Alwin

Forging techniques

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I will preface this by saying that this thread is brought up to increase understanding. I recently read through a number of recent articles in the Hammers Blow magazine. There was a debate about using the edge of the hammer to draw out steel versus using flat blows and the edge of the anvil to stretch steel quickly. I am a practitioner of the edge of hammer technique (in conjunction with the edge of the anvil when I want to stretch metal very quickly) and the body mechanics of flat blows using the edge of the anvil have always seemed inefficient and awkward to me- not that my impression is true. I generally see people standing with the anvil in front of them the horn facing either left or right to them while they hold the steel and use the far edge of the anvil to hammer on. Anytime I've seen anyone doing this they've been swinging the hammer at an angle which requires more physical effort and limits the effect of gravity compared to a straight up and down blow. Holding the steel facing out in the same direction as you're hammering makes it much harder to stand over the work which means that your hammer blow is going diagonally towards the steel and diagonally back to you, all of the diagonal direction has to be created by your body. Unless the material that is being worked is too long to be held at a 90 degree angle to your hammer swing, working at the anvil in that way seems more inefficient. Using the edge of the hammer and standing so you face down the length of the anvil makes it so you are standing over the work which creates a hammer blow closer to straight up and down. I might also argue that using the edge of the hammer makes it easier to control the degree to which you're stretching the metal because the effect is seen on the top of the steel being struck versus on the bottom while using the edge of the anvil. There are fantastic blacksmiths using all sorts of techniques so pointing out someone who does great work with a certain technique has never seemed a good argument for using it. Pointing to a blacksmith who has used a technique for a long time without injury is a better argument but still doesn't speak to whether the technique moves steel in as controlled and rapid a way as possible. I think that a systematic look at the way the body moves in relation to the joints and gravity is what it comes down to. I agree with Hofi in many of the fundamentals but I have a few questions regarding his technique- once again not saying that any of it is wrong, just that I don't understand it- that I will address in the next thread.

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Using the pein of the hammer is a good way to move steel quickly, but I was addressing an argument about using the face of the hammer on the edge of the anvil versus using the edge of the hammer. It was an argument from an ABANA magazine. I personally like the cross pein because I can stand with my hip against the anvil and have the edges of my hammer and anvil line up so I can draw steel out using the hammer and anvil edge, stretch it wide using the pein, and make tenons and other changes in steel size using the hammer and anvil alignment all from the same position.

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Just get a 50lbs little giant sillys...

But seriously, my main forging hammer is a sledge style hammer. One of the faces is flat and the other has a convex shape to it. I prefer the convex surface for drawing steel as opposed to the well accepted cross or diagonal peens. Using the peen on a hammer creates to deep of hammer blows for me sometimes that later turn into hot shuts and then develop into problems. When I am really trying to move some steel by hand I will hold my hammer crooked and strike with the edge of the hammer, but this radius is not nearly as sharp as any of my cross peens.

but anyway about the original question, In my personal experience it is SLIGHTLY quicker to use the edge of the hammer and the edge of the anvil, HOWEVER I prefer to use the edge of the hammer on the face of the the anvil to move metal quickly, HOWEVER I prefer not to move metal so quickly and (I know someone is gonna come after me for this) dare I say sloppily as the 2 methods listed above. I would much rather just forge it out on all four sides nice and even and at a decent pace instead of trying to murder a poor defenseless piece of steel with the edge of my hammer.

Just my 2 coppers

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I understand the benefits of pushing the metal slowly, but by using a convex face, if you are drawing the metal to a point for instance, aren't you constantly pushing the metal in a direction opposite the one you are wanting to consequently making more work for yourself? A wider pein with more rounded edges will stop the problem of cold shuts and also make the movement of the metal more controllable, and edges on the face of the hammer can be rounded to allow for slight to very aggressive pushing of the material depending on whether it is tilted a tiny bit or a lot.

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Why not use the beak of the anvil for fullering down? Use with a round face hammer, draw down even quicker, and a smoother finish to flatter down

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I agree, the horn of the anvil is an obvious fuller, I've seen several blokes use it that way for roughing out points etc.

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I like the horn of the anvil for fullering if the anvil is heavy enough not to move when you are working on it, however I think the most efficient place to work on an anvil is always over the waist. I say that because of the way in which shock/vibration is transmitted through the anvil. You will get a little more effect and rebound working over the waist. The horn gives a gentle fullering action that works well. Slightly tipping the hammer and using the face will do the same thing with slightly less effort- at least that is the way I understand it. I have been smithing for ten years-4.5 yrs working for another smith and 5.5 years running my own business as a blacksmith mostly using traditional techniques- and I've studied a lot of different smith's techniques both in person and by video, I say this so you understand where I'm coming from. I learn new things and make mistakes all the time so please correct me if I am not understanding something correctly or if you have a different explanation.

Edited by Alwin

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Two points to consider.

One is that alot depends on the actual shape of the edge of your anvil. If its really rounded over like my Peter Wright, its less efficient to fuller over the edge. If your edge is sharper, it'll move more metal. You can't judge this process without setting some parameters for a test. Other wise we're mostly talking anecdotal evidence.

Two is that energy is lost during the movement of a hammer at the moment it strikes a piece of work at anything other than perfectly parallel and/or centered strikes. If you balance your hammer pretty well its helps, but since it swings in an arc (assuming over the edge with a little reach) and the stock changes thickness during the hit it is all but impossible to make it hit perfectly parallel, hence some loss through the handle. Even using different hammer methods, ie, Hofi or your own personal style.

I prefer to use the edge of the anvil hit straight on for fullering larger stock. That is if its my Fisher with the sharp edge, not on the Peter Wright. Smaller stock I start over the edge and then finish with more control but less efficiency on the face with an angle blow and then finish blows angled another way to make it smooth.

Some shapes of stock of course require the horn to fuller them. So much of this comes down to the requirements of the workpiece.

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The edge of your hammer and of the anvil both make a lot of difference. Let us say you have a 3/16 inch radius on the edges of both your anvil and hammer, the angle you turn the hammer or hold the steel on the anvil edge is also going to change the effect of the blow; the smaller the area that the force of the blow is going through the more aggressive the fullering action. The fastest way to move steel that I've found (using a hand hammer) and one that is sustainable over a long period of time is using the outer edge of the hammer and swinging straight down to strike the steel right on the edge of the anvil. I am holding the steel pretty close to horizontal while swinging the hammer down upon it.

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Subjectively I do know that using more agressive technics is more efficient, and I try to use them when I need to (ie I don't have a power hammer handy;-) I use them regularly for forging figure heads and finials, but I hate drawing... I will also admit that aestheticly I don't like the very agressive techinics, so I understand others having issues with them. It' not pretty and it does take practice to get to the point where you don't end up with annoying thin spots. Alwin if you are doing mostly traditional type work and don't have a power hammer in the shop I certainly understand wanting to use the most efficient methods. Most people would want to use what is most effective, in this way and a few others I am hampered by my sense of aesthetics (completely irrational I know...) BUt since my power hammer is down, I may be forced to experiment with using the edge of the hammer, or get better at using the edge of the anvil. (and yes I have seen some of the really extraordinary smiths that use these technics so effectively, but I have not had the patience to see the efficiency over the ragged appearance of the steel in process...)

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I have a power hammer which I use for heavy drawing out, but I still use my hand hammer a lot of the time. Drawing out 3/8 inch and smaller I'll often use my hand hammer and aggressive forging doesn't necessarily mean ragged or pitted. If your edges aren't too sharp for the force then it is just a matter of walking the steel you are pushing, kind of like a wave, from where you start to the end of where you're working. If you do that then there isn't much work to get a really smooth finish. I sometimes want a smooth finish, sometimes a rippled surface, and sometimes a more faceted finish, it depends on the project. I use mainly traditional techniques but I can't say I do a lot of traditional projects. I like hand forging steel (at least some of the time), I find it very soothing and when I am immersed in it the hammering gets to a point where it feels almost effortless. There are definitely many tools that lessen the amount of hand hammer work needed, but if you are a blacksmith you are always going to have to do some. I also think I understand some of the subtler ways in which steel moves from that more direct and slower interaction.

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If given a choice between drawing by hand and on an air hammer, I will generally choose the air hammer;-) I do draw material by hand at demos and when my hammer is down, but I don't enjoy working that hard, unless I am "in the flow." Better technic might make that "effortless" feeling a little more common...

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