Glenn

Anvil height, how can you tell if it is the right height

Recommended Posts

On 9/30/2016 at 7:49 AM, gote said:

I had mine like that and I very quickly got a back problem. I had to stand with my feet nearly three feet apart to save my back. I then did as Glenn recommends. I did it  before reading about it.  I figured it out myself. When your back hurts you get inspiration.

Now if you are a young man you may get away with a too low anvil - for now. Question is what it does to your back in the long run.   

its like anything the human body is only designed for so many cycles..  Each person has their own limits.. 

I started smithing at age 10.. by age 16 I dropped out of school because I didn't fit in. wasn't challenged enough. etc, etc..  Anyhow, by the age of 17 I had started forging a lot.. I was in search of knowledge and worked  constantly to get better at forging.. Real forging not just mushing iron.. 10+ hours a day as long as I had coal.. 

I did professional smithing for 8 years.. (professional = making a living full time) i used to spend 10-14hrs a day standing at the anvil forging steel into anything and everything..   Anyhow, I got burnt out.. People :(  Lost vision.   

I took off 10 years of forging iron. My shoulders and elbows hurt about 2 years after closing up shop though I was still hammering/shaping horse shoes.. 

The only time my shoulders, elbows and wrists feel any good is after a few days of smithing.. Real forging..  then I can actually raise my arms above my head with full joint rotation..  

So, as to anvil height.. It's what works for that person but most people simply get locked into what the anvil is resting on and then it stays that way for 20 years.

Back before I got lazy (when I was smithing full time in my 20's.) I was far from lazy and kept adjusting the anvil height (and leave it that way for months) till I found worked best overall and put that into my main anvil..  The sledging anvil was about 3" shorter in height.. 

Now with how the anvil and stand are mounted in the trailer I can adjust height both with floor height and I have extra guides on the stand so I can loosen the bolts, slip wood boards underneath and change the height up to 3"..  I get 6" usable adjustment but changing floor height so this is 9" of total adjustment.. Perfect for a new student who is looking for the right height..  Which again changes depending on type, and size of materials.. 

Because of the amount of time I have forging and working moving metal I can tell almost instantly if I like the anvil height or not..  But this also applies to forge, blower and vise height.. Which are just as important. Also power hammer height which most we designed around people born in the 1800's and were much shorter than people today for the most part..   

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

always had my anvil height at text book level,but after a while came to the thought that raising the height was the thing for sure ,only thing i found was miss cued shots sent the hammer way back, always tilt my head out of direct smack zone (found that wearing my seeing  glasses helped a bit)but to new folk ,the hammer transmits the energy you put in,can get relaxed when doing repetitive hitting ,just something to keep in mind

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good point..  I have had 2 incidences where i had a missed strike flat faced.. Once I got hit straight in the forehead and the other I got lucky enough it just missed my eyeball socket at the temple..  Things happen..  Nearly lost both front teeth with hitting a piece of metal clamped the wrong way (flat length wise, thin edge on each jaw) Was upsetting the end of a rod to make it larger for threading(striker plate for door knocker)..  I hit it 3 times next thing I knew my front teeth were loose.. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yes mate ,good advice is always welcome for sure, seems harmless enough the art of heat and steel but lots of things to be careful of

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have never had a hammer rebound anytwhere near my head but

#!: I have the anvil at wrist height so I do not bend over it.

#2: To me it is natural to have the elbow a little out from the body so a rebound goes more to the right.

#3: I keep strictly to the rule of not working tired.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"#3: I keep strictly to the rule of not working tired."

You're a better man than I am Gunga Din!

I'm right with you on the proper height so you DON'T lean over bit!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

You're a better man than I am Gunga Din!

YESSSAHIBSIR   :D

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've found keeping my elbows indexed into or as close to my hips as possible and keeping the strike zone on my center line has a number of advantages. 1 it means my blows are generally much more accurate. Fewer mistakes less reworking, less tired, good control.

At this angle the plane of rotation is centered just outside your shoulders for men, women it might be closer to over the shoulder, I don't know how your elbow rests in relation to your hips. The rim of the plane of rotation is the impact point of the hammer head on my center line or nose to belly button. A missed blow on this plane will have the hammer head passing over the joint of your shoulder and past your head. That depends on where you miss, miss across your center line (inside) and the hammer will pass outside your shoulder, farther from your head. If you miss outside your center line it's coming back closer to your head.

Just keeping your elbows on your sides and your aim point on the far side of your center line makes missed blows a LOT safer. Please note I did NOT say "SAFE" there are so many variables that can effect the rebound direction of a missed blow making it "safe" would mean "No hammering for YOU!"

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All good points..    Very good description of body mechanics..    If you watch the video on Fork making.. It says the same thing for accurate blows and also moving the bar to the same hip as the hammer so you are not crossing the body with the metal.. And is the reason I quoted you..   Not to argue semantics.. 

Nicely done as always Frosty... You are amazing at explaining stuff and can see the thought process.. Very nice. 

 

On a different note...   There is a really big difference between a professional smith 30 years ago vs today as to ergonomics..   Very much so for the hobbiest vs a professional.. 

I basically have coined the phrases taken from Mountain biking  or motorcycle riding..  

You have a neutral stance, a retreating stance, and an aggressive stance..  (weight even, weight back, weight forwards (weight= center of gravity or CG)     All these refer to where your body position is on the bike or better yet the center of gravity.. It applies in other areas of life as well when walking, bending, moving etc, etc.. 

Anyhow, in the last 30 years most beginners/ intermediate smiths have a tendency to stand more upright or neutral. (I have seen it time and time again at the meets) almost like they are afraid of the hot metal. But they are also coming into this much later in life and all ready have back problems  or simply not enough core muscles to support a more aggressive position and hence a sore back, shoulder or neck)... ( at the last NEB meet I was actually trying to get a 14 year old to stand up straighter).. 

Most professional smiths that have been doing this for over 20 years (20 years is arbitrary 99% of the professional smiths over 55 I know use a very aggressive stance) have a very aggressive position with slightly bent knees, shoulders forwards with hips slightly neutral. Reason is it makes for a more powerful swing as the whole body is used in the swing and 2, it puts your head just about directly in the line of sight for the area being worked (line of sight, not hammer).. (Yup what about when your sledge hammering, Duh,, Common sense, yup slippery slope as usual)..  .....We can argue the point about less accuracy as the whole body is moving but it's moot as one becomes more proficient ,accuracy and speed increase........ 

Even though I am a farrier now and spend 5 or 6 hours a day bent over in the traditional farrier pose (legs deeply bent holding a hoof, back bent nearly 90° at hip) and had back surgery 10 years ago, when I went back to blacksmithing my back was sore from not being in shape.. Weak stomach muscles, weak back muscles and such..   My shoulders now feel great.. Like they did in my 20's..  My back now with 6 months of blacksmithing weekly on it feels great even with forging for 8hrs  or more in an aggressive position isn't sore. and this in on a floor that isn't ideal.  It took 6 months to get back into this limited shape forging once a week or so.. 

As for stance..      There is always an engineerin/ergo perfect position..   Standing up straight, arms at sides, neck straight, shoulders relaxed but engaged.. swinging from your elbow, not using to heavy a hammer.. etc, etc..  hips centered, CG over pelvis and evenly distributed between feet..

While all these things are great for a part timer or someone who isn't trying to make a paycheck or meet a dead line on a regular basis when forging by hand if you are moving serious metal you need a more aggressive position..  Again it can be argued, but if you watch any videos on long timers (especially the WCB) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYUXmxLJj7w ,     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KegA1sluDuw  ,     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJMUSpW3PHg

 

Being in better shape, and slimmer will also help with all these ergo dynamics..        

As to hitting myself in the head.. The cure is.. Hit the metal.. not the anvil.. I also chose to be honest about the mistakes i have made if it helps others.  Here is another tidbit.. Do Not leave your thumb and finger on the anvil when you are holding a piece 1/8" thick by 1 " wide with a 3" face hammer.. 

 I used to be a fantastic metal mover and worked with a vengeance.  Not so much anymore but give me another 6 months or so and I'll  be in pretty good forging shape.. :) 

Again well said..  I always enjoy what you write and the information your replies contain, simply wonderful.. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Jenifer, coming from a pro means a lot.

You've hit it on the head, I wasn't speaking to the professionals as much as to the beginners and hobbyists. Your position :) on stance is right and not something beginners think about I'm glad you brought it up. It reminds me of the beginner asking why I do something a certain way and I have to actually think about it so I can explain it. I've been assuming stance as necessary so long I don't think about it and am afraid didn't consider folk might not do it automatically.

When teaching I refer to addressing the anvil and draw heavily on my martial arts training from so long ago. I never thought of applying terminology for the 3 basic positions. We called them a: "Front " =  neutral, "Forward" = aggressive and "Back" = retreating. and you're absolutely right about stance and power. I'll have to examine my stances and the plane of rotation of my swing and see if I need to change something: my opinion of safer, my description of how I address the anvil, the way I address the anvil. 

I've never been a pro but I used to be fast and good at the anvil, a start to finish leaf finial coat hook with twist in under 6 minutes while maintaining a patter to the audience, describing what I was doing, why, what was going to happen, answer questions, tell jokes and generally perform good theater.  Thinking back on the days before the accident I did stand more aggressively at the anvil, keeping my center of mass farther forward over my center of support. My balance was better too.

A good number of the most experienced smiths in our club are farriers and you can see a full gamut of form. One of our guys works almost directly over the anvil and his swing almost looks like he's trying to punch the hammer into the work. When he demos for meetings one of his longer "regular" talks is about how to lean the anvil away from you so the hammer impacts flush with the face and (waait - forrr - iiiiitt!) missed blows do NOT smack him between the eyes. He also lives with debilitating wrist, elbow and shoulder damage and is having to retire from farrier work but hopes to be able to continue smithing on a slower easier score. 

The other two who demonstrate pretty regularly, depends on their apt book you know. They have much better stances, far less aggressive though still forward and they roll the blow down their arms, snappy rather than HARD blows. Their handles are the typical narrow whippy farrier handles and they hammer fast. Time is money it's a fact of the farrier's life who has bills to pay and likes to eat.

It's just how it is. Shoeing a horse is a different universe. Horses don't really like having their hooves messed with, especially if you're not their people, if you don't feed, water, brush, talk to, love on, ride them, clean their stall, are generally not of their herd, you're suspect. A farrier must possess a level of clinical detachment, they aren't going to be there long enough to win the horses trust and affection by the herd bonding effects. A farrier has to radiate a love of horses, respect their superior size, weight and strength but not take any, ANY guff. It's actually pretty cool once you get the hang of it. 

You ain't lived till you've stepped in front of a panicked run away horse, grabbed a loose rein when they shied from running you down, turned their lunge into a circle, given them that deep confident whoa, you KNOW they're going to obay because YOU - SAID - SO, then shush and calm them down. Knowing how to touch a panicked horse to calm them and how they'll just decide you are okay and the bond is on. Ever see someone breath into a horse's nostril? Goes a long way to calming a panicked or spooky horse. Give them your scent AND lower their blood oxy level. Pretty sneaky eh?:)

About two maybe three summers ago I was garage saling, it was Colony Days in Palmer so garage sales hot. Anyway, I was driving back towards the Glenn Hwy. and here comes a spooked and panicking horse in carriage traps skidding around the corner off the Glenn. I let off the throttle and eyeball the lay of the farm fields. The fencing on the right is secure it's not going that way and up ahead a little the road is on a fill section about 3' high. I have my funnel, with the Saturn Vue in the right lane the horse is going to run down the oncoming lane so as it approaches and slows down because it's road is narrowing I open the door, step out in front of it, take the reign and give it my best WHOA down there. We do a couple circles till she can stop running and start dancing as I'm shushing and calming her down. By time the police cruiser in hot pursuit approaches I had her standing and I motion them to slow down and stop back away from us. (It REALLY helps having flagged traffic as part of my regular job for 30 years,;)) By time one of the officers walked up I had her calm her breathing and heart rate slowing down and I was hand currying the dripping sweat off her. Like with dogs, grooming is a bonding technique.

A true Kodak moment, more than 45 years since I'd caught a run away, a severe brain injury, no time to think and I still had it. :D (Hey, don't mention lucky and ruin my moment of glory!)  GEEZE I LOVE reliving that couple minutes and to ice the cake I got to give police officers orders and instructions before I hopped in my vehicle and bidding them adieu. Heh heh heh, follow directions and you boys can handle this till help arrives. :lol:

Even if you have the touch and manner to earn the limited cooperation a horse is going to give a good farrier, they are only going to stand there so long. You REALLY want to be in and out in what, 30-45 mins? It's been decades since I watched the farrier shoe our horses so I don't remember times very well. Still you don't want to be messing around longer than necessary. A good job of: cleaning, trimming, filing 4 hooves is hard to do very fast and do right. Hot fitting and nailing goes reasonably fast. That leaves making the and adjusting shoes the one place you can realistically get faster so farriers tend to be furiously fast at the anvil. 

Am I close Jenifer? It's only been 45 years or so since I watched farriers very often.

Anyway, farriers address the anvil in an aggressive stance and go fast. It's part of the job. But they address the horses in a slightly more aggressive than neutral stance. You have to be Alpha but not threatening, it's a trick and done right a joy to watch.

Boy did I get side tracked but you brought back memories and give me things to think about. Here's hoping I wasn't too far off the mark.

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Frosty said:

A true Kodak moment, more than 45 years since I'd caught a run away, a severe brain injury, no time to think and I still had it.

And the time you caught a charging brown bear was a Kodiak moment!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought that was a brown pants moment...

Stance:  with beginners I generally have to get them to step up to the anvil they seem to think they should work standing at the far end of the tongs and leaned over like a sideways U and just using their wrist to move the hammer.  I tell them that it doesn't matter where the hand holding the tongs is. (Well it does but not hour 1)  It can be behind their back even.  They need to step up to the anvil and raise their hammer up shoulder level and make a good long swing.  I then teach them how to hold their tongs pressing their hip to stabilize them and the workpiece especially when they are hammering the piece back towards them.  I demonstrate what they are doing and what they should be doing so they can see it from the side.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, JHCC said:

And the time you caught a charging brown bear was a Kodiak moment!

Oh don't be silly John, you just give the Kodiak brown pants bear your fish and quietly leave them to enjoy the snack.

Always carry a change of clothes and baby wipes when in the bush. Best toilet paper on Earth baby wipes! ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't help myself.  Dan Frechette posted a video a while back in which he tried to explain the complex body movement involved in hammer striking.  I think it is worth adding to the discussion.

https://youtu.be/2Q9at4zPvdk

He looks completely ridiculous as he over exaggerates the movement.  At one point he explains that his wife looked out from the house and saw him in the shop.  She thought he was going mad and dancing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Frosty said:

I've found keeping my elbows indexed into or as close to my hips as possible and keeping the strike zone on my center line has a number of advantages. 1 it means my blows are generally much more accurate. Fewer mistakes less reworking, less tired, good control.

The thread has moved into the realm of stances and bears.

As everyone else I can only speak about what works for me. I will be 80 next year and I am definitely a hobby blacksmith with probably less than 1000 hours behind me. I practically never work heavier material than 1/2" x 1" and I need to be careful with my back.

My elbow ends at waist height not at hip height so the distance from the hip is a meaningless measure. My elbow and shoulder joints give my right underarm a 45° angle to the left when held horizontally. If I do not want the hammer to rotate my wrist, the hammer handle will point in the same direction. I prefer to have the striking target in front of me. This means that the elbow must be out from my waist at the moment of impact unless I stand very far from the anvil. The distance elbow-waist (or what I have instead of a waist :wacko:) is 4-6". The resulting trajectory of hammer head is fairly close to Frosty's "plane of rotation". However one has to take into account that even if the nave of the rotating arm is the shoulder joint, the movement in the elbow tends to move the plane outwards.   

The martial art stances are intended to enable the martial artist to move suddenly. They are not "designed" for repetitive work. Unless we keep our center of gravity above our feet we will fall to the ground. A cyclist has a third suppport in the saddle.

When I was making a number of "tent pins" from 10mm square to keep the bottom of my anti boar/deer fence down I experimented with a 2.5 lsb hammer and a 4 one to see which was more efficient when forming the point. The result was that it did not matter. Every point took the same time. The heavier hammer made more impact but I could get more hits in the same time with the lighter. The heavier hammer was tiring so I stuck to the lighter. My normal hammer trajectory with the #2.5 is somwhere between 20" and 30". I might get a higher impact speed if I hit from three feet but the frequency would go down (probably also precision) Question: do I get more done with less frequent but harder hits? (with the same hammer).

The agressive position is obviously a must if the anvil is low and it is also a necessity when working hooves. Question: Is the low anvil a result of the need for an agressive position or or is it the other way round. I.e. have anvils set to a heigt adjusted to working with sets and a striker forced the "crouching tiger" stance? If I were to use a sledge hammer on a strength test contraption at a fair I have no doubt that I would strike from overhead and bend knees and back in the strike but I see no reason to hit with my whole body when using a #2.5. Since the body is very heavy compared with the hammer head, frequency tends to go down if I strike with my whole body. Part of the reason for the bent knees etc is to compensate for the reaction. If I make a heavy object move, my body will move in the other direction unless i check it.

Heavier stock forces a heavier hammer (to avoid fishmouthing etc) and a heavier hammer will need a longer acceleration distance giving the same arm strength. I believe that there is a kind of limit to the speed we can move our limbs (Otherwise a weight lifter would be the best javelin thrower) and that causes a kind of diminishing return on the striking trajectory lengt. A way to overcome this limit is to use a handle. A handle speeds up the hammer head and Frosty's "flip technique" (sorry Frosty I do not have a better word) makes more of this effect. If I need to choke up on the handle I am using a hammer that is too heavy for me to lift. Ideally I would lift the hammer close to the head (to decrease load on the wrist) and hit holding at the end of tha handle but we have to compromise.

What puzzles me when looking at videos by known smiths is that many of them have a low frequency and some choke up on the hammer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, gote said:

The thread has moved into the realm of stances and bears.

It's just happenstance; sorry if it's unbearable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, gote said:

The thread has moved into the realm of stances and bears.

As everyone else I can only speak about what works for me. I will be 80 next year and I am definitely a hobby blacksmith with probably less than 1000 hours behind me. I practically never work heavier material than 1/2" x 1" and I need to be careful with my back.

Congrats at forging at your age.. That is so awesome..      Sounds like you might have back problems all ready..  This changes the situation totally.. 

1 hour ago, gote said:

My elbow ends at waist height not at hip height so the distance from the hip is a meaningless measure. My elbow and shoulder joints give my right underarm a 45° angle to the left when held horizontally. If I do not want the hammer to rotate my wrist, the hammer handle will point in the same direction. I prefer to have the striking target in front of me. This means that the elbow must be out from my waist at the moment of impact unless I stand very far from the anvil. The distance elbow-waist (or what I have instead of a waist :wacko:) is 4-6". The resulting trajectory of hammer head is fairly close to Frosty's "plane of rotation". However one has to take into account that even if the nave of the rotating arm is the shoulder joint, the movement in the elbow tends to move the plane outwards.

The martial art stances are intended to enable the martial artist to move suddenly. They are not "designed" for repetitive work. Unless we keep our center of gravity above our feet we will fall to the ground. A cyclist has a third suppport in the saddle.

A marital artist spends years and years learning and refining stances (which by the way stance meaning static is wrong where the true meaning is moment or instant is correct)..    A stance or Kamae  is but a momentary transition from one point in time to the next and not fixed...

 

1 hour ago, gote said:

When I was making a number of "tent pins" from 10mm square to keep the bottom of my anti boar/deer fence down I experimented with a 2.5 lsb hammer and a 4 one to see which was more efficient when forming the point. The result was that it did not matter. Every point took the same time. The heavier hammer made more impact but I could get more hits in the same time with the lighter. The heavier hammer was tiring so I stuck to the lighter. My normal hammer trajectory with the #2.5 is somwhere between 20" and 30". I might get a higher impact speed if I hit from three feet but the frequency would go down (probably also precision) Question: do I get more done with less frequent but harder hits? (with the same hammer).

The correct hammer is one that penetrates the metal fully to the core of the steel while forging. To small a hammer would be just as bad as to large a hammer.  My normal hand hammer is a 4lb and back 15years ago it was 6lbs.. Even on 10mm..  As for moving he metal it becomes a lot of technique vs just smashing metal..  Sadly a lot of people don't really understand.. The hammer is just an extension of your hands and unlike a potter who can use their hands.. We have to use tools so we dont' get burnt.. 

1 hour ago, gote said:

The agressive position is obviously a must if the anvil is low and it is also a necessity when working hooves. Question: Is the low anvil a result of the need for an agressive position or or is it the other way round. I.e. have anvils set to a heigt adjusted to working with sets and a striker forced the "crouching tiger" stance? If I were to use a sledge hammer on a strength test contraption at a fair I have no doubt that I would strike from overhead and bend knees and back in the strike but I see no reason to hit with my whole body when using a #2.5. Since the body is very heavy compared with the hammer head, frequency tends to go down if I strike with my whole body. Part of the reason for the bent knees etc is to compensate for the reaction. If I make a heavy object move, my body will move in the other direction unless i check it.

An Agressive position is anytime you lean forwards or your CG moves forwards.. Has nothing to do with to low and anvil..  You can have a high anvil and still be in a forward center of gravity position.. :)  

Your mixing two things..  A proper anvil height for a single smith vs sledging anvil..   Anvil height would be different for each person.. Aggressive stance or neutral.. 

What happens is..  For a beginner to stay where they are and not realize there are advantages to having the anvil, lower or higher or anywhere in between.. The rule of knuckle high is just a starting point.. It's not the final.. 

 

And again.. If someone is out of shape, over weight, no core strength, bad back,  having a more aggressive front to the anvil is going to be painful. At least till the muscles are made stronger..   When you are working at the anvil.. You are lifting weights..  It's just thousands of times. .vs 4, 6, 8, 10 reps..  It's thousands.. 

 

 

8 hours ago, Frosty said:

Thank you Jenifer, coming from a pro means a lot.

You've hit it on the head, I wasn't speaking to the professionals as much as to the beginners and hobbyists. Your position :) on stance is right and not something beginners think about I'm glad you brought it up. It reminds me of the beginner asking why I do something a certain way and I have to actually think about it so I can explain it. I've been assuming stance as necessary so long I don't think about it and am afraid didn't consider folk might not do it automatically.

When teaching I refer to addressing the anvil and draw heavily on my martial arts training from so long ago. I never thought of applying terminology for the 3 basic positions. We called them a: "Front " =  neutral, "Forward" = aggressive and "Back" = retreating. and you're absolutely right about stance and power. I'll have to examine my stances and the plane of rotation of my swing and see if I need to change something: my opinion of safer, my description of how I address the anvil, the way I address the anvil. 

I've never been a pro but I used to be fast and good at the anvil, a start to finish leaf finial coat hook with twist in under 6 minutes while maintaining a patter to the audience, describing what I was doing, why, what was going to happen, answer questions, tell jokes and generally perform good theater.  Thinking back on the days before the accident I did stand more aggressively at the anvil, keeping my center of mass farther forward over my center of support. My balance was better too.

Frosty.. I used to be a pro.. Now I am merely sharing my years of experience both as a professional blacksmith and a professional farrier.. At this point I am still an intermediate simply because I'm out of shape and I know what it means to be a professional and move that way.. will take me another 6months to start to feel like I have any right to even call myself a blacksmith.. My work now is sloppy and I make mistakes all the time.. I've created more scrap in the last 6 months then I did in 30+years.. But practice makes perfect Or does it?   Perfect practice makes perfect.. So I always strive to make each item better than the last, each forge weld, better than the last.. :) 

8 hours ago, Frosty said:

A good number of the most experienced smiths in our club are farriers and you can see a full gamut of form. One of our guys works almost directly over the anvil and his swing almost looks like he's trying to punch the hammer into the work. When he demos for meetings one of his longer "regular" talks is about how to lean the anvil away from you so the hammer impacts flush with the face and (waait - forrr - iiiiitt!) missed blows do NOT smack him between the eyes. He also lives with debilitating wrist, elbow and shoulder damage and is having to retire from farrier work but hopes to be able to continue smithing on a slower easier score. 

I used farriers as an example only because they put out videos with everything. Showing the whole body.. .  And while they are not blacksmiths.. They still use anvils and hammers and forge like the dickens..   What most don't realize is:     Power hammers and hydraulic presses have made it so, newer or older blacksmiths despite age or limitation physically can get the work done in a timely fashion..   In that same token the ability to hand forge metal fluidly of varying sizes at the anvil has diminished..  Again why would someone forge a 2" round bar by hand when they have a power hammer or press..  

Farriers though if they do any Draft horses at all will work with 2" stock on a regular basis by hand..   While they might not be able to forge other items as fluidly..  most don't have an interest in making other items.. First off because the pay is poor, but also they just don't have a desire.. 

I looked for videos of experienced smiths working at anvils with no luck..  Sure lots of demo's with lots of talking but not real forge work.. I mean just forging away.. 

But you pull up farrier videos and they are just whacking away in all it's splendor..  That is what is used to look like in shops.. Not everybody standing straight up in a neutral position..  You can see they have good hammer control, a great understanding of the metal they are working and the ability to make it move where they need it.. 

Sounds like they are smithing to me.. 

 

The hammer whip comes from driving so many nails..   Driving a horse shoe nail has it's own way of hammering.. It's a fast snappy blow with a very light hammer (driving hammer)   The speed with which you hit the nail can determine where it emerges from the side of the hoof.. More to it than just the hammering but it does play in.. 

So as to angling the anvil away.. They used to sell anvils that way also..   I've only smacked myself in the head one from rebound on a bad hit.. You guys make it sound like it's a daily occurance..     How many of you have cut yourself while using a knife.?   Really it's almost ridiculous when you consider I've probably swung my hammer to forge stuff millions of times..  I have a better safety record than airplanes.... :)   

 

8 hours ago, Frosty said:

The other two who demonstrate pretty regularly, depends on their apt book you know. They have much better stances, far less aggressive though still forward and they roll the blow down their arms, snappy rather than HARD blows.

Their handles are the typical narrow whippy farrier handles and they hammer fast. Time is money it's a fact of the farrier's life who has bills to pay and likes to eat.Frosty The Lucky.

1 hour ago, gote said:

Heavier stock forces a heavier hammer (to avoid fishmouthing etc) and a heavier hammer will need a longer acceleration distance giving the same arm strength. I believe that there is a kind of limit to the speed we can move our limbs (Otherwise a weight lifter would be the best javelin thrower) and that causes a kind of diminishing return on the striking trajectory lengt. A way to overcome this limit is to use a handle. A handle speeds up the hammer head and Frosty's "flip technique" (sorry Frosty I do not have a better word) makes more of this effect. If I need to choke up on the handle I am using a hammer that is too heavy for me to lift. Ideally I would lift the hammer close to the head (to decrease load on the wrist) and hit holding at the end of tha handle but we have to compromise.

What puzzles me when looking at videos by known smiths is that many of them have a low frequency and some choke up on the hammer.

Yes, and no..   If you have a lighter hammer you need to increase the speed so you are still effecting the center mass of the steel.. Again for a human the speed needed for a 1lbs hammer to effect the center of a 2" round would be far outside our capability to any great effect on a flat surface.. 

As for a longer acceleration distance for a heavier hammer..  Not really..  (from an engineering/scientific stand point..  a 1lb traveling at 100ft per second would offer the same force as a 10lbs travel at 10ft per second, but what would be different is the amount of penetration even if the area of impact is the same area wise..

   I am exhaling very long... With a sigh..  As all this information is per say a moot point.. The variables from one person to the next not just physically but skill wise has a much larger role to play.. 

Everybody here seems to come back to scientific study or people sitting behind a desk dreaming up stuff..   We are talking about physical human ability and while there is always a more correct position for correct body alignment so as not to injure ones self more quickly than needed.. It's all moot..  Everybody has a certain amount of heart beats.. Some are just stronger or weaker than others and even if a weaker person goes to the gym and takes all the chemicals they want if someone else has better gene's it's a no brainer.. 

If someone is to weak to swing a hammer properly.. The weight of the hammer  becomes a huge factor and the struggle to raise the hammer becomes the limiting factor (jumping up the hammer offers an assist and is a very old method of doing it and it works very well with larger hammers)..

As you lift the hammer. all of the connecting tissues, joints and bones will torque (spine, elbow, wrist, metatarsals, fingers on both sides of the body).. One side of the body will relax into a stabilizing function while the other side ramps up and starts to move the hammer mass at this point the relaxed/stabilized muscle now are in reverse and pulling the opposite way..   With each hammer blow there is a cycle of ( release/stabilize, tension, relax) Muscles can not change direction without part of the whole body going through these 3 phases..  

 

It doesn't matter if they choke up on the hammer..  A longer lever will have greater velocity at the end of it if swung in an arc, but only in an arc..  Your hand/wrist is the pivot unless you use the elbow as the pivot and keep the wrist stabilized...    This is bad form as now you have isolated all the stress and strain into the elbow...  

As for working 10mm stock..  with my smaller 2lbs hammer It's maybe 10 hits and 30seconds for a full 2" taper.. With my larger 4lbs hammer it's maybe 5 hits to get the 2" taper.. Difference is one takes 2X the amount of hits..   This equates to 2X the amount of work (ah, repetition wise) not weight wise..  Instead now you have doubled the weight in the hammer..  I personally would rather swing the 4lb hammer 5 times than a 2lbs hammer 10 times for a given amount of work if I am fresh..  The 4lbs hammer will leave a bulge on the off side and this adds a natural softness to it.. 

Now, with the 2lbs hammer the metal will be cooling between each hammer hit and it's not able to create enough friction inside the metal to keep it at forging temps so each hit will be less effective.. ON a Flat.. 

With the 4lbs hammer each hit will create enough friction inside the bar to gain heat if done properly..  So with each hit my work becomes easier..  ON a flat  :)    

There is so many dynamics at play vs just engineering mass, speed, energy.. 

I dislike that this post is running on like this..   Argh..       

As for anvil height..     one of the key reasons to lower the anvil height is when you work by yourself and work longer bars of decent weight 50lbs-150lbs and you need to taper them or form scrolls or ball or tenons on them.. (what ever someone can hold in one hand, arm holding it up or with arm straight and using shoulder strength and finger strength alone.. 

I can guarantee that anybody who does this kind of work on a regular basis will lower their anvil..   If you have to hold a 4ft or 6ft 75lb bar in your arm and lift it at the elbow to get the right height at the end to forge a taper on the anvil end of it with the other hand.. You will soon realize the merit of  of it..  

In the top picture it shows the forge point (edge of the anvil as a pivot) this is what will be tapered and there is no pivot.. you simply raise your arm to hold that point on the anvil while you taper it just like a lighter shorter piece of metal..  

 

in the second picture the anvil is now lower..  When you place the metal on the anvil with holding the bar behind the balance point and step forwards, at the same time moving your holding arm backwards. this will naturally lift the rear of the bar upwards raising it  same as a sling, with little stress on anything but the hand.. I've done bars in the 100lb range this way and it was easy as my arm was just hanging down and as I step forwards the taper angle naturally happens.. 

20170626_114310.jpg

https://youtu.be/nLIbObCltfQ?t=1m34s

Watch these guys.. They are in an aggressive or CG forwards position.. :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, jlpservicesinc said:

The hammer is just an extension of your hands and unlike a potter who can use their hands.. We have to use tools so we dont' get burnt.. 

Or as I've heard it put: hot metal acts like clay. You just don't mold it with your thumb.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for taking on the effort of expressing yourself so eloquently. At the moment I am pressed fot time so I only comment a small thing.

A Kamae is the stance between the movement. The rest can be short or longer depending upon cirumstances. I am very sure since I many years ago had the enormous fortune to spend a too short week with Otake shihan, Don Draeger and a former Tokyo Police martial arts teacher plus a fourth guy also from Katori Shinto Ruy. I cannot have got it wrong. They used the word that way when we trained. It s also clear from Otake's three books.  

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/26/2017 at 12:48 PM, gote said:

Thank you for taking on the effort of expressing yourself so eloquently. At the moment I am pressed fot time so I only comment a small thing.

A Kamae is the stance between the movement. The rest can be short or longer depending upon cirumstances. I am very sure since I many years ago had the enormous fortune to spend a too short week with Otake shihan, Don Draeger and a former Tokyo Police martial arts teacher plus a fourth guy also from Katori Shinto Ruy. I cannot have got it wrong. They used the word that way when we trained. It s also clear from Otake's three books.  

yes, a stance between movement but not static in time.. Used very briefly for a given effect and change.. 

You could say that the moment just before you swing the hammer down to be a stance as just before you launch it you can change direction.. Once launched you can not change direction or intention..    Kamae at its truest sense is a representation of intention in that moment of time.. It could be a billionth of a second.. Or 15minutes.. It's whats needed in that moment.. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gote: Glad you joined the discussion actively. I don't believe either of us were talking about how it should be done, just some basic principles. Everybody has to work to their strengths and defend their weaknesses to be successful no matter what the challenge. I'm partially disabled, got a wonky left eye and am not in nearly as good shape as I used to be so the way I work at the anvil is different. No secrets there, everybody's different.

We used non backsmithing examples to describe how we stand at the anvil but just as examples of how balance works. I used the example I understood best because it was an ongoing topic on the mats. Believe me if you've ever practiced: judo, jujitsu, aikido, karate you know  how essential maintaining control of your center is. I probably could have thought of a better description but stuck with what I knew best.

The basic principle is where you place your center of balance and why. You can't be wobbling around, I like my feet a bit farther than shoulder width in a close front stance and address the anvil at a slight angle. But that's where I'm comfortable. If I'm doing heavier work I step back slightly and lean into the blows more but if I'm plannishing for a smooth texture I'll step in a little closer and use a lighter more controlled series of blows. I can't imagine using a back stance at the anvil, even if I were really pulling on a cheater bending a back stance wouldn't enter my imagination. Heck, this is the first time I've thought about it except to correct a student.

Stability and controlling power is what a stance is about. I was more twitting Jenifer about smacking herself in the head. While I've never done that one I've scared myself pretty badly a couple times. Karate mat time is good for something other than protecting yourself in a fight, it makes effectively avoiding things coming at your face at high velocity reflexive. Luck comes into it too. Better still, don't miss and hit the anvil!

It took me a couple read throughs to get what you meant by "flip" technique. I don't know if there is a "right" name for it, I call it "cracking the whip" or "rolling it." Every joint is a force multiplier so taking advantage of all the force that doesn't cost more muscle makes sense. I called the grip a "fencer's grip" because I modified the grip I learned in my one 30 min fencing lesson to a hammer. It  takes more practice to learn good control but the advantages in power and isolating your joints form impact damage make the extra learning well worth the effort. Oh, the "Fencer's grip" also makes adjusting for reasonable differences in anvil height pretty reflexive.

Sorry about getting off on such a side track about handling horses, I have some really REALLY good memories about horses and horse people. By now I'm sure you folk know what happens when I get off topic. I'm blaming the tree! That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :rolleyes:

Getting off on a bear trail is just John's grizzly sense of humor.

Frosty The Lucky. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/24/2014 at 3:31 PM, Glenn said:

DO NOT build the stand until you find out the height of the anvil face that you can use comfortably.

Any arrangement of materials such as cinder blocks, bricks, boards, pallets, etc so you can raise or lower the anvil can be used for testing. You will want to start with the face of the anvil about knuckle height when standing erect with a closed fist. From there raise or lower the anvil until you do not have to bend over and allows you to feel comfortable when swinging the hammer.

My suggestion is to NOW place a piece of 3/4 inch thick wooden sheeting on the anvil face. Hit it 3 times with the hammer with the same swing and impact you would use while forging. Notice the crescent moon marks. 12 o'clock and the anvil face is too low. 6 o'clock and the anvil face is too high. 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock and your hammer is tilted. Adjust as needed until the indentations from the hammer are full circles meaning the hammer is hitting the wood flat and square. Use this height for a period of time and be sure you are comfortable with the swing, impact, and overall height. Adjust as needed to YOUR forging methods, keeping in mind you want a full circle imprint of the hammer.

Measure the height of the anvil face and build you new and permanent anvil stand to this height.

This has been covered in other threads and discussions on the site. You may want to look them up for additional references.

That makes perfect sense!

On 10/27/2014 at 12:44 AM, Glenn said:

Think of the wood as carbon paper (you may have to google carbon paper , grin)

I'm thinking anyone under the age of 40 may have to Google that! LOL!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many words here. So to keep it simple, 

1: When your arm is parallel with the world, your hammer face should be parallel with your anvil face.

2: every blow you make needs a full body movement, "from the tip of your nose, to the tip of your toes." This means that every joint is at work as a shock absorbing system, and follow thru is critical.

A lifetime spent as a farrier and traditional Smith, and I've never had any problems with physical pain of any sort from wrist to shoulder.

Never forget, the purpose of pain is to let us know we are doing something wrong. Always listen to your pain, and correct your mistakes,,, you only have one body.

Works for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anvil..  While I agree for the most part.. There is a point at which every body needs to get into a better physical condition for a given activity..  This getting the body into shape can be a painful event or series of events based on the person.. 

Genetics here can determine a lot.. But with that said someone who is thinner or frail can certainly bulk up..  but some have more inherent physical muscles than others.. Or the easy of building muscle.. 

So, saying soreness is bad is just to broad of statement and also saying one should never continue doing something that will make you sore.. 

If a person is out of shape for a given activity soreness is part of the bodies building process and then it becomes to what level a person is willing to push themselves.. 

Take a body builder or weight lift for example..  Technically as a blacksmith you are a body builder or a weight lifter but in the thousands of millions of reps vs just 30 or 150 reps a day.. 

Keeping facts, facts vs generalized statements can be key as some will read the information and extrapolate from that information that "One should never be sore or damage is being done which can never be fixed"..  

Physical fitness is just that and it's a building cycle that creates the fitness and does not happen over night..  

I personally have to forge 3 days a week to stay in shape for forging.. If I forge only once a week or once a month I go back out of shape and have to start the process again of getting back into shape..  Again,  if you don't use it you lose it.. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now