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The weight of blacksmiths hammers through history

Everything Mac

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An odd title I know. 


However I'm writing an article on blacksmiths hammers with a health twist and I would really like to know the average hammer weight of blacksmithing hammers through history. 


If anyone has a link to (for example) Viking smiths hammers or anything that would indicate their weight I'd be most appreciative. 


I'd also be interested to see the average weights in different regions of the (modern) world. I'm ignoring styles and focusing on the weight of the hammer itself. 


I have a feeling most will be in the 2-3lb range though I've nothing to support that. 




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Look at the size of hammers in "the Forgers" by Goya IIRC.


Sledges for large work could be quite heavy.  Hammers for small work could range all over the place.


Look in De Re Metallica


and in the Hausbuchs cf http://www.nuernberger-hausbuecher.de/index.php?do=page&mo=8


I'll take a look at what Monxon mentions


Anything in Diderot's Enclyclopedia?


There was a source I unfortunately didn't get nailed down and now can't locate that was on iron age smith graves durch den Alpen IIRC, (in German of course) that would be interesting and of course Shire Books "Egyptian Metalworking and Tools"

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I've just had a look at the smithing section in Moxon's 'Mechanick Exercises' - mine is the 1703 edition. Several types of hammer are mentioned but no specific weights are given, merely helpful advice such as that the hammer is '...sometimes bigger, or less, according to the strength of the work-man...' So no luck there.  


You won't get exact figures but you could take a squint at photographs going back to the mid 19th century and then decent quality illustrations from before then. If you can make a good estimate of the size of a hammer's head you can calculate the mass of it, probably to within half a pound.

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Curious project Andy!

Sounds like a good excuse to roam your country's museums with digital scales under arm.

Ok, ones i have found in my books;


Anglo-Saxon; Thetford- 605 grams

Tattershall Thorpe smith's grave (7th Century)- 450g, 150g, 33g. 

Viking; Coppergate- three heads, largest 658 grams

"...range of 400- 750g for Viking period smithing hammers in Scandinavia."  Anglo-Saxon Crafts, Kevin Leahy


Mastermyr find; 724g, 602g, 407g, 481g, (sledge) 3370g, 1862g, 1596g.  Also there are adzes and axes- 752g, 463g, 719g, 272g.  These are from The Mastermyr Find- Greta Arwidsson & Gosta Berg.  They also discuss many other smith's tool finds from Celtic, Roman and other related sites.

 I would recommend reading that chapter, '3. Pre-medieval comparitive material.'




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Andy asked me this question in pm yesterday and I thought to help the discussion along I would post my reply here as well (maybe get others' brains ticking wink.gif )

its a tricky one. There aren't that many hammers surviving and its almost impossible to determine which are for forging and which are for other craft purposes (after all a lump hammer is very similar in many ways to a forging hammer, but not normally recognised as such). Even if you look at associated find groups and decide that these hammers are a blacksmith tool kit because tongs and other tools are found with it, you still have to decide if it is a hand hammer or a sledge. A 5lb brian brazeal hammer would be considered a sledge hammer if you stuck it on a long handle! From what I've seen looking at the archaeology, the same weights of hammer that you would find in a modern forge (say 400g to 6000g) are pretty well represented in any time during the last couple of thousand years. Though the largest hammers seem to be smaller (nothing more than 4kg I know) in antiquity, this could also be down to the fact that it is a big lump of expensive metal just as we have very few anvils

So, baring that in mind. I know of (and have references for):

Iron Age/roman (all from the UK) forging hammers around 800g, some smaller hammers found in iron working contexts between 30g and 350g, larger hammers (often with swages cut into them) 1500-4000g
Viking: mastermyr 600-750g ALSO sledges at 1600-3300g
Saxon: York 650g

So a bit tricky to generalise I would say As for hammer weight and injury, again very much conjecture I feel. I developed tennis elbow late last year and I had to find a solution. Trawling the net for advice from other smiths (a lot on IFI), some folk went to lighter hammers and other to heavier. At the time I used a 1kg hammer all the time and could use a 3lb for short periods. I had always preferred the idea of a light hammer going fast for long periods. Since that is how I was working when I developed TE, I tried lighter (750g) and it was worse due to the more repetitions and force that I had to put into the blow. So I tried a heavier hammer (2kg), but with a shorter handle. The tennis elbow largely cleared up. I put it down to not needing to swing so hard to get the same movement in the steel. I can now swing that all day just as I once did a hammer of half the weight. 

hope that helps 

The idea that the hammers were generally smaller could also be attributed to that fact that every smith would have at least one striker, so he didn't need to hit hard all day long. Also, iron is softer than steel, so it doesn't require so much force to be applied to move it at forging heat (bit of a generalisation I know). Mostly I think it's impossible to say since there is such a huge variation in hammer types and some have very specific uses, we just don't have a good enough sample from the historical record.

In terms of my own experience with the tennis elbow, I think that a large part of the improvement was a change in technique that goes with the combination of a short handle and a heavy head. You can't hold let alone lift a heavy head on the end of a long stick if you have tennis elbow! You can, however, hold close to the head (or a short handle), lift and drop. That helped to bring me more inline with the work and so I think a lot of the actual improvement was in my overall technique, despite me thinking that it was OK in the first place (even when I see old footage on video of me forging, I can't see anything wrong with my stroke or stance?)

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After reading ThomasPowers' post, I searched Diderot for "marteau" and did not find an answer to your question. The only passage relevent to weight was where it's said that the hammers of the blacksmith and that of the striker are the same but that of the striker is heavier.


As everyone seems to suggest or say, there was as there is a great variation in the sizes used.

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American Civil War – From 1863 Ordnance Manual

Contents of Limber – Chest of Forge A, U.S. Army


Hand hammer 3.50 pounds

Riveting hammer 1.05 pounds

Nailing hammer 1.80 pounds

Sledge hammer 10.50 pounds

Shoeing hammer 0.82 pounds

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I started out about 13 years ago and had a 1000 gram Swedish that I used for several years, then switched to a 1000 gram Hofi style hammer, using the Hofi/Tom Clark style hammering.  After about 2 years I got a Big Blu 3.5# Hofi hammer.  I  had to switch back and forth for a couple of months because the bigger hammer would ware me out.  Then I got accustomed to it and was using it exclusively.  in October of this year I got a 4.75# Brian type rounding hammer and have worked right into it with no problems.

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Length of work life is also a factor---remember that when Social Security was set up in the USA 65 was more of a stretch goal and if you made that the number of years after that tended to be pretty low.  Of course they also started earlier in olden times.


For the pictorial sources I suggested you would have to come up with a way of estimating weights, assuming that the artists had a pretty good take on relative sizes.


Anything in Richardson's "Practical Blacksmithing" on hammer weights; my copy seems to be at my other house.   (along with a couple of early 1900's books I can check but maybe too late for your paper.


Farm Shop Practice, Mack M. Jones, 1939 states "A blacksmiths hand hammer weighing 1 1/2 or 2 lb. and another weighing 3 or 3 1/2 lb. will handle all ordinary work very satisfactorily." pg 203    (it also states that a 100 to 125 lb. anvil is good and "Anvils are of two general grades: cast iron and steel.  Steel anvils are much better and should be used if they can be afforded."

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Practical Blacksmithing would be 1889, 1890, 1891.


I have a book from around WW1 on smithing.


With the information in the Civil War you are getting some nice spaced dates.  However a lot of info tends to get copied over and re-used from time to time without re-examination, often causing difficulties.  (even Theophilus was guilty of this in 1120 A.D. with the "how to carve rock crystal" section.)

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