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I Forge Iron

tempering a small hammer

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I have read through a heap of these posts and it has really made me feel like the rank amateur that I am. I wonder if someone would be kind enough to enlighten me, in simple terms, how I should go about putting a hard edge on the business end of a small cross pein hammer.

I wanted a lightweight hammer ideal for making leaves. All the light crosspeins I have are too sharp to push metal the way I want. I have a larger hammer which works well so I copied the radius of the pein curve and made a smaller one. It's good tool steel, but in so doing I have probably removed all the temper it once had.

So I have the hammer ready to heat treat. My previous attempts at tempering have been less than encouraging. This hammer will only be subjected to light work, but I need to know how I can make it serviceable - not soft and not brittle - a happy compromise will do!

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do you know what the alloy is?


If not you are working by guess and by golly!


Anyway heat to the point it loses it's magnetism and quench in warm oil (130 to 140 degF)


Clean it off and check the face with a file to see if it hardened enough for you.  If so immediately draw the temper on it.  Some folks use their kitchen oven, some a torch, some forge a rod to fit into the handle eye---this allows for a differential temper.


I'd start with a brown and check the FACE for hardness; go on to purple if too hard, check and go to blue if too hard  When you have the face where you like it you can roge a stout ring that just fits around the face and use it to differentially draw temper just on the face by cleaning the colour from the face and then heating the ring and applying it to soak in heat from the edges and go just a bit further along the temper colours


If you go too far, start over with the heat and quench.



Now if we knew the alloy someone could look it up and say: heat to WXYZ, quench in ABC and temper to DEF to get GH Hardness

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Boy you lost me Thomas! My method is to heat to red hot and then quench in oil. Tempering by cleaning the scale so that I can see the colors and then slow baking atop the forge fire till I get a pretty even purplish color and then quenching to stop the tempering. I know skilled hammer makers who use water to quench with and with the large mass of the hammers, seem to get by quite successfully! I would use oil! Especially as your hammer is a small one and of unknown steel of possibly HC or high alloy type!

BTW an HC or high alloy steel is not ideal for hammers. Medium carbon or tough alloy like 1045 or 4140 steels will serve quite nicely!

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Thanks. I don't know what the alloy is. However, I shaped this hammer from the remains of an old, badly pitted, larger double face hammer. While grinding it smooth I could just detect the word Germany on the underside. So I imagine it is the required steel for a hammer.
I just went and tested it with a file. The face end which received minimal attention is hard and the file makes no impression. The other end, which I have shaped into a cross pein (because that's the end I intend to use), is softer and the file does remove a little material.

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Thank you all for the advice. A number of methods to consider there. I finished up opting for the simplest - whole tool heated to cherry red, quenched and slow reheat. Didn't see any colour so quenched again, fitted the handle and hope for the best. File test says it might be a little softer than I had hoped, but we'll see how it goes. If I have to regrind it now and again, so be it.
Thank you again for the help. Much appreciated.

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