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I Forge Iron

Weight Forward Hammers


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Looking through a copy of Archeology Magazine over breakfast Saturday I noticed that the following article on the Rio Tinto mines in Spain had examples of roman hammers including the weight forward ones that folks keep calling "japanese" even though there is a very very long history of them in Europe...


The Mines that Built Empires
Volume 63 Number 5, September/October 2010
by Barry Yeoman
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its just the abstract online for that particular article unfortunately, they don't get into the tools, just a discussion of the history of the Riotinto mine and Delgado's family history working in the mine.  Is the stone hammer featured on the page one of the forward weighted ones?  hard to picture how it might have been used from just that one shot with very little perspective to work with.

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Yup I have that issue to hand and have enjoyed reading the magazine over the years to sort of keep track of some of the present theories on things in the Archeological world.  Shoot I even enjoy reading letters suggesting that an article might have been off *and* the author's reply to the letters.


Now to find out if the 500 roman hammers have ever been published!  (since archaeologists tend to be impressed by "old" the stone hammer had pride of place over the iron ones---wasn't it Agatha Christie who suggested that a women should marry an archeologist as the older they got the more interested in them their husband would become?)

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My first degree was Geology and I told my wife that I wouldn't consider her Old till she had a billion plus years on her; pre-cambrian---that's old!


I do like experimental archeology and have corresponded with a few archeologists when my experiences doing things have differed form their theoretical work. 


One in particular comes to mind: a fellow was postulating that the gap often found in the bellows/tuyere junction was trying to suck in more air than just the bellows push. His calculations showed it didn't work. In my experience the gap was to prevent sucking small burning bits of charcoal back into the bellows that didn't have checkvalves on the output.  A gap about the diameter of the tuyere and careful alternation of the bellows works quite well.  I don't know if he believed me but he was polite in his correspondence over it... 


There is also an Archeological Metallurgy mailing list out there; where, surprising as it may be, I generally lurk rather than post.

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Funny proportion and front weighted hammers just look at some of the old English hammer catalogs, even Bruce Wilcock's catalog had a bunch of hammers where 2/3 of the weight was in front of the haft, with only a puny little pein hanging off the backside. My major professor in college was Vernard Foley and he had published several articles on how the American Axe was superior to the European felling axe, because the weight of the head was balanced by a pole on the backside, which put the instant center of rotation in the center of the handle, which resulted in less vibration and better control.  There were several innovations that came out of our pioneer heritage and the tradition of American over engineering...  "Look I want to buy one once and I want it to last forever, I don't know when I will be some where I might be able to buy another one..."  Until some godless MBA came up with planned obsolescence....

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