm. Think of it like a swing of a baseball bat or, for us Canadians, the swing of a hockey stick - the real power comes not from your wrist or your arm muscles but from your entire body, its a transfer of energy that starts in your legs and works its way up. The other tip I learned from years of cutting firewood is not to aim for the surface, but to aim for a point well below it, the equivalent of having a good follow-through.


I would have to disagree with this one with regard to hitting anything on an anvil.
following through with your blow just ends up with you pressing the anvil and this does not move steel but does stress the arms shoulders etc.
the action is very different from chopping wood.

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I agree with Basher there is no follow thru with a anvil. Golf, baseball,even splitting wood the tool continues pass the impact, the anvil stops that of course. Trying to get effect from follow thru takes away from the advantage of rebound. I try to relax and let the hammer contact the work without my hand/arm powering it at impact then catch it on the way up.
As far as putting my body into the swing that just causes me to move my other hand holding the work(something I have enough problems doing anyway). Now if someone else is holding the work and I am striking then I can create more power putting my whole body into the swing, however then my control suffers. The best I can do is raise my arm at the shoulder, this will give me more distance to generate speed in the hammer.

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I would have to disagree with this one with regard to hitting anything on an anvil.
following through with your blow just ends up with you pressing the anvil and this does not move steel but does stress the arms shoulders etc.
the action is very different from chopping wood.


I guess I stated that poorly. What I was referring to was where you aim, equivalent to a follow-through, not there is an actual follow-through. What I was trying to get at is that if you aim at the very surface of the material, your stroke will end prematurely, at least when you are trying to draw something out. There should be an expectation that your hammer will continue moving past the surface. Now, obviously, its not very much past the surface, particularly compared to hitting a baseball, golf ball, hockey puck. Frankly, I do think its similar to chopping wood, the axe is going to slow down dramatically once it hits the surface, but it should still keep moving. Obviously the depth below the surface you are aiming for is dramatically shorter with hot iron than it is with wood, but I still think its there. Again, one man's opinion.

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In the politest voice you can imagine in your head please read the following.


You have it all wrong. You only aim the hammer at the work the hammer is swinging on an arc. There id no holding back stopping or pulling your punches in any way its full speed ahead. If the anvil dissolved mid stroke the hammer would probably fly out of your hand and hit the floor or hit your leg. Its not some zen kung-fu thing or some often repeated but not understood platitude . The hammer hits the work and the energy is dissipated into the metal any kinetic energy not going into the metal is a waist of effort. You lift the hammer up high and swing it as fast as you can not as hard as you can but as fast as you can. You also stay as loose as you can so you don't strain your muscles and joints there is no clenching or straining. I find one can hit harder if you also allow the rest of your body to move with the blow. The Back, leg and abdominal muscles can contribute to the speed of the hammer and help build momentum when lifting the hammer. Your torso is saving momentum like how the springs in your car load up when you slow down to stop then propel you slightly forward like at a stop sign when you don't fully stop.

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In the politest voice you can imagine in your head please read the following. You have it all wrong. You only aim the hammer at the work the hammer is swinging on an arc. There id no holding back stopping or pulling your punches in any way its full speed ahead. If the anvil dissolved mid stroke the hammer would probably fly out of your hand and hit the floor or hit your leg. Its not some zen kung-fu thing or some often repeated but not understood platitude . The hammer hits the work and the energy is dissipated into the metal any kinetic energy not going into the metal is a waste of effort. You lift the hammer up high and swing it as fast as you can not as hard as you can but as fast as you can. You also stay as loose as you can so you don't strain your muscles and joints there is no clenching or straining. I find one can hit harder if you also allow the rest of your body to move with the blow. The Back, leg and abdominal muscles can contribute to the speed of the hammer and help build momentum when lifting the hammer. Your torso is saving momentum like how the springs in your car load up when you slow down to stop then propel you slightly forward like at a stop sign when you don't fully stop.


I'm at a loss to explain how that differs from what I've been saying.

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I think I got all of the previous posts mashed up in my head when i wrote my response. I'm sorry I was off the mark dbrandow. So who else is going to give this a try???

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I had a professor who would explain a topic. If there were any questions, he would start over and explain the topic in the exact same manner, only louder. If there were still questions, he would start from the top AND EXPLAIN THE TOPIC EVEN LOUDER. AND HEAVEN FORBID THERE WERE MORE QUESTIONS! HE COULD GET LOUDER STILL!

I dropped his class.

I am glad that people here can find different explanations for a concept that works.

I understand the concept of aiming past a target, so an not to stop early. Pulling a hammer blow is a good way to hurt yourself! Hit light, hit hard, tap gently even, but checking a full swing is going to hurt. It may be better off to dirt the hammer (drop it on the ground) or hit the stump. The need for a checked swing should never happen, so the swing should always follow through to the end, then catch the hammer on the rebound to take the arm up.

I understand the concept of staying loose and not choking the hammer with a death-grip. A comfortable, firm but not tight grip has more control because the muscles have a certain natural elasticity to help maintain a secure grip. With a death grip you have stressed the muscles more than necessary and they are closer to the limit of their elasticity, so it is easier to knock your grip loose. Additionally working tense uses more energy because muscles that are not needed get used inappropriately.

When I chop wood I do not expect the ax to return like when I hammer at the anvil. I still aim my blows in a similar manner.

Phil

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