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I Forge Iron

All In the Wrist?

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Recently attended an event at the fairgrounds and was able to demmo. I was informed by another that my technique was wrong. I should "flick my wrist just as the hammer face is about to strike".




I don't flick my wrist. I may angle my wrist up/down a tad, but pretty much do not give it a flick as the hammer is nearing the workpiece.


Is there a correct method to follow? I mean in terms of wrist action? I do have my own anvil's face nearly knuckle heigh.


I didn't know what to say to the gent. I was a bit surprised to hear that from him.


Was he just messing w/me? I wasn't watching others, in terms of wrist action.

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The wrist is a small part of body mechanics. I am not exactly sure wot he meant,,,but i have the hammer real loose in hand at time of strike, For me that reduces stress on my old joints. I suppose like most folks i learned forging in so many incorrect ways without proper guidance.Then when I paid to attend events that had the right folks to move me  forward it took me a long time to correct. Now I think I have it right....but then again that thinking caused problems in the past. You cannot learn this on line! You need someone that understands body mechanics as related to forging that will watch you and make suggestions. That someone needs to be the best you can possibly find. That may or not be at a local group of friends or members of a local smithing group. There are some folks that post in these forums that seem to have those skills.

I went to those that had competed in the world blacksmithing and other competitions. i know that almost all of the ones I paid to see had also had others help them at some time along the way. Some local groups have folks do clinics that it would be worth anyones time to attend.

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I'm thinking we have a terminology thing going here. I don't "flick" my wrist but I certainly do use my wrist joint to add power to my blows as well as make a fourth joint by holding the hammer between my thumb's first joint and the side on the knuckle joint of my index finger. Every joint is a force multiplier so every time you use one the power of your blow goes up considerably.


Now for terminology, I don't know of a correct term to use for how I use my wrist so I describe it by saying I whip the hammer like you would a spin casting rod. distance and accuracy casting isn't a matter of power, it's technique. It requires a smooth fast snap of the wrist to get the power to the rod's tip and make the action work properly. Of course I don't swing a hammer like a casting rod but the technique is similar in principle and only a little different in practice.


I developed my technique as an outgrowth of studying the martial arts. Our Club/Dojo taught a combination of Shotokahn and Kempo. Shotokahn tends to rely on force meeting force while Kempo relies on deflecting force through round motions. This makes Shotokahn a little slow and very tiring while you're pretty much going to win or lose by who's stronger, not always of course but the odds were. Kempo on the other hand was very "scientific", relied on deflection and speed rather than putting force into a blow you were supposed to just keep hitting the opponent till he yielded.


Both schools of karate, like most everything, have their strong and weak points. Combining the two Sensi Bill put the best of both into one style and we used to kick butt in tournaments. combine the solid strong techniques of Shotokahn with the deflection, avoid and strike scientifically techniques of Kempo was the best of both styles.


Anyhow, the thing to learn about a Kempo strike was make it round, never straight up the middle but roll the force from your feet up your skeleton and down from shoulder to your fist. This rolling action allowed every joint to do it's force multiplication and blows were far stronger with less effort. visualize your whole body unrolling like a party favor with the last 3/4" before impact cracking like a whip. It's smooth fluid, blindingly fast and cripplingly powerful but best of all puts a minimum stress on the striker and uses a minimum strength.


Anyway, I adapted my hammering technique from my karate training and can strike harder from the elbow out than a lot of guys can by reaching for the ceiling. I crack my hammer like a whip and it lets me strike effectively and after 40 years from my last martial arts session I have no joint pain from fingers to wrist to shoulders.


Anywho, that's how I'd interpret the "flick" the hammer comment. Perhaps a technique I'm familiar with but a term I'm not. That's all. We can all too often get hung up on a term and lose the communication intended. Just a thought.


Frosty The Lucky.

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When my hammer makes contact, I'm not even holding it. My hand is around the handle, but it is only around the handle, no grip at all. I refer to it as throwing the hammer. I believe I can strike as hard as most anyone can. I rarely raise the hammer above my elbow. I do little more than guide the hammer to the target. My first advice to anyone is "do not grip the hammer"............just my .02

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I've noticed that some folks like a fairly light hammer, ( 1.5 to 2.5 pound ) ... while I prefer a heavier one. ( 3 to 4 pound )


Those who favor the lighter hammers, tend to grip well down the handle, ( which increases velocity ) and use short, rapid blows.


You might, ... for lack of a better term, ... call this technique, "flicking" the hammer.



I mostly grip about 6" below the head, and use a very "deliberate" blow, ... often "stroking" the face of the hammer across the piece, to help move the material in the desired direction.


For me, "rebound" doesn't usually enter into the equation, ... unless I'm really whaling away on a larger piece.

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Attending a blacksmithing event last night, I paid close attention to the arm/wrist for each smith and see very little movement in the wrist when the hammer is about to strike.The wrist remained on the same plane as the forearm, for the most part.


I was surprised to see them holding the hammer so very close to the head.....but working with smaller sized stock, maybe that is normal/propper? ......................I use hammer handles that are 16-18 inches long and hold it near the end. These guys were using hammers that would appear to be equipped w/9-10 inch handles. I thought that odd. These would be 3 pounds or more hammer heads they used.


Perhaps longer handles for heavier work and short handles for lighter tasks......????? Never thought about that as I use the same length handles on all my hammers. Be it 2 pounds or 3.5 pounds.

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shorter handle for more precision. just like choking up on a bat. The handle is a lever. and extention of your hand/wrist/arm/body. The longer the lever the more movement you get at the end in comparison to the movement you've got at your hand. The closer the head you hold the hammer, the more control you will have over the head. The other aspect of this is power. The longer the lever, the more power you have at the head of the hammer. Power is a distiction of force+speed+Mass. You can get more power by adding force, adding speed, or adding mass. The lever adds the speed. as the head of the hammer is moving faster the further away from your hand it is. Just like the tread of a tire is moving faster than the hub. They both have to be at same point in the circle at the same time, but as they have different distances to travel the larger diameter must travel faster. In this case the elbow would be the center of the tire, The hand would be the rim of the wheel, and the hammer head would be the tread of the tire. There isn't a lot of movement at the elbow, There is more at the hand, and even more at the hammer head.

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I am not into the theory that holding at the end of a long handle has a detrimental impact on accuracy. I rarely hold up close to the head for more precise strikes. And with a long handle I use a spot near the end but a couple of inches closer to the head. I have that area modified for hand hold and with that I can tell which face of the head will impact the work. When I use top tools,,even ones with small targets to hit I want to hit with wotever force is called for.

I dislike short handled tools but some folks like them a lot. I also notice that skilled smiths can use most tools effectively. And in groups that can affect the tools that others use. Not unusual for groups to gravitate to similiar tools. And if that works i am a supporter.

And i will restate wot i posted earlier. Anyone learning this craft should seek help with body mechanice from someone that has the ability to do that. If you learn to forge incorrectly you may be able to forge pretty well. You may also limit your skills due to that.

And I have in so many ways done just that both with forging and other areas., When i had to retrace the early steps and lose practiced habits it was not an enjoyable experience and for sure put work on hold. However when i paid that tuition my work finally improved,

 Your shop,,,your rules,



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as in everything skill and experience help. There are many people who can be very accurate with a long handled hammer. but that is more of a learned skill than an innate skill. In my limited anvil time I've noticed on heavier hammers, I choke up. And I'm sure I'll do this for a while until I get used to the weight of the hammer. But with a normal hammer I'm perfectly comfortable holding the end of the handle.

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Best money I ever spent was on a golf lesson. I think I got lucky.


He showed me the basic principals of how the body develops and transfers power and how to recruit the big muscles so that the little muscles just perform minor corrections and wont fatigue.


He showed me how to use my stance and back so that my shoulders and eyes cut a perfect arc and didn't wobble about.


Then he took me through the setup routine to get the body in the precise position to hit the ball millimeter perfect.


Then he demonstrated how a thing called "release" basically how a wrist roll after the ball is struck can precisely change the direction of the entire swing (letting the golfer draw and fade the ball at will).


It hurt like XXXXX for 6 months while my body adjusted out of its old lazy habits and built up a few muscles I had neglected. The payoff has been enormous. I use these techniques and setup routines in almost everything I do.


The only downside is that it takes that sense of spontaneous freedom away, when you do something perfectly first time without even thinking about it and it feels so good. The upside is it will be 99% perfect for the next 1000 times with a lot less effort and stress.


I will listen to advice from anybody and if I can, I will ask questions about how and why they do it that way so I can make up my own mind, hand him the hammer and say show me what you mean. Unfortunately if you have a face like mine, and people think  "he's two fries short of a happy meal" your going to get a LOT of free advice, and most of it complete rubbish. :rolleyes:

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I have to agree with thor on this one. When using my 3 pound cross pein im choked up about half way on the handle, maybe 6 or 7 inches from the hammer head. But when im using my pound and a half ball pein for finish work im gripping just above the end of the handle. Possibly once ive built my muscles a bit more and gained a bit of accuracy ill choke down a bit on my big hammer, but as my baseball coach always told me, "its more important to hit accuratly than hard."
The Mad Rabbit

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I think perhaps, individual success with various hammer techniques, might have something to do with individual physiology.


I'm a "barrel chested" physical type, ... and tend to be more "right brain" methodical in my approach to things.


Someone that'a thinner, lankier and perhaps more "artistic" in their thinking, is surely going to have a different approach to things.



There's no "Right or Wrong" in that .....






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