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Power Hammer Junkies?

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I will state this right up front, I am a power hammer addict. I have two and that ain't enough.

So with that in mind I ask a simple question.

How many of you are power hammer users and if you are, what type do you use. Pneumatic or mechanical? Classic/antique or new, homebuilt or other?

If you are not a power hammer user perhaps explain you philosophy as to why not?

If you have pics post them or post a web address.

BTW-Homebuilt 75# a la "super rusty", and a 25# fairbanks circa 1900

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I started with a 25 LG and then was fortunate enough to get a 100 lb Beaudry. I ran both for a while but eventually traded off the LG and kept the bigger one. The two machines needed rebuilding when purchased but I got both running well. I have forged on a lot of mechanical hammers up to 250 lbs and only a few pneumatics but they were large. IMHO, the 100 lb is a good all-round size for the average one-man shop - big enough to do some work but small enough to run economically. However, that's just one man's opinion... :wink:

A power hammer is not required for all work but sure is nice to have when you need one.

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I dont use one cause I cant afford one! That, and I dont need one at this point. My teacher, however, doesnt use one because he hasnt been able to find people. Theres another blacksmith near hear who has a half dozen, doesnt use more than 2 of them, and wont get rid of the others.

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I have a Mcgowen & Finnigan 'Perfect' 80# mechanical hammer. Pat'd 1907, machine #75. It uses a stack of leaf springs instead of a coil spring. I can detune the toggle bolts to get a single soft hit, or a series of semi-unpredictable very hard hits. It also has a turnbuckle connecting the eccentric wheel to the ram, so the height adjusts about 4 inches. There's also ability to move the bolt to different holes in the eccentric wheel, to change the stroke length. 3 x 4 inch flat dies. We get along good.

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The business end of the power hammer. This thing could just tap a piece of steel or completely pound it to death, it was tuned to perfection. Hardly surprising given the years of experiance the two brothers have.

Now this is a little beauty of a power hammer, I saw it running and its as smooth as silk, but packs a xxxx of a punch. Its isolated from the rest of the building so it doesn't bring the roof down.

The makers mark, and the weight. 40 kilo's is over 80lbs if I remember the conversion rates properly (2.2lbs to a kilo?) This was a NICE hammer.

The rest of the story is on Ian's World Tour Report - Zeven Huizen
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Confirmed power hammer junkies may want to take a look at the photos of the Cambria Ironworks I posted in the Forgemagic photo gallery last evening. One is of a 10.000 pound Sellers hammer. Another is back to back 3,000 pound hammers. They sure make my 120 pound homebuilt seem tiny.

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I have a running 150# Beaudry, and a 200# Beaudry which still needs some work but is in place on its foundation. Because the 150# is such a nice machine, I don't seem to be in any hurry to finish the repairs to the bigger one... which is actually twice the hammer. I don't think there is much point in having more than 2 power hammers for a small shop, and one is usually enough.

If you find that you don't use your power hammer much, it is probably under-powered, performing badly, or of poor design. A good hammer increases your productivity and lets you do larger work. I think anything under 75# is probably too light for tooling work, and bigger is better.

When you use one that has enough power, has nice big flat dies, is tuned well, and is designed well, it invites you to forge with it.

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I agree with Ed, these machines are definitely inviting. I do love working on them. Any chance I get I try out other peoples machines too. Test driving.

While I still do much of my work by hand held hammers, especially demos and finish hammering on every piece that has been under the power hammers. I find that the only way to have a truly hammered piece and still be profitable is to use the power hammers for most every production item.

Art pieces are of course an exception, you can't put the eyes on a dragon with a power hammer.

I won't mention the fact that after a day of swinging a hammer, my elbow and wrist are often so messed up and painful that I can barely type. Profitable and pain free is the goal and I ain't gonna be 40yrs young forever.

While each machine will do its rating well, setting and resetting each one for the different stock sizes is a little cumbersome. Tooling fits best under my homemade 75, and the 25 is great for 1/4 up to 1". And the larger machines that I have used , no matter how well tuned, never seem to handle the smaller stock like a smaller machine. Big machines were designed for big stock, that's why they made the 25#'s.

I have the two as mentioned, but a third would be nice, I am considering a 300# Bradley that has been offered. So tempting, but so heavy and 300 miles away. :cry:

My experience tells me that you should never put all your power hammers in one basket. What if one breaks? One is NEVER enough. I couldn't afford to be down for a few weeks while parts were on order or I had to strip the machine down for a rebuild while a big gallery order was waiting.

While I am obviously a bit biased due to the fact that I rely on my blacksmith shop and its tools to make a living (I really don't want to get a real job), I just plain old love machines that go KA CHUNK.

Ed-That "extra" Beaudry could live here if you don't want it taking up space at your place. I am in your neck of the woods every so often while going to Tamarack, I could swing by sometime and take it off your hands... :D

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If your larger hammer is well-designed and well-tuned, you can forge small stuff just as easilyas the big stuff. I routinely reforge 5/16" round into 1/4" square on my 150# Beaudry. It is easier on my hammer than any 25# hammer I've used yet.

Mark: It's taken three years for me to get the larger Beaudry this far. It is DEFINITELY not up for grabs! :shock:

I think the rebuild cycle on a Beaudry is about 100 years. Hardy har har.

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Bigger is better, as long as it has manner and control. A Nazel or Beche properly tuned with an experienced opperator can forge 1/8" stock on a 450# hammer, you should see the reins on the tongs that Steven Parker makes on a B3:-) I have worked under a 600# Niles-Bement-Pond, and it could tap, or clamp, or STOMP:-) Steam Hammers have incredible control, and most pneumatics have very good control. I have rarely used a 25#LG that actually had table manners, and unless I am stamping or drawing I won't go near a mechanical hammer without a brake. Probably the best mannered mechanical hammer I have ever played with was a 250#LG, but i haven't had a chance to play with a Fairbanks, Beaudry, or Bradley, which by all acounts I have heard are much better hammers...

That all being said I have a newstyle Bull 75 utility style hammer, I have 3x5 flat dies, and I really like the control it has, but I long for a bigger hammer for some things:-) I like flat dies and tooling, but I do enjoy playing with crown dies and other shapes. I am looking forward to making more dies and tooling for the little Bull I have... BUt I would dearly love a 250#N-B-P, or a 200 or 300 Bradley, or Beaudry, and a 1500# Erie that I could forge an anvil under would be a dream come true...:-) Who would pay money to go to a summer camp were you were working under a big steam hammer and got to make an anvil??? I would !!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I make air hammers Iron Kiss Hammers and I'm biased.

Mechanical hammers require tedious stroke adjustments and the maximum stroke is often not that much as compared to most air hammer designs. And some mechanical designs like Little Giant are hard to tune to get them to have "table manners" as mentioned above. However, they run nonstop if you want to do that so they fit into a production shop quite well. Ed Thomas's Beaudrys are examples of highly perfected mechanical design. I had a smaller one and to this day regret selling it.

Air hammers come in self-contained and utility hammer configurations. The former, like mechanical hammers, can run nonstop. All of those now on the market, to my critical eye anyway, are quite well made. However, those of the "Kuhn" design are all too short and too light. They've been made with too little steel in them to be successful without some augmentary weight. To build a machine that must be perched on top of an auxilliary base is pretty darned stupid. Sahinler is of an okay height, but it is still too light. The best thing you can do for most of these hammers is to mount them on very heavy baseplates (ditto Big Blu, Little Giant, ...). The two-piece self-contained hammers usually have insufficient anvil mass, though Bob Bergman has shown how to use a big baseplate to help the situation. The Nazel at ABANA-Kentucky showed this and also showed that with a sufficient baseplate you do not need an elaborate special foundation.

I've built many utility hammers and a few self-containeds. IMO, if you have enough air compressor to run your utility hammer nonstop, then the advantage of a self-contained is absent. As a matter of fact, self-containeds make too much noise! A utility hammer sits there quietly until you step on the treadle. Kinyon style hammers will give you most all that you want from a power hammer (if not your first one, then your second attempt), except control. I have proven that control can be achieved with speed and power, and it is not necessary to sacrifice speed and power to get control (by choking the circuits as some brands do). Over the years on the keenjunk forum I posted about this numerous times. (Some would say ad nauseum.) I've proved this. Those who used my machine at quad states, and other eastern hammerins, over the past two years can attest to my claim. Some have posted about their experiences in late September/early October when they returned from sofa quad states. Check out the blacksmiths forum, anvilfire, and theforge.

So what is an adequate amount of air compressor for a hundred pound Kinyon? A 5hp, two-stage, 15-17 cfm @ 100 psi, 60 gallon machine will work for a one-iron-in-the-fire situation where the work piece is on the order of a railroad spike. If you use a 3.25" bore cylinder you can run a bit longer than if you use a 2.5" bore cylinder because your machine will work down to a much lower tank pressure (and will be much stronger at higher pressures). If you work bigger irons or run more irons in the fire, then two of these compressors on separate circuit breakers make a great combination. If you can swing it, a 15 hp Ingersol-Rand, or equivalent is just swell. Steve Barringer runs the power hammer school's 4 Big Blu 110 machines simultaneously with a 15 hp IR T30. He has to add a 5 hp machine when he adds a fifth hammer. I've been there and I know his setup works well. BTW, Steve has very strong opinions about the superiority of air hammers compared to mechanicals. He and Paul Garrett built a fine quality tire-type machine back in '97 or so and he knows what he's talking about.

So the economics of power hammers seems to be essentially that self-contained hammers are the high priced option. By quite a bit. A utility hammer with at least 10 hp of compressor(s) is next, followed by a utility hammer with a 5hp compressor. Then the mechanicals. It is not at all clear to me that self-contained hammers are cost effective however cool they are, but utility hammers can be cost effective. So why an air hammer? Air hammers have a squishing blow instead of a slapping blow (which is why they take more power) that some smiths really like; a feature a bit like the old steam hammers, though not as pronounced. My 90# utility will hit much harder than a 90# mechanical because of the pneumatic force on top of the gravitationally induced acceleration shared with mechanical designs. That's the major reason. Other reasons are that very large stroke lengths can be designed into a Kinyon so that tooling and/or work pieces can be quite tall and there is no need to use a wrench to adjust any connecting rod like with mechanicals, control of an air hammer can be exquisite and the work you can do can be of much higher quality with that control without sacrifice of speed and power, and finally an air hammer can be built with an anvil weight that is massive (more than 12 times the hammer head weight is good, up to about 20:1 makes a diminishing difference). My 90# machine weighs 3000# and just sits there when running full tilt, ditto my 160# unit that weighs in at 5000#. Lighter machines tend to bounce and have to be bolted down to be effective. That effectiveness is not as good as with machines that have the mass built in. If you want bigger, I can build them! But I urge you to try one of my "little" machines before you claim you need anything bigger.

Build your own if you are oriented that way. Be careful. All hammers are dangerous and possibly addictive. :-)

Edit: hot link to Iron Kiss Hammersadded

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  • 2 weeks later...

Never underestimate the advantages of mechanicals.

I would list the economics and efficiencies a little differently. Except for the clamping aspect of air hammers(and debateably the adjustments required on mechanicals) mechanicals perform extremely well and the forces involved are significantly higher than has been portrayed. A 100# mechanical will hit xxxxed hard and she'll do it all day.

Mechanicals are by far the most energy efficient and convert the most energy into force that you can use.

100# Fairbanks mechanical takes a 2 HP motor. And it will run all day long with ten irons in the fire at all times.

100# utility requires a MIN of 5 HP compressor better to have ten, and somtimes you will be waiting for air if you are really producing.

Both are designed to work 2 1/2 inch stock.

My 75# homebuilt will work all day with its 1 HP motor, I regularly forge 1 inch bar and have worked 2 inch under it. With its second generation anvil its efficency will go up. My 25# has a 3/4 HP( it only needs a 1/2 to run). Same deal.

Mechanicals are hands down winners in terms of efficiency.

On the matter of control, my 25# Fairbanks is the ultimate, great brake for that one hit that you need. I generally don't use the power hammer for that one hit, I use my arm. I want it for those thousands of hits that don't need the finesse.

I like the Iron Kiss Hammer design. I considered one of them when I first started looking for hammers. And don't get me wrong, while I am biased towards mechanicals, I love steam hammers and steam to air conversion. I know of beauty of a Niles-Bement 1500# machine that now runs on air. I am in love. And I don't really have anything against air, I am just really FOR mechanicals.

If my power goes out, I can still work the power hammers off the solar or from the generator.

These are just some of my opinions, I could be wrong.

Edit: words edited

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