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I Forge Iron

Looking to upgrade to a new hammer, need advice.

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Hello, I've been sifting through the forums for years for information and wanted to say thank you to everyone who's sharing what they know on here. As a blacksmith relatively early in his career this place is an incredibly valuable resource.

Now to the situation: I have owned and operated a 50lb little giant for 6 or so years now, and it has certainly helped me along making knives and smaller sculptures. I have the funds to invest into an upgrade for my shop, and have a few options currently on the table but can't quite figure out the best move.

I certainly want a heavier hammer, I'd like a 100lb if possible just as a catch all to the kind of work I do, while not being oversized for forging thinner blades. I am eyeing a few that are up for sale at an auction next month (The Phil Cox estate auction, I hardly knew him but I enjoyed every second I got to talk to him).

Almost all of the advice I've come across is to get a self contained hammer, which I am able to afford if needed. However there are two Bradley helve's of Phil's that have peaked my interest. Buying another mechanical hammer comes with the requirement that it be more affordable than a brand new air hammer by a significant margin, otherwise I could just go all out and buy a new Say-Mak or something similar. With it being an auction there is no way to really gauge the going price but I'm more wondering about performance.

There is a 75lb Bradley strap, which seems properly sized and easy enough to maintain considering it's in great running order. Another Bradley that is a guided helve (with the wooden beam) that is 125#, but lacks the snappy action of the strap style from what I've read, and the overall weight is slightly too much to be handled easily by my means (but I could manage).

Along side these two machines, there is a 50kg Say-Mak, which I'm sure is in great running order and technically fits the bill for everything I would need.

In terms of getting the biggest and best hammer I can afford for the long run, I'm not sure if I should even consider the Bradley's. I'm familiar with mechanicals, and the Bradley's are both more powerful, and safer in my opinion than my 50lb LG with all the whizzing parts right in my face. The two biggest drawbacks I can see is that the space between the dies might be prohibitive, BUT I know they can be adjusted to change the throw and accommodate more tooling (I'd need to punch hammers, and smaller axe heads). As well as not being able to get new dies in the future should I need them (would have to get them custom made which is just more upkeep in the long run).

So I pose this situation to you fellows: If I could get my hands on a Bradley for a reasonable price, would it be worth it? If so, what would YOU want to pay for one, and which one would you prefer? Would you go straight for the used Say-Mak? Or would you just buy a new self contained and be done with the whole situation?

Thanks for reading, I appreciate any input!


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A bradley is an awsome hammer. Mine is a 75/100 pound upright helve Franken hammer- ( assembled from the parts of several machines at whatever factory it used to belong to) Space between the dies is the limitation of these hammers. Adjusting on the fly is not too hard, but gets annoying. I have punched hammer heads on this hammer and worked down stock as big as 5 inch round. I can hit a piece 8 inches tall but it is at its limit. The normal slap of this hammer is 4-4.5 inch, with 1.5 inch opening i can easily hit a piece 5 inches tall then die to die on the next stroke which I think is probably close to what your 50# will do if memory serves. Bradleys are seriously overbuilt machines. Mine runs a full 370 bpm with a 110 pound ram. Punching is not its strong point, but i can draw steel faster on this hammer than any air hammer. I have been using this hammer daily since '95. Air hammers are more versatile but these machines have personality, and few air hammers today are built as heavy.



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Thanks for the slick photo's. That's a fine looking beast even with all the franken bits.

Your info on the striking heights is seriously helpful, and I think that's even more than my 50lb will realistically do. I assume the stroke height is adjusted with that odd lever sticking off the right hand side, which screws up and down along the threads on the drive rod? I've got a similar system on my old camel-back drill press, and I really like it.

2 hours ago, jason0012 said:

Mine runs a full 370 bpm with a 110 pound ram.

This is the part that blows my mind. I tuned my 50lb down quite a bit lower than the suggested speeds in the specs from LG's website. I found this was easier to control and safer. The lack of a spring system on the Bradley's makes me think they don't hit as hard if ran at a lower BPM because they lose speed on slower strokes. It's nice to have the high end BPM, but can you still get decent control at slower speeds?

The brake is a bit of a selling point too, never got around to putting one on my 50lb. How does that seem to perform for your hammer?

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I have really good control at low speeds and fair single blow control now. It does have a tendency to collect oil on the flywheel which makes the break slip, but i likely need to replace the wood block.there are two points of adjustment. The split sleeve is the one that gets moved outside of special circumstances. It is a smooth (more or less, it is 120 yrs old) shift held in a split sleeve, the big lever is part of the clamp screw that catches it. On top of this, the eccentric is adjustable. You can see two nuts in this picture. This hammer is adjustable from 0-5 inches stroke. It runs best at around a 4- 4.5 inch throw. When I first got it I played with this a bit, but it gets out of balance so this is where it is kept. This is a " I really need fast short strokes for the next 50,000 parts kind of thing and not a 10 changes a day kind of adjustment.


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