Randwulf

To Dress or Not To Dress

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I'm new to blacksmithing and have purchased an assortment of commercially available hammers.  If I was an experienced blacksmith, I would just go ahead and dress them, but I'm not.  I'd like your opinions, given that I'm a beginner, should I leave them as is and use them "off-the-shelf" for awhile or try to dress them?

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 I've only been to 5 classes...Thats all the experience I have.  But I'm gonna go ahead and say, if you can dress them, do it..  I plan too, once I have  a few hammers.

Its something you/me/any rookie needs to learn sooner or later and it makes the items your forging much cleaner looking.

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Don't worry about the pein ends for the most part, the radius looks pretty good but the corners could be rounded over a bit more.

On the flat face ends, you will want to round off the sharp corner edges to gradually transition from the face to the sides. Any sharp corners will leave marks in your work. Typically you don't want a perfectly flat face, a slight dome will do for most work.

Go slow with the grinding, don't overheat the faces or you will affect the hardness of the face.

Shape the handles to fit your preference. I like more of an elongated octagon shape. And I recommend burning off the varnish, leaving a light char on the wood with a coat of boiled linseed oil.

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Dress them for sure.  All that rough grinding texture will be transferred to your hot metal and the sharp edges will indent your metal as well.  I always dress and then slightly polish all the hammers I acquire.  

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Definitely rework the handles to fit your hands. A lot of RSI can be avoided with proper handles for you to use with a proper grip!

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I second the reworking of the handles.  It's nice to have a flare or swelling out toward the end of the handle.  Some don't like it, but you may want to try it on one of them.  Handles for forging don't need to be really thick.  Once I thinned my handles out I no longer got tired arms in the sense that they locked up on me.  Once someone explained to me that the thicker the handles are the harder the hammer is to hold onto, it clicked and they were right.

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11 hours ago, JW513 said:

 I've only been to 5 classes...Thats all the experience I have.  But I'm gonna go ahead and say, if you can dress them, do it..  I plan too, once I have  a few hammers.

Its something you/me/any rookie needs to learn sooner or later and it makes the items your forging much cleaner looking.

Yes, I definitely agree that everyone needs to learn how to dress hammers.  I file and stone splitting wedges and axe bits to suit my needs but I've used them for 50 years -- I know what I like and I know what I want.  I've used hammers that long too but not for smithing and I've not dressed a hammer.  I don't know what I like so I'm a bit reluctant to start removing metal.

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Its funny you made this thread.  I've been planning on going to go to my class early on Sunday and ask my teacher a question pertaining forges, and secondly....Dressing hammers..... I plan on starting forging real soon and I want to do everything right... My problem is I hate screwing up and doing things wrong... But doing things wrong is part of learning how to do things right. So I say watch a video on youtube learn how to do it. I did a few days ago...

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11 hours ago, JME1149 said:

Don't worry about the pein ends for the most part, the radius looks pretty good but the corners could be rounded over a bit more.

On the flat face ends, you will want to round off the sharp corner edges to gradually transition from the face to the sides. Any sharp corners will leave marks in your work. Typically you don't want a perfectly flat face, a slight dome will do for most work.

Go slow with the grinding, don't overheat the faces or you will affect the hardness of the face.

Shape the handles to fit your preference. I like more of an elongated octagon shape. And I recommend burning off the varnish, leaving a light char on the wood with a coat of boiled linseed oil.

Thank you for the specific advice for the pein and face, I will definitely heed that.  I don't have a bench grinder (my ex has it :/) or a belt grinder.  I do have an angle grinder but that seems a tad dicey to dress with.  I was planning on dressing with a file and whetstone.

As for the handles, I want to use each of them for a few hours to determine what I like or don't like about them.  I have an axe that I bought with a very pronounced knob on the handle which I didn't like at all -- until I used it.  It has actually become my favorite axe and the knob has remained untouched!  The handles in my original post look like they are varnished, but I rough sanded them and put a few coats of tung oil on them.  I do that for all of my hand tools with wooden handles; I like it feels and the way it grips.

9 hours ago, MC Hammer said:

Dress them for sure.  All that rough grinding texture will be transferred to your hot metal and the sharp edges will indent your metal as well.  I always dress and then slightly polish all the hammers I acquire.  

What do you polish them with?

2 hours ago, MC Hammer said:

I second the reworking of the handles.  It's nice to have a flare or swelling out toward the end of the handle.  Some don't like it, but you may want to try it on one of them.  Handles for forging don't need to be really thick.  Once I thinned my handles out I no longer got tired arms in the sense that they locked up on me.  Once someone explained to me that the thicker the handles are the harder the hammer is to hold onto, it clicked and they were right.

The hammers that I bought all have different handle profiles and thicknesses.  I plan to use them for some time before deciding to reshape them.

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What do you polish them with?

Polish it by using the Tools. Best way is use them.

Neil

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11 hours ago, Randwulf said:

I do have an angle grinder but that seems a tad dicey to dress with.

For the angle grinder, try a flap wheel. Something around an 80 or 100 grit should give a nice balance between metal removal and surface finish.

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Maybe I'm a little too particular, but after I grind the right profile, I go over it with a medium grit carborundum stone with water and then some sand paper.  Yes, use will polish them but this gives it a head start for those who don't forge everyday like me.  Some hammers that you don't use a lot will take a while to polish under hobby use.  

What has helped me is that i found a rawhide hammer at my favorite junk shop and I use it for finish work to adjust hooks and hardware.  It doesn't leave a mark on the metal but does shape it/bend it.  A wood mallet would also work. 

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Question: Do folks actually think there is only *1* way to dress a hammer and so can learn it by watching a video or asking someone?

I guess since we all only drive one model of vehicle since we all have the same driving styles, environment, and transportation needs and we use only one type of computer because we all have the same access, needs and likes for them and we all eat the same foods exclusively; I can see why folks would think there is *1* way to dress a hammer...

New Folks: you need to find out what works for YOU and the type of work YOU do with the methods YOU use.  We can give suggestions and show what works for us but feel free to vary it to suit *YOU*.  Shoot I have hammers dressed in different ways for different needs: some for working right up to a change in cross sectional area, others to plow a straight smooth taper, others to dish with, others to smooth the bevel of a blade right down to the edge.  (As you generally have to take the edge down to the level of the least projecting spot, narrowest, a special hammer to "pop" a missed spot out to match the rest of the edge can help a lot! A problem folks starting blades before their hammer control is great often have. They see the blade as the widest section I see the blade as the narrowest section, I'm right!)

Smooth rounded edges help a lot with hammer dings on the workpiece; but the amount of rocker on the face and how tight those rounded edges are is something you learn by experimentation with your own methods of working. Frankly I learned by buying old used hammers that wear or previous owners had dressed and found what various ones were good for and then went on to propagate what I liked to other hammer, new or just not dressed like *I* liked...of course that was pre internet days and ABANA Affiliates were few and far between...

OB Friday Curmudgeon Minirant

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On 6/1/2018 at 4:33 AM, JME1149 said:

For the angle grinder, try a flap wheel. Something around an 80 or 100 grit should give a nice balance between metal removal and surface finish.

An angle grinder is too aggressive for me, removing metal is an irreversible process.  I reshape axe bits and splitting wedges with a file, I'm going to try dressing the same way.  If it doesn't work, I will reconsider but a file provides fine control on the amount of metal removed.

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On 6/1/2018 at 5:13 AM, MC Hammer said:

Maybe I'm a little too particular, but after I grind the right profile, I go over it with a medium grit carborundum stone with water and then some sand paper.  Yes, use will polish them but this gives it a head start for those who don't forge everyday like me.  Some hammers that you don't use a lot will take a while to polish under hobby use.

I use an oil stone after reshaping an axe bit with a file; I'll try that dressing the hammers too.  A few extra minutes to end up with a nice surface seems like time well spent to me.

On 6/1/2018 at 8:39 AM, ThomasPowers said:

New Folks: you need to find out what works for YOU and the type of work YOU do with the methods YOU use.

That is EXACTLY why I asked this question.  I'm new to blacksmithing.  I don't know what works for me and removing metal is an irreversible process.  The only metal shaping I have done is with cold metal -- cold riveting, some auto body work, and attempting to straighten or rework bent part back to their original shape.

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Well I've dressed my first hammer.  I welcome your critique before I tackle the others.  The one on the left is Vaughan 3 lb cross pein and the one on the right is the same hammer in 2 lb undressed for comparison.

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That'll do for now but YOU need to use it to see if it suits. If you buy some emery cloth you can break the sharp edges easily by using the shoe shine motion. Cut a longish piece off the roll, hold one end in each hand and pull it back and forth. put the hammer head in the vise and you can move around the face to keep it all even. Start around 80-100 grit, then say around 160-200 and do a final polish at 260-300. From then on let the hot steel polish it.

Better yet, take Thomas' advice and hit some yard, garage, etc. sales, buy some old worn hammers and try them. Once you see what a particular face profile works for YOU try dressing one of the others to match. 

Don't do ANYTHING about this now but the peins should be radiused along the pein like an ax blade's edge but more shallowly. A SLIGHT radius makes it worlds easier to forge a straight line and better yet without marks from having a slightly misaligned hammer drive the end of the pein into the work. Profile your hardies and top cuts with a radiused edge as well.

Like I say though use your hammers a while before trying to make them perfect. You have NO idea what good is yet and you can waste a lifetime striving for perfection you've never tasted. Don't sweat it, I'm not being harsh we all tried to get, find and or make perfect tools when we started out. 

Beware of Youtube videos, most are made by folk who don't know what they're doing and too many are outright dangerous. Same for the advice from other beginners, the intentions are good and I don't fault them for sharing but you might want to wait and follow the advice of folks who've been doing it a while, say 5+ decades. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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10 minutes ago, Frosty said:

That'll do for now but YOU need to use it to see if it suits.

Yes, I am DEFINITELY aware I need to use the hammer!  I've been acquiring tools and setting up my shop for the last couple of months; I received the last piece I needed last week.  I have a quality anvil, a good forge, several hammers and tongs, a good assortment of mild steel, and a little 4140.  I still need to build an anvil stand and mount a beam to lift the anvil onto it and then I'll be a-hammerin'.

I'm always wary of YouTube videos but I have watched dozens.  Most of them were by three smiths that are well-known and respected in the blacksmithing community.  I've also read three blacksmithing books and am reading a 4th so I think I've done more than enough homework, just need to start pounding metal to make some of that book learning stick.  There is a certain minimum amount of tools that you need to be able to do that though!

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Ayup, there is a minimum equipment list: Anvil, smooth faced hammer and a fire. You can forge a chisel to do your cutting and if you forge long stock you don't need tongs.

I'm not heckling, I'd just like you to get unstuck from the same trap most of us have found ourselves in when we started. It's not the tools that do the work, they're nothing more than refined dirt. It's the person using them and you can spend the rest of your life trying to get everything you need but you don't really need much to go to it.

On more than one occasion I've used roadside or dumped scrap, boulder, cobble and campfire to first make a couple tools the make stuff for the camp. You can get welding heat from a camp fire with a few pilled stones and a breeze. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I'm not stuck, I'm methodical :blink:  Seriously, though, I just got my "fire" last week.  My original goal was to have everything set up and be hammering by the end of June so I'm still on schedule, maybe a little ahead.  Researching anvils and forges took some time.  My original plan was to get a vintage anvil so I started reading up on them first.  I just couldn't find one in good condition at any price so ended up buying a new one.

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Good hammers won’t even be touched buy a file, lol. Liability has lead manufactures to not harden hammer heads, older hammers may be as much as R55-65 just like an old anvil. 

Some notes about dressing, round all the beveled edges and some rocker is generaly good, a true flat face will “jump” in your hand if you are even a little off. 

Handles are generaly to big, this leads to a death grip and fatigue. Fatigue leads to injury. For most of us a 1x1 1/4” works best  and a handle length when palming th head of the inside of your elbow

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These are the handles I've tweaked to suit me, I use 5/4" straight grain clear Hickory I get from the hardwood supply, I pick up 4' - 5' of 4" wide so I can get two handles per linear handle length. Below is a pic of a handled hammer that started life as a 32oz. ball pein. I put the knob end on the first handle I made to mitigate it possibly slipping out of my hand. Round handled hammers slip if I let myself get too tired. Turns out the SLIGHT widening from head to handle end put a stop to slipping. If it moves at all in my grip I tighten up reflexively so the knob wasn't necessary at all but It sort of became a tradition on my slab handles and they all get one. They're just sanded smooth and waxed, no tricks for a sure grip necessary.

This handle lets me hold the hammer securely with almost no effort. I let the hammer pivot between the knuckles of my index finger and thumb giving me another joint and increasing the power of my blows without extra effort. Pivoting also prevents any impact shock reaching my hand, the hammer just recoils and I bring it back up. 

That's my handle design and why.

Frosty The Lucky.

         5b1ea6fbe0452_Balltostraightpein01.jpg.3e76cfcb20c8b1dd1f7d10c2359b5e23.jpg

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I bought the Vaughan, knowing it was an economy hammer, so I could try some different head weights and handle shapes inexpensively.  About the only thing I know about it is that the head material is "Forged Steel", the handle is hickory, and it cost me $18 delivered to my house.  It was not difficult to file so it is most certainly not hardened tool steel.  The Vaughan handle feels quite comfortable, the Hultafors' handle is a little slimmer, especially between the belly and the shoulder, and the Peddinghaus handle is huge, bigger than any hammer handle I've used.  I don't plan on reshaping any of handles before I forge with them.

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