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I Forge Iron

Large Struck Tool ID Request

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I picked this up today at an antique store. The label said "railroad hammer," which is obviously not correct, as it is some type of struck tool rather than a hammer. Does anyone recognize its intended purpose? I'm guessing top swage, but realize that there are many industries which may have used such a tool for purposes that I am not familiar with. 

It is a little longer than 9" long, with a slightly curved 4"x2" face. It was forge welded together out of at least two pieces, with a clear weld joining the curved 2"x2"x4" stock which formed the working end to the body. There are some "cracks" in the eye which look like "birth defects" rather than damage from work or abuse, and no evidence that the "cracks" got bigger over time. I think they formed during the hole punching or drifting (tapered one way only).

The struck end is in dreadful shape, and would certainly require dressing prior to further use as a struck tool. I don't have any plans for such work, and will likely leave the mushrooming alone or grind it minimally to better fit into a hole in a log as another stump anvil option next to some other assorted make-do small anvils with other shapes. 






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It looks like a packing tool to me. For example say you're driving chinking between logs, you'd use a wide blunt wedge and a mallet to force the chinking as deeply and tightly into the space as possible. 

This tool strikes me as that kind of tool but I don't know what it's compacting or where. 

I'd maybe clean it up for display but not enough to hurt it's antique value. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for your thoughts Frosty.

With the mushrooming present on the struck end, the tool was clearly used hard, but the working end doesn't have appreciable deformation from its primary function. I think it is certainly reasonable that the tool was compacting or forcing something that had more give than steel or stone. 

There are many chisel marks from a secondary use as a backup tool for cutting. I had considered it not of "archival quality" due to the mushrooming, chisel marks, and one small saw cut that I found.  However, I am not in any hurry to do anything with it, but rather intend to understand what I have found first. If it is a truly unusual item, then I will keep it intact.  

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Mr. Frosty,

The tool that you describe is a called a "caulking iron".

It was used in olden wooden ship building days. (and for maintaining them).

For example stuffing oakum between ribs and boards

Conducting an on line search using that phrase should get a better response with more contacts.

I have seen them for sale in modern wood-working specialty tools catalogues.


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Slag, I think that Frosty is describing something different than caulking a wooden ship. Caulking irons are generally fairly thin and chisel-like, and I doubt that a 2" gap filled with the usual oakum-and-tar caulking would stay watertight for very long.

The "packing tool" idea seems reasonable, but I don't know that this would have been used for log cabin building -- those tended to be owner-built, so investing in such a specialized tool for a single use doesn't make much sense.

It's quite possible that this was some kind of specialized fuller made by an industrial smith for use in a particular kind of manufacturing, but that's just my speculation. 

3 hours ago, pnut said:

Kinda looks like an old sheet metal tool like a handled dollie to me but I'm not sure. 

I see what you mean, but would such a tool have been struck so often and so hard as to create that mushrooming?

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I used a calking iron (thanks for the term) as an example of the type of work the tool looks like it was made to do. Not that it WAS a calking iron. It may have been a planishing tool for sheet metal work. Being wrought iron you could probably mushroom the struck end with a wooden mallet given time. 

I don't see evidence of much wear on the working end so I can't imagine it was a heavy use tool. 

It wouldn't have been a dolly (backer) or it wouldn't have a mushroomed struck end. Of course it could've been mushroomed from abuse. I've seen, heck I have dollies with handles but they don't have the long pol like the pictured tool. Of course I could be wrong but I don't think it's a dolly.

If I were to want to use it as a stake anvil I'd do a quick test to see if the face is hard enough to serve. Test 1 would be dropping a center punch from 10" and see if the sharp end dents it. If yes it's way too soft if no I'd give the center punch a light tap with a light hammer and eyeball both for damage. If the tool face is marked it's too soft, if the center punch is blunted it's hard and probably suitable for a stake anvil.

I doubt it though.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for the additional replies everyone. 

I've looked at caulking tools extensively in the past, and agree that it is unlikely to be a caulking tool specifically.

I performed the center punch drop test, with the following results: drop 1-hit more rusty place and discarded "dent" result (not clear that dent was into tool material rather than into rust and stopping at iron/steel); drop 2-no dent, but also could be influenced by surface rust; drop 3-let go of the punch unevenly and it tilted before impact, and the punch left a tiny raised bur in the face where it impacted/tilted at the same time. Conclusion -- face is not hardened. The chisel marks in the side should have already told me that, really. 

I'll have to spark test the face and body to determine if it is WI/mild steel/higher carbon steel.

I could see it as a planishing tool. The person holding it could walk the curved face incrementally across the surface to be planished, but they would have to be careful not to tilt it side-to-side and create marks at the edge. 

I could also see it being a fuller, but the general lack of wear on the face edges compared to the mushrooming suggests to me that the face was used on something much more soft than itself, or else those edges themselves did not often serve as a working surface. 

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