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Blacksmithing and metalworking questions answered.

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Dressing Hammer Faces:

Hammer Making, Maintance and Repair

Most forging hammers are delivered in what I call "rough" condition - that is, they need to have the final profiling and dressing done by the user in order to be effective forging instruments. Most nearly every peen I've seen has come from the factory too sharp or with square corners. While they move the metal very rapidly, they do so by chopping it up into little notches that often leave cold shuts when forged flat again after drawing. A broader gently radiused peen is actually much better than a narrower one.

I prefer to dress my pein with a slightly flattened radius that ends up being about 7/16" wide overall, with the "flat" area about 1/4" wide. This is what proves to be most effective for me, your mileage may vary.
vicopper - Saturday, 04/25/09 21:45:49 EDT

As Rich noted, these hammers come with both the face and peen rough dressed. The peens are often flat with square corners. All these hammers must be hand dressed by the user prior to use. That is one of the big differences between a $30 hammer and a $150 hammer. Years ago tools came with a much better factory dress. Today you pay for that service.
- guru - Saturday, 04/25/09 22:36:53 EDT

Channellock Hammers: I use one as well, a 3 pound (I think). They are a standard American pattern blacksmiths hammer. Virtually any tool catalog (other than current blacksmiths) have them. Channellock no longer makes hammers but these were the standard carried by many hardware stores in the U.S. for decades. The Armstrong Tool site mentioned the other day has a very similar though possibly more slender pattern.

The peen is shorter and blunter than the German hammers sold by the Kaynes and the eye is slightly back toward the peen. The face is round having been forged to a square with flats making it a near octagon, then machine dressed having a heavy chamfer and a crowned round face. It had a high quality hickory handle.
While the face was nicely machine dressed the peen was square on the sides. The machine dress was well done as were most quality tools of the time. I've seen many later hammers with poorly speced bad machine dressing or low quality hand dressing by unskilled laborers.
- guru - Sunday, 04/26/09 16:42:53 EDT

The Grind:

There are many ways to grind tool work surfaces. A straight radius is the mid point between an oval section the long axis in one direction and another with the long axis in the other.

radius options
  1. Flat faces can have radiused corners of various degree. This is the common dress for most forging hammers.

  2. Oval sections can be nearly flat or fully ovoid. This moves material better than flat and allows for wear. Rocker faced hammers have this dress in one direction and the flat as in a. in the other.

  3. Circular sections are the mid point of oval variations. The advantage to circular sections is they have a simple defined radius. These are rarely used except on specialty hammers like ball peens and repousse' hammers.

  4. Oval or parabolic sections are the purest fullering sections but can be quite aggressive. These are usually only seen on relatively small repousse' hammers.

The easy way to make oval sections is dressing on a belt sander. However, the most controlled way is with a combination of grinder and a file.

On peens it is fairly easy to make a long straight oval section but for smooth forging the edges should drop off making the corners hemispherical. But some smiths like them sharp for texturing.

Faces are more difficult to shape to oval sections. Round, square and rocker faces can be ground to ovoid sections. Even flat face hammers should have a very slight curve to them. Doing it properly takes practice and it is easy to over do. I try to work equal flat facets then grind flats between the flats.

Shaping Progression

The last grind to blend it all in is done on a belt sander/grinder OR with a file then sandpaper.

Struck surfaces of chisels and fullers should also have a crowned oval section. This slows mushrooming and helps center the blow in the proper direction. Repousse', chasing and graving chisels have the struck ends ground small then crowned in an oval section. The work faces of the repousse' and chasing tools are also carefully blended and radiused no matter how sharp the edges look.

Smooth well dressed tools work better. Study your tools that work the best and those that do not. It takes a trained eye to know what works and what does not. Study. practice, test.

More to come. . .

References and Links

2009 Jock Dempsey,

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