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I Forge Iron

I need Help

Zachary Hile

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I want to get into blacksmithing and I would like to forge a hammer to call my own for my first real project. What type of steel should I make the hammer out of and how do I get my hands on it.

I don’t know very much about steels but the one I have been looking at is W1 tool steel is that a good choice.

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Forging a hammer is not what I would typically recommend for a first project.  Unless your "unreal" projects to date have been fairly instructive, I think you are setting yourself up for some trouble. 

It is a pretty large mass of steel to hold and manipulate and you need a number of tools and techniques to be successful.  For example, you will most likely be going with mono steel for the head.  You will need some tooling to punch the eye (unless you plan on drilling/filing or milling it out you will need a slitter, slot punch or hammer eye punch).  Then you will likely want a drift to correctly size the eye to some kind of standard configuration so you can eventually attach a handle.  You will also need a set of tongs that can hold that mass of steel.  Two pounds doesn't seem like all that much to worry about until it is yellow hot and radiating heat like crazy.  Then you want it extremely securely held and a good distance away from your tong hand.  Then there are various top and bottom tools that make shaping the hammer easier.

Have you got some kind of grinding equipment to use  to finish the face?  It can certainly be done with hot rasping, filing and hand sanding, but that is a fair effort. 

You are also going to want to heat treat the head after forging and finishing.  Have you any experience with heat treating medium or high carbon steels?

None of this is impossible to achieve, just difficult for a beginner without  some onsite direction from a more experienced smith, and possibly, access to loaner tools. 

That being said, W1 can certainly be used for forging a hammer head, but I personally wouldn't use it.  For me that would be too expensive a choice and has more carbon content than I think of as being required for hammers.  You can make a great hammer out of 1045 or 4140 steel (source can be Car/truck axles from your local scrapyard or drops from local machine shops).  You can even use old jackhammer bits for smaller hammers (as posted by JHCC recently).  They are usually available for a few bucks at Home Depot rental counters after they get turned in for blade cracks.

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