Correct Hammer position/ blows

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I have had one really great master and one that was good. None of them ever told me how to use the hammer. They told me how to shape the iron. However when I was a kid I was told by my father not to think about the hammer only about the nail and that worked. A Karate master will tell you not to think about hitting the board but thinking below the board. That thinking is also very useful when cleaving wood for fuel. Musashi stresses in his treatise on swordsmanship (the five rings) that one should not think about how to step or how to hold the sword. but concentrate on cutting the opponent.

We are all a llittle different but my experience is that I should concentrate on what I want to have done, forget about technical niceties, and try to be comfortable with what I do. Then I get the best results and I do not hurt myself. This does not mean that there are not "wrong" ways that should be avoided. However, my experience is that the wrong ways tend to come from the unexperienced person thinking more on how to do things than on what to do. As a martial arts instructorI have seen this again and again.

In another thread there is a discussion about where to hold the thumb. It makes no sense to me. If I want o move Iron I use a heavier hammer and hold the thumb down because I need more power. If I want to adjust, I use a lighter hammer and hold the thumb up because than I have more control. However, the switch comes unconciously if I do not think about it ..

I agree that driving nails might be a good excercise and excercise is a good thing. I also agree that a good instructor is very beneficial but part of the instruction will be to concentrate on the work in hand. I saw someone on this forum say "Do not tickle it hit it" I could not agree more. I could also quote Yoda: "Do not try; do it or do not."  


I took a look at the farrier in the picture referred to aove. His anvil is far too high and that causes him to keep the elbows out in an inefficient way. Then he grips very close to the hammer head so he cannot swing the hammer properly - It is like holding a baseball bat in the middle.

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Gore: good points all - I've been focusing on the hammer because I dont know an better... :) a good friend and master woodworker spent about an hour with me last night and gave me some tips for hammer control - I banged away for 2 hours and woke up without any soreness - did another 2 hours of practice tonight and I feel like I'm beginning to make progress - tomorrow I'll try focusing on shaping - or practice more to get the muscle memory....

Thanks for your insight


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** Mark Aspery  GO'S way into depth on teaching GOOD hammer control in his first book & I am sure its on U Tube somewhere also

He is one of the Master Smiths that can teach good hammer control & thats not as easy as It sounds It takes watching how you hold the hammer - the swing of it the -strike & the return  done right It will save you body


He has 3 books out now WELL worth ANY  price !!! & very well done ! & if you can ever see him you will agree !


Wow... I'm glad - I just bought that book online and haven't seen it yet.  I actually sent him a question asking if he had, or knew of any good articles on hammer control... I shoulda known.


I saw a video the other day - can't find it again, but the guy was hammering a curl on the hard edge of an anvil - all you saw was the handle side of the hammer and it was rotating in his hand as he lightly coaxed the curl he wanted out of the material.  It was AWESOME! Might even have been Aspery...  That's the kind of understanding of how to work metal I aspire to.

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Hammer blows are to be straight down. Don't row a boat with the hammer blows. No glancing blows. Simply straight down. Use a hammer of the weight you are confortable with. You will know if it's too small/too big.


Hold the handle any way you feel comfortable. At the end for more power,less acurate blows. Choke up for lighter work i.e. less power and more acurate blows.


  • The height of the anvil is also important.

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