Hand-held Hammers

Blacksmithing is the perfect hobby to collect hammers. I counted the ones in my tool shed (not counting the ones in the garage and elsewhere) and I stopped counting at 50!  I'm going to have a hell of a yard sale someday, if I don't die first.

I made my new hammer during a toolsmithing class at Frank Turley Forge in Santa Fe, New Mexico. According to Frank the handle should be:

Now this is a hammer!

Finally, a handle! I never knew how much better a 3 pound
hammer would be than my previous 800 gram hammer.

Pein Hammers
ball pein hammer
Ball pein hammer

A ball-peen hammer has two ends — one ball-shaped and the other more cylindrical. It may have a metal, fiberglass or wooden handle. A ball-peen hammer is a variety of peening hammer used for both shaping and striking metal, including striking punches and chisels, in metal fabrication. The ball-peen hammer's crowned, or rounded, edge works metal smoothly without marking it. The ball portion can straighten, soften and expand metal into the desired shape. The other, straighter end of the hammer can be used to strike punches and chisels.

Straight Pein Cross Pein Ball Pein Diagonal Pein
straight peen hammer
Quadra Pein Pointed Pein Tapered Pein (aka Drift Hammer) Straight/Cross Pein
pointed pein hammer tapered pein
Soft Faced/Split Head
locking nut
Locking Nut Head
screw in head
Screw-in Head

The soft faced hammer does the work of six different hammers because the face can be easily changed. The locking nut head and the screw-in head are two different varieties of the same basic tool. Six face types are generally available: rawhide, copper, urethane, nylon, Gar-Dur plastic and BASA. The BASA hammer is used as a refractory hammer for installation and demolition of coke ovens, blast furnaces, and other applications where refractory brick (firebrick) is being installed or removed.

engineers hammer
Engineer's hammers
Heavy heads, similar to Sledge hammers, but smaller and with shorter handles. Used for forming metal and driving punches and chisels.


Rounding hammer

My Cats Head Hammer
British version of a farrier's rounding hammer
(sometimes referred to as the "Chicago version").
Tool used by the farrier at the anvil to shape metal or shoes, usually weighing 2 to 4 pounds. One face is flat and one face is round.


Raising hammer
Two rectangular faces; each longer than it is wide. Used to create a seamless form through compression with contraction without thinning the metal. Raising is the compression of metal down to the stake without stretching it. The trick is to angle the metal off the stake so that there is an air gap for the compression. The Wide Raising Hammer can be used to raise sheet metal into a bowl against a wooden stake or a metal t-stake. It is also useful for raising in cylinders to form a concave shape. The Wide Raising hammer also makes it possible to planish subtle concave shapes.


My flatter. It's interesting shape is what attracted
my attention originally. As I feel like it I'm slowly
restoring it (base ground flat [wish I had a
horizontal grinder] and eventually a new handle)

Square flat head on one end and smaller more rounded head on the other end. As you might expect, the main use of the flatter is for flattening the steel and/or smoothing out forging marks.

Set Hammer

My set hammer

Set hammer has a large flat head. The set hammer is used as a swage or flatter to make squared corners and flat edges (ex. tenons). It is also a hammer with a hollowed-out face used as a swage in riveting.

Japanese Dog's Head Sawyers Hammer
japanese style cutler hammer
Japanese style cutler hammer

A weight forward hammer, also known as a cutler's hammer or a dog's head hammer is a specialized tool for forging thin, flat surfaces such as blades and saws. It has most of the weight forward of or below the handle and is only used on one face.

leaf hammer
This leaf hammer is made from a section of a railroad unit clip, 5160 steel. It's used for making flowers, leaves, and other detailed shapes. That reminds me that I'd love to take the California Blacksmith Association's Level II training class. While I am a member of CBA, I live in Arizona so commuting to take a class spread over months is impractical (making a leafing hammer is just one of the tools you make in this class). At some point I'm going to attempt to make a leaf hammer out of a railroad spike, but I don't have any idea when.

Repoussé and Chasing

Chasing hammer
Repoussé is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. There are few techniques that offer such diversity of expression while still being relatively economical. Chasing is the opposite technique to repoussé, and the two are used in conjunction to create a finished piece. It is also known as embossing.

While repoussé is used to work on the reverse of the metal to form a raised design on the front, chasing is used to refine the design on the front of the work by sinking the metal. The term chasing is derived from the noun "chase", which refers to a groove, furrow, channel or indentation. The adjectival form is "chased work".

The techniques of repoussé and chasing utilise the plasticity of metal, forming shapes by degrees. There is no loss of metal in the process, as it is stretched locally and the surface remains continuous. The process is relatively slow, but a maximum of form is achieved, with one continuous surface of sheet metal of essentially the same thickness. Direct contact of the tools used is usually visible in the result, a condition not always apparent in other techniques, where all evidence of the working method is eliminated.

Backing Out Punches (B&O Hammer)
backout punch
Backing out punch/hammer

Used to drive out pins that hold together two pieces of equipment-like a backhoe shovel to the arm.  A word about Backing Out Punches. These tools should be struck only with hammers of lesser hardness. DO NOT strike this tool with a steel sledge hammer- the hammer or sledge could explode and/or fragment causing severe injury or death. USE A BRASS OR COPPER HAMMER WHEN STRIKING A PUNCH. Source: The Hammer Source

Hot cutters used instead of a hot cut hardy

I use it for sinking metal in a cup to make hats.
Just had a "duh" moment when I was looking
at repousse hammers on eBay and it occurred
"I'll bet that was originally a repousse hammer"!

A cupping or doming hammer

Combination Hammers


This is my latest acquisition. I'd seen (I actually have one somewhere) combination hammers where a set of screwdrivers unscrews from the handle. This one is different in that:

  1. the hammerhead is a ball peen
  2. the handle unscrews to reveal a punch

Update!  Well, I got to test my new find today. I learned a couple of things:

When I got home it went into the trash. Back to my character eye punches and my hand-made center punch for making snake eyes and my single-purpose ball peen hammer for expanding pipe to make flower vases.

Non-ferrous Hammers

Brass Hammer flanked by two copper hammers

Small Copper Hammer

Brass and Copper hammers are used to shape metal without leaving hammer marks on the metal. Or, as I learned from experience recently, to pound on the dies of guillotine tools that haven't been hardened. I bought a guillotine fuller from a company that I have done business with a number of times. I took the guillotine to an event with a number of other blacksmiths where we were demoing at a county fair. After a couple of uses the tops of the dies started mushrooming. I was puzzled because I would normally expect to use my forging hammer on the dies at a demo rather than take a whole box of different hammers that I would have in my workshop. After I got home I looked on YouTube at one of their videos and they state to use a brass hammer to strike the dies. I don't recall seeing this anywhere else and surely wouldn't have bought it if I did. So lesson learned, I've since bought two other guillotines to take to demos and they both have hardened dies!

  Copper, brass and leaden mallets are typically used on machinery to apply force to parts with a reduced risk of damaging them, and to avoid sparks. As these metals are softer than steel, the mallet is deformed by any excessive force, rather than any steel object it is hitting. Also, when you strike steel on steel, you can cause a spark. Brass or Copper hammers reduce that potential because they are non-ferrous.

Non-Hand-held Hammers

Power Hammers

2,000 pound Chambersburg Self-Contained
Hammer,circa 1940, powered by a 75
horsepower General Electric motor

300 pound Bradley upright helve hammer. The published
weight 15,400 pounds. It scaled at 11,300 on a crane scale.
Appalachian Power Hammer

Power hammers are generally divided into:

Treadle Hammer

Gade-Marx Treadle hammer

Hand powered
treadle hammer

A common type of foot-powered machine is the treadle hammer, often used by blacksmiths to pound heated metal into shapes. These hammers typically provide consistent force for this process. Usually, the foot pedal is pumped by the blacksmith, and the energy is transferred to a gear that forces the straight hammer up and down. One version, the Oliver, uses an existing anvil to pound against. Some versions even swing out from a wall to make storage a snap!

C.J. Palmer's home-made
Oliver from 1898.

Alan Evens treadle hammer

I'm getting more and more interested in building a treadle hammer. My fly press is great, but it's located in the garage and my workshop is on the other side of the yard a half acre away. Why? Well, my workshop is outside and by the time I could get hot metal from the forge to my fly press it would have cooled and annealed. If you live with a Homeowner's Association you'll understand why I don't move everything closer. I think I'll start with one that basically uses two sledge hammers for the hammer and the anvil. I'll modify it so that I can use my current hardies in place of the anvil/sledgehammer.

Trip Hammers
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A trip hammer, also known as a helve hammer, is a massive powered hammer used in:

Trip hammers were usually raised by a cam and then released to fall under the force of gravity. Historically, trip hammers were often powered by a water wheel, and are known to have been used in China as long ago as 20 AD, in Rome by the 1st century AD and in medieval Europe by the 12th century. During the Industrial Revolution the trip hammer fell out of favor and was replaced with the power hammer. Often multiple hammers were powered via a set of line shafts, pulleys and belts from a centrally located power supply.

Water powered trip hammer
Trip hammer Types

Most types of trip hammers were used, all requiring artificial power to lift them. They fall into two types, helve hammers and drop hammers.

Helve Hammer
Helve hammers

A helve hammer has the head mounted at the end of a recumbent helve. The choice of which of the kinds, listed below, should be used in a particular context may depend on the strain that its operation imposed on the helve. This was normally of wood, mounted in a cast iron ring (called the hurst) where it pivoted. However in the 19th century, when the heaviest helves were sometimes a single casting, incorporating the hurst.

The tilt hammer or tail helve hammer has a pivot at the centre of the helve on which it is mounted, and is lifted by pushing the opposite end to the head downwards. In practice the head on such hammers seems to have been limited to one hundredweight (about 50 kg), but a very rapid stroke rate was possible. This made it suitable for drawing iron down to small sizes suitable for the cutlery trades. There were therefore many such forges known as 'tilts' around Sheffield. They were also used in brass battery works for making brass (or copper) pots and pans. In battery works (at least) it was possible for one power source to operate several hammers.

Belly Helve Hammer

The belly helve hammer was the kind normally found in a finery forge, used for making pig iron into forgeable bar iron. This was lifted by cams striking the helve between the pivot and the head. The head usually weighted quarter of a ton. This was probably the case because the strain on a wooden helve would have been too great if the head were heavier.

This is the massive 17th century nose helve hammer.
This one at Kirkstall would have been significantly important in it's day.
A very sturdy block of weathered oak supports the hammer these days, but at one time this
was powered 4 times a minute by the waterwheel. This hammer first produced Iron rods in 1676,
they were manufactured here by Dickin and Cotton Ltd. (from Derelict Places)

The nose helve hammer seems to have been unusual until the late 18th or early 19th century. This was lifted beyond the head. Surviving nosehelves and those in pictures appear to be of cast iron.

Drop hammers

Drop forging hammer

In the drop hammer, the head is mounted on a vertical shaft, which is lifted artificially and falls by gravity.

The stamp mill for breaking up ore has been used since at least the 16th century. It consists of a number of iron stamps each mounted in a wooden pole or iron shaft, which are lifted successively by cams.

The steam-powered drop hammer replaced the helve hammer (at least for the largest forgings). James Nasmyth invented it in 1839 and patented in 1842. However by then forging had become less important for the iron industry, following the improvements to the rolling mill that went along with the adoption of puddling from the end of the 18th century. Nevertheless, hammers continued to be needed for shingling.

Hand Operated Trip Hammers for Swaging Boiler Tubes

When I first saw a picture of this I thought it was a hand operated hammer that would sit in a hardy hole and let you hammer away on a piece of metal being manuevered by your free hand. But then that's how you'd work at an anvil anyway so what's to gain?

Patented in Canada in 1907, and the USA in 1908, by George E Morris, this hand powered trip hammer was used to swage boiler tubes. The end of the left hand cylinder is driven into the tube, and also rotated by a ratchet, to ensure 360 degree steam tight joints...

Stray Bits on Making a Hammer

From Northwest Blacksmiths Association Forum

The trick I learned from steel mill blacksmiths for punching hammer eyes is DON'T USE A SLOT PUNCH. Use a round punch. The sides bulge out, and when you hammer them back in the eye becomes oval ready to be drifted. Punching a round hole you cannot end up with the hole twisted and a round punch is less likely to be bent. -JNewman

The trick that I learned from Tom Clark was to drill 3 – 1/4″ pilot holes for the slot punch. I haven't screwed up a hammer head yet since doing that. I remember someone asking Francis Whittaker (at CanIRON II in Calgary) "How do you punch a hole at an angle, through another member?" Francis looked the way he looked when someone asks an obvious easy question "Drill a pilot hole at the angle you want, The punch will follow the pilot hole" he answered. - Neil Gustafson

    Gee Mom, look what else I've found!

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