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I Forge Iron

Driving Hammers


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Any of the horseshoers on the board  have any interesting and/or hand made driving hammers? It days gone by a lot of shoers forged tools as well,especially the old school racetrack horseshoers when every track had a shop and quite a few had home shops as well.
As I find mine when I get my 2 seaboxes moved I’ll post pictures of some of mine.  Being in the mid-atlantic all of mine were made in the wva/va/md/pa quad state area with the exception of my newest hammer that was forged for me by my good buddy Gary Huston across the pond.  

Here’s one out of my shoeing box. It’s 5/6oz,I’ve had it Since I was a kid. It was made by John Calcinore up in Pennsylvania,loosely based on the old thoro’bred that’s no longer made. I regret never having big john forge a hammer to my

  And a pic that Garry sent me of my new hammer,I’ll post better pics of the new hammer once it makes it transatlantic voyage and I get it hafted    



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I've made 5 different driving hammers..  I stopped using 2 of the early ones that were more draft horse driving nails..  I don't shoe any longer just doing trims but do love to swing the hammers.  

I like a little bit heavier hammer and typically would drive from a size 3 nail at the racetrack to a 5 city normally.  Some of the drafter were a 10 or even a 12 capewell city head..  Or even a 10 or 12E..  I didn't have much luck with photos.. I've got thousands so just need to find them. 

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  • 5 months later...

Nice looking hammers.  I’ve always liked a lighter hammer,but then again I did come up shoeing racehorses expanded my custom from there. But always used the same hammer for everything from little tiny #3sp up to the big European head nails I used on my heavy horses to no the books. Always between 5&6oz. Used my Calcinore and an F.a Bell handmade hammers for probably 15yrs untill I won a 6oz Horsehead down at Danny Wards clinic in Va as a door prize one year.  

I do have a fondness for hammers tho,especially handmade,rare/obscure driving hammers. 

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That's a lovely pattern for a hammer.  I don't know squat about farrier work (other than it involves working with these massive beasts that I certainly don't trust), but I wouldn't mind trying my hand at forging one.  The set down for the hammer handle socket is particularly nice, as is the subtle cant of the hammer head.

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JLP...INC.,The hammer on the left side of your picture, resembles a "Cheney nailer"

The overall shape I mean.

I believe that Lee valley tools Inc. resurrected the hammer, manufactured it and was selling them a few years ago.

If so, you can see a picture of it, and how it was a revolutionary advance  in the old technology of hammers.

(I am not shilling for them and have no financial share in the said company).

Regards everyone!


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Found some pics of a few from my collection. I’ve downsized in the last 10yrs or so,at one point I had over 100 driving hammers alone. Now I think I have 50 lol  

First & second are Rice Bros about 5/5.5oz. Third & fifth are two of my favorite machine made hammers,6oz Horsehead and a 6oz a Roger Grant Journeyman Platers special. The RG is a beautifully machined work of art and a damn fine hammer. Fourth is a Tom Hall hafted on a Jim poor haft.   I have an Andy Darden 5/6oz somewhere that has a lot of the characteristics of the Rice Bros hammers.  
When I sketched out the design and dimensions for the hammer that my buddy Gary forged for me from 4140 I took aspects of my favorites and combined them,looking back now that it’s been in my hands for almost half a year I wish I’d have made the waist about twice as long as it is for nothing more than visual preference.  

The rice bro style of hammer is special to me because I have a hammer that’s hand forged and styled after the rice bro that was forged in the 60s or early 70s that was given to my mentor when he finished his apprenticeship,and my mentor gave me the twin to his when I finished my apprenticeship.  The sixth hammer is a copy of the originals that F.a Bell forged in the 50s-early 70s based on the rice bros with a few differences.  Another old timer whom I grew up around up in Pennsylvania,Herb Stradley forged up a dozen or so patterned off of an original F.a Bell and sold them at his shop. I can’t find the pics of my original F.a Bell but I grabbed a photo from Ray Steele’s store when ray had a few for sale. You can see a lot of the same aspects from the Bell hammer in my custom hammer.   As I find more of my photos and the actual hammers.  I’ll post them and what they are and any history I know on them.  I just noticed the second Rice bros photo is from the worthpoint listing for it,that’s how I ended up finding that one on eBay  







Edited by JmShrader
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I've used a few different driving hammers over the years, including the Tom Hall and Horsehead hammers you show above. I think the Horsehead was possibly the best commercially produced hammer I have used, or at least best suited to me but nowadays I prefer my own handmade hammers.

The two on the left are forged from 4340 alloy and the two on the right were ground and shaped from blocks of D2 steel.



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Boy,, from a bit earlier time. 17 years shoeing horses full time. Diamond nailing hammer rounding hammer and shoe pullers, two Frost knives, two Nicholson rasps, and a set of long handled DS nippers to die for.  

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The only two machine made hammers that I’ve ever had and actually liked is a 6oz horsehead and a 6oz Roger Grant,although I do have a vintage Thoro’bred waffle face 6oz kicking around somewhere. The horseheads are probably die forged,but they are very good steel. My horsehead is probably 20yrs old. Still has the factory haft in it too,just thinned out and has a magnet in the end. Hope I never break that handle because whoever’s supplying handles to horsehead now changed the entire handle shape,weight and dimensions. I probably should make a scale drawing of it and split  out some hickory billets and have my buddy cut me some blanks on his CNC router. 
The Roger Grants are milled out of tool steel,Roger is a tool&die maker by trade. I’m curious if you have had your handmade hammers on the scale? Myself,I prefer a 5.5-6oz hammer with a thin squared up handle with a good bit of whip to it. I prefer a longer handle too,about 14” is what most of all my handles are on everything. I only use one driving hammer,I nail every hide with the same hammer. From   4Sp on my track horses to E6&8’s & up on Saddle horses and heavy horses. 

When I get my new shop up and get both of my hammers painted and rebuilt I’m gonna forge some hammers and tools,I’ve taken on an apprentice and I want to pass on the tool making that I learned from my mentor to my apprentice. I’ve got 4yrs 11mo to get my shop up and running lol  

Anvil,I’ve used Nicholson magicut rasps for years and years,they have always lasted good for me,cut fast and will finish a foot like glass if you are any good finishing a foot.  A lot of guys over the years Have loved diamond tools,I never got along with any of them other than 1/4” diamond tongs and I have a pair of old diamond crease nail pullers that are modified that were given to me many many years ago by Danny Ward.  My 4 pairs of hot fit tongs are made out of worn out/broken nippers and clinchers,lop the jaws off,forge out the reigns and shape the ends. Makes pretty darn nice hot fit tongs. 


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Considering I started shoeing in 1965 and transitioned my business from farrier to blacksmith in 1980, about the only hand made tools at that time were GE nippers, then DS broke off from them. Dale Sprout having been trained by GE, both were excellent nippers. I shod my last horse around '04 and  in '08, my ex son-in-law ran off with my tools. I still trim a few. Just goes to show,,, old horse shoers never quit, we just do fewer and fewer horses.    

I still have my Diamond rounding hammer. Altho it "took a break" for a few years around '80 while learning how to use my cross peen, it is one of three rounding hammers along with 3 cross peens that are my primary hammers. \

I never liked diamond nippers, they were cheap in all respects. 

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When I first started out when I decided I was gonna be a horseshoer,a bunch of the old time union racetrack horseshoers I grew up around all pitched in a tool or 2 and put me together a full shoeing box. Most everything was GE,nippers,pulloffs,clinchers,hand made driving hammer and an old B&O 1lb railroad machine shop ball peen. From there I started my apprenticeship and over about a 7yr period I apprenticed 4 1/2yrs.  Took 4yrs off when I finished school and I went to College at Cornell and earned a masters degree in dairy science. Came home and finished my apprenticeship and pretty much shod horses full time on and off the track for 15yrs.  
I never liked diamond nippers either,to me they always felt too soft. not just the cutting edge but reins and all. I’m still using a lot of the tools I started with. Especially my GE pull offs and a couple pairs of my nippers have to be 50yrs old. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

JMShrader, the driving hammers range from 9 to 12 Oz, so somewhat heavier than you like. My everyday hammer (2ndfrom right) comes in at 12 Oz. I drive everything from E2 to E12 nails with the same hammer and honestly don’t find it too heavy, even for the little ones, I guess it’s what you get used to. 

I use GE clenching tongs, Mustad shoe pullers and recently opted for MFC nippers. For many years I used GE nippers but having been influenced by recent poor reviews of GE, I decided to try MFC; there is a really nice Youtube video which shows their manufacturing process. I like the MFC, they are well made and last but I think my next pair will be GE.

I’ve a pair of diamond nail pullers too. How does the mod work out?

The best knives I used were Joe Peterca loops. I loved the folklore stories that came along with them and don’t care to know if they were true, or not. Unfortunately no longer available, so I make my own.


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