Glenn

Why do blacksmiths tap their anvils while forging?

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Why do blacksmiths tap their anvils with lighter tap taps while working?  This is not to call a striker, those signals have already been discussed in another thread.

 

During forging the blacksmith will hit the metal something like BLOW, BLOW, BLOW, tap, tap.

They sometimes even hit the anvil with the hammer (no metal) several times. 

 

When I researched it on the net it was suggested to rest the arm, keep rhythm, try to buy time and figure what to do next, etc.

 

I did find a quote by Frank Turley - "Three R's" rest, rhythm and rumination.

What are the real reasons? Is it even necessary to tap the anvil while forging? 

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I do it for the reasons in Frank Turley's quote, keep the rhythm, and gives me a second to consider what to do next.  It just seems the natural way to work.  I have always done it that way, without even thinking about it.

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Correct Josh,

It gets one much less tired that way as well by not fighting your hammer. Is a more natural way of working by keeping the hammer moving.

George

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To check that no beggar had pinched it while your back was turned?? :ph34r:

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Guys that favor lighter weight Hammers tend to "tap" more than those that use a heavier Hammer.

 

I've tried it both ways, ... and generally, prefer to make more "deliberate" blows, ... with a 4 pound Hammer.

 

But lots of guys are just as successful, making many lighter, quicker blows, ... with a light Hammer.

 

Contrary to what you might think, ... it doesn't seem to be related to the size of the workpiece.

 

 

If you want to tap, ... then tap, ... if not, ... then don't .....

 

It won't make any difference in the end.

 

 

 

 

.

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bad habit, only thing the english could bring with them that was duty free, i think if it works for you do it, if you don't then no big deal. i'm with smoothbore even if you are using a lighter (under 4#) hammer it is not needed.

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Because it sounds cool :D.

 

I do it occasionally when swinging my 3.5 hammer for arm rest.

 

If I do it with my lighter hammers it's just out of (bad) habit while I'm planning my next move.  I try not to because I don't like striking my nice anvil surface with my nice hammer surface for no real good reason........

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Actually the heavier the hammer, the more valuable the practice;

 

You should not be tapping the hammer per se but literally bouncing the hammer of the anvil, taking advantage of the rebound (if you have any) (one of the many reasons a professional needs an anvil which has good rebound).

 

The point of bouncing the hammer off the anvil every few blows is too conserve effort, that one may make the most blows possible in striking while the anvil is hot. 

 

My master was a disciple of Francis Whitaker and also studied the art in Germany himself. The above is straight from the horse's mouth, one of actual reasons.

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in my humble opinion, It's all about the rhythm. The striker commands notwithstanding, I see it as a mindset of motion that one uses while working to form the iron based on the image in your head. After all it's about converting the idea into reality.

Peter

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All of the above answers are right, but no you don't have to do it. It is really just more of a habit. The old smiths were asked why they did it and they told us it was the only thing they could bring over here from their home country that was duty free. In other words they didn't have to pay taxes on it.

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I never got into the habit and don't tap.  I tend to lay the material on the anvil, hit it however many times it's necessary to do the work, then I quit.  I used to do a lot of production forging with a hand hammer and believe it's much more important to learn how to relax and swing without engaging any antagonistic muscles (similar to what Hofi teaches).  A tap may help some folks on the upswing but I would not teach a beginner to do it unless they took to it naturally.  However, as stated above, it does no harm and should not be discouraged - just like being left-handed.

 

I've also read the old smiths did it because the sound warded off evil spirits - so it may have gotten started for that similar reason.

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Anvil tapping is annoying. If I am around someone who insists on doing it, I leave. If I am watching a video and the smith turns out to be an anvil tapper, I move on to another video. Wasted motion is wasted motion, however you try to justify it. Anvil tapping is simply wasted motion. If you want to rest your hammer arm, then rest it, don't tap your anvil. If you have to retain your "rhythm", whatever that is, by some external means, then put some music on. When I see (hear) an anvil tapper, I assume they can't remember what were trying to do and are tapping on their anvil to try to cover up that fact. When I encounter an anvil tapper, I assume I am meeting someone whose first blacksmithing teacher didn't bother to stop them from developing a bad habit, a habit which even some experienced smiths have continued and continue to justify in many creative and nonsensical ways.

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I don't. No one pays me to beat on the anvil. I've seen some do it when they turn their stock. I turn the stock on the upstroke.

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I don't. No one pays me to beat on the anvil. I've seen some do it when they turn their stock. I turn the stock on the upstroke.

Hallelujah!  

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I think it is a habit, grown from the rhythm of hammer blows. We have an instict for rhythm (even those of us who cant cary a toon in a bucket) I see it most often (and I tend to do it my self) when contimplating corrections to be made as the heat fades and befor planishing begins. I would be willing to wager thet many of you who "dont waist the energy" do it occasinaly wile foccused on how to finish up a heat, tho many take it to an extream, probbably in imulation of othersmiths when they were starting out and not understanding that its not a necisary part o smithing, just a byproduct of rhythm, habit and thinking of somthing other than your hammer.

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For show.  

 

I've also practiced the stutter taps that Emmert Studebaker used to do for "Shave and a Haircut, 2 bits" in memory of a great man.

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I think if is Morse Code telling the little lady in the house, Bring me a Coffee or Beer, will be in for lunch in half hour.  Send Johnnie down I need a striker.  Maybe put a counter on the anvil for the number of hits made and get paid accordingly. 

 

I must have started at an early age as I remember way back doing it and I know I'm thinking about what I want to do next when doing it.  I know I've found myself doing it in my woodworking shop and mechanical repair shop as well with a hammer. 

 

We are all a creature of habit. 

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Greetings all,

I ask the same question years ago to a well known and well traveled smith, He said it was derived form the taps used to signal his striker . He said it brought about a cadence of continuous motion.. Yep I'm guilty been tappin for years.. Once a body is in motion it wants to stay in motion. With the 4 pounders not so much..
Forge on and make beautiful things
Jim

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I definitely side with the bad habit group. It is wasted motion and impacting hardened steel against hardened steel is never a great idea. I do believe it is a pause for thinking for many people but my early training was that all the thinking work should be done before you get to the anvil. I know that is a bit optimistic but it is a worthwhile goal. It goes along with the mindset that says we should use the minimum number of blows, minimum number of steps, and minimum number of heats to get a job done.

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I mentioned how the transplanted European smiths did that over here so much. I saw one demo where they were anvil tapping AND striking! I think their were 3 strikers and it was quite the show, but obviously they weren't using tapping signals to control the action. 

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I do know its a heck of a lot easer on my body to take a tap than try and stop a hammer blow mid swing, all I have to do is slow the blow. Secondly that bit of a pause betweem forging, corecting and plannishing is valuable. If your so good that you can "plan" your corections wile taking a heat, hats off to you. But for a us meer humans, we need half a heartbeat to colect our thoughts. Thou I admit that I strike at a slower pace now than when I started, and get more work done to boot..

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as a collateral question:  why so much heat over this?  Do as you will and let others do likewise.

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Interesting topic fellow smiths. Think everyone has their own very independent viewpoint an assumptions. Leaving no one thought nor opinion incorrect to another.

I would definitely lean towards Jim Cokes previous post. Which I am in total agreement with such,,, Very wise n skillful smith indeed.

When ask of such some 30 years ago. Such habit or "Why Factor" as I tend to say. Even eluded somewhat, as even I wondered some too?
I would say with every tap or missed hit with my hammer. The price of horse being shod amplified it's ending price charged. With a slight grin,,,

Most just smiled an laughed or followed with a disponible grin. Yet a few actually became quite hostile an noticeably annoyed as if I should recant to such charge or statement. With myself lookin up, saying I'm joking. Smile

Everyone shares different views or thought processes with ones expression an habits. Good or bad, it's what defines us individually.

Enjoy your time smithing together folks. For to cast stones onto another smiths traits at our anvils or smithy. Isn't going to bringforth friendship nor sharing ones skills.

Something I've never shared,,, An some may even think somewhat strange, perhaps even being comical in a sense. Grin.
I'd find myself doing at times. Most certainly will in the near future 2015. I'd be forging late into the night with my pups chewin on hoof trimmings.

I'd turn most lights off, put in my most favorite tunes quite loudly. With the glow of the forge n iron transformed with my hits n taps an tunes. Whitney or even Bach, depending on my mood or lifes struggles at the time,,,

Very often would be followed with some of the best forgings I'd ever done personally. A hiddened secret till now.

A lady friend once secretly watched one night. Took her years to tell me also. All good.

Commented how my tunes seemed to recognized my blows of the hammer. Inturn would follow with a predestination of the music with my forgings. As if they'd took on a life of their own. An before sayin Ty, think you been kicked in the head one to many times.

Point I am tryin to make is. No two smiths are alike in this world. Be whom you are an at peace, cheerish those indifferences from one to another,,, So hit or tap away into the night I say, Smile. Ty

Try it some night in your smithy, you may find a demensional smith you weren't aware of. With Gods help, I'd like to once again find that window n goofy guy again,,, Guess we'll see what comes forth from the forge someday soon,,,

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Ask a group of 10 blacksmiths a questions, and you will get 25(or more) opinions/answers.  Some good, some not, some bad.  Part of the fun of this forum. 

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