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Testing hammer accuracy


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I was told by a somewhat blacksmith in Cody Wyoming that if you could hammer in a 16 penny nail with the ball peen on a ball peen hammer you could preform accurate hammer blows is this true I already did this and to me it was easy...he sed he couldn’t do it for 6 years I did it in 2.

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The ball end of a ball pein hammer is actually rather large in relation to the head of 16 penny nail.  Hitting the nail is not the issue.  Hitting the nail straight on or at least straight enough not to cause a glancing blow, or bending the nail, is the challenge.  Like with anything, practice makes you better. 

Blacksmiths quickly learn not to aim the hammer, but to KNOW where the hammer is going to hit, and use that to their advantage.  Out of the hundreds if not thousands of hammer impacts a day, they manage to hit the hot metal where they want the impact to go, and how to use that impact to move metal.

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Never tried that but I agree with others that over time you'll hit more where you want without thinking about it as much. Muscle memory and such. 

Don't think that any one trick makes you good. There are Many variables in forging. Figuring out or knowing the steel/metal for the job/item you are making, knowing how to work/hammer that metal, knowing your flame or fire control, knowing how to hold it, knowing the right hammer and tools for the job, knowing that metals forging temp, when it is ready to forge and when it needs to go back into the fire, knowing if it needs heat treat and how and what to do it, or if it should just cool on its it's own or just quench cool. All these and MANY more are considerations learned through knowledge shared or learned through experience. Just hammering a nail with a ball pein doesn't make you a good blacksmith. Just means you have some coordination. 

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For the sake of discussion we should limit this to using hand held hammers, and anvils.

The eye scans the metal for information which is then sent to the brain for processing, resulting in many calculations.  The brain then factors in a multitude of variables in order to produce a solution for the body to swing the hammer.  This results in the amount of force used, the impact point of the hammer head, as well as the X, Y, Z tilts and axis of the hammer needed at the point of impact.  The results of the impact is then scanned again and the information again sent to the brain for the next calculation to achieve a solution for the next hammer swing.  All this goes into the background and becomes instinctive after a while.

How would you go about putting laser sights on a hand held hammer so that the laser beams would cross exactly where the hammer was going to hit?  Not putting static lasers to light up the proposed impact point, but to attach them to the hammer itself to indicate you needed to adjust the direction of the swing, the tilt of the hammer head, or the intensity of the impact?

 

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Well I once was at a demo using my 1.5 kg sweedish cross peen to drive a slitting chisel and noticed everybody was looking at me funny.  So I looked and had been driving the narrow slitting chisel with the crosspeen of the hammer---not even looking at it; but concentrating on what the cutting end was doing.   With enough practice you can *know* where your tooling is in relation to the work.  For young people who haven't hammered any. I suggest getting a log or 4"x4" and 5 pounds of 16 penny nails and WEARING PPE, drive all the nails in to help both stamina and hammer control.  Not quite smithing hammer blows but a lot closer than game controller blows!

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I don’t get how this is meant to be hard for people who haven’t yet set in there hammer accuracy... he sed it took years for his hammer accuracy 

And I am not talking me I’m talking about my wood turner brother

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You ever know anyone who could pick up a musical instrument and after a couple of weeks; be playing it like a pro; while most folks would need years of lessons and practice?    Some folks are like that with tools.  I've had both types as students and sometimes the person who had to fight their way to being decent go on and make a better go of smithing than the people to whom it was easy.

People differ.

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Try driving horse shoe nails with a farriers driving hammer. Most are about as big around as your little finger. The fact that it is a moving target just complicates matters. 
I find that I aim at the anvil and move the stock under the hammer much like a power hammer. Helped a lot with the wasp waisted farriers anvils staying over the sweet spot

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I learned very fast...but now that I think of it he watches me a lot and I showed him hammer accuracy with the striking hammer...so I guess that doesn’t really count I will find a new person to try.

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How many strokes? My grandfather could drive a 16 penny nail with a single swing of the hammer. One tap to set it in place then one good swing and it was set, he spent well over 50 years as a carpenter though. The reason i ask is becuase as you increase one aspect of a hammer blow you will decrease another. More accuracy usually translates into less force of the hammer, more force you will loose some in accuracy. So if it  takes you say 10 strokes to drive that nail, try it in 5 and i bet you will bend a whole slew before you get it right. Once you can do it with 5, time yourself driving 10 nails, then try and cut that time in half. Again i would bet a whole bunch of bent nails before you do it. Accuracy is only one of 3 elements in a successful and productive hammer blow. 

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15 hours ago, Daswulf said:

Don't think that any one trick makes you good.

This is extremely important. In the end, the only thing that reliably makes you a better smith is doing more smithing. 

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That's quite true. We also shouldn't confuse skill-building exercises with tests of skill. It's certainly worthwhile for a beginner who's never swung a hammer to practice driving nails to improve their hand/eye coordination, but being able to drive some large number of nails with a single blow each just shows that you've developed that one skill. Smithing also requires knowing where to hit, how hard, and how often in order to get the metal to move where you want it -- which of course also implies having good judgment about where the metal should move.

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YES, a hammer handle should be fitted to the user; a bad fit can result in damage to the user.

The first step in gaining hammer proficiency is to be able to consistently hit where you are aiming for.  Driving nails helps with that and increases your stamina in using a hammer.

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Neither too big nor too small. Hands come in different sizes, and a handle that's the wrong size will make the user grip it too tightly. That will spoil your aim and over time can cause damage to your hand and arm.

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In general we go for wooden handles as they seem more forgiving to our arms and hands.  So given an oversized for the user handle; I rasp them down with a farrier's hoof rasp and then smooth them in a bunch of different ways.

I was taught that the hammer should be loose in your grip---if you are gripping tightly then all the shock from a blow gets transmitted into your muscles and ligaments.  So a handle should not be too large for your hand, nor too small.  I also like terminal bulbs on my handles so a loose grip hammer can't "escape".  People's preferences differ!

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For hammers that have differing faces you can modify the handle so you know which face  is down just by how it feels in your hand.

(Rounding hammers are a good example of this.  I have had so many students who couldn't keep track of if they were hitting with the domed face or the flat face that I generally don't let students use them anymore.)

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