Old to New V: An Embarrassment of Riches


You’re all too cynical to believe something like “… I did this so I could support small-time artists and craftspeople.”

The fact is, that sometimes you just see something beautiful and fall in love with it. And, if you can afford it – that’s what money’s for. There’s a guy on facebook who’s part of the knife-making group, who makes hammers and occasionally auctions them off on ebay. Coal Township Forge [ctf]; I asked him if he could do a custom set for me and, sure! They’re a christmas present, if you will.

I have a good idea how much work it takes to make one of these.

#166 is special – it’s made of vintage wrought iron (puddle iron) from the 1880s. The old stuff has this wonderful grain-structure in the metal that is unique, distinctive, and beautiful. #166′ body is wrought iron and the faces are modern tool steel. The flat-faced hammer is modern steel from a semi-trailer axle.

I am going to use the hell out of those. And when I’m done with them, they’ll be perfectly good for whoever takes them up next. One of the things I love about good tools is that many hands can enjoy using them for years.

Comments

  1. says

    Numbers stamped just means it was soft once during its construction. Also there’s no reason to have a hard hammer centre. And of course, oooooh, luvverly hammers there Marcus.

  2. says

    John Morales@#1:
    Most blacksmiths that do a makers’ mark use a steel stamp and stamp the metal while it’s semi-molten.
    Otherwise, they chisel it in (which is a lot of work!) like the Japanese used to, or etch it electrically, which only makes a thin impression.

    The wrought iron is very tough stuff. It doesn’t make a good knife-blade because it doesn’t harden particularly well but it’s got this weird internal structure with threads of slag and it’s darned near indestructible except by heat. That’s why he did the facings in tool steel.

    Basically, what you gotta do to make a hammer like that is:
    1) forge and shape the body in wrought iron
    2) forge and shape the facings in tool steel
    3) tack-weld the facings onto the body to keep them from shifting around
    4) bring the whole thing up to welding temperature, flux the interfaces, and gently whack it a few times to weld the pieces
    4.5) stamp in the maker’s mark
    5) anneal it by letting it cool slowly to get the best grain structure in the facings
    6) etch the body with muriatic or dilute nitric acid to bring out the wrought iron grain
    7) grind the facings flush and polish them
    8) oh, yeah, handle

    It’s a lot of work!

  3. kestrel says

    Oh wow, those are just beautiful. Doesn’t that make you just want to start pounding on stuff? It would me…

    I have some really beautiful leather carving tools that were handmade for me by one of the top tool makers (for leather carving) in the world. I had to wait over a year for them, but boy was it ever worth it. My tools of course are miniatures. I have a background tool that is a one of a kind; it has a 1 stamped on it. It’s gorgeous but you have to use a magnifier to appreciate it. They are all signed and stamped, but they are hardened tool steel.

    So are you going to be worried about making marks on them, or getting them dirty? :-)

  4. says

    kestrel@#6:
    So are you going to be worried about making marks on them, or getting them dirty? :-)

    Nah, they’re tools. I’m going to take reasonable care of them, but they ought to be able to handle anything my little human hands throw at them.

    It does make me want to start pounding stuff!

    I have been experiencing some terrible delays assembling my last bench, thanks to the sizing system simplifiedbuilding uses (I have bought the wrong size Kee clamps twice each time incurring a week+ schedule hit) and I need to get the propane service to come out and figure out where we can put the tank. Then I have to drill a wee hole through the wall of the building… After that, I can start melting stuff and whacking stuff.)

  5. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#10:
    I’d love one of those. They’re pretty!

    Viking style swords aren’t very well-balanced feeling to me, but that’s because I grew up playing with katanas. I do have a damascus viking sword somewhere in my sword-pile but it’s not very good steel (there are a lot of smiths in Pakistan that make blades out of whatever is lying around – sometimes it’s good sometimes not so good)

    Neils Provos did some interesting work in information security back around 2000 so I was surprised to see he had gone on to Google and, I suppose, cashed out and retired to blade-smithing. He does some impressive videos, too, and they’re on youtube. His work is mostly in a viking/germanic late iron-age style.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyUkYJeZtW4
    He did a series of making a pattern-welded viking sword with decoration in the blade-welds.

    There are some amazing neo-viking axes out there, too. I’m going to try to be not making “unfortunate instruments” – mostly cooking knives and utility knives, not things to cut apart humans. OK, well, maybe a pair of damascus wrought iron ‘brass’ knuckles some day in case I ever need to punch a nazi.

    (I’ve seen that episode; it’s drool-worthy.)

  6. dakotagreasemonkey says

    Marcus,
    That’s a pair of gorgeous sledges. Wonderful! I only have about 25 or so hammers I use on a regular basis. I had a very good friend, John, in SLC in the 80’s, who did body work old school, who had over 300 body hammers. An entire room, just pegboarded, and hanging in a mind blowing display. He refused to use Bondo, and was actually quicker moving the metal, than messing around with the filler.
    He taught me to move sheet metal back straight again, mostly with hammers. Heating sheet metal hardens it, and makes it brittle. Moving it softly with small impacts is the way to do it.
    I just straightened a forklift door to within 1/16″ of factory, with hammers and wooden drifts, without damaging the paint. I thought about him the whole time. It only took me about 6 hours, versus days stripping and re-painting the door.

  7. says

    dakotagreasemonkey@#16:
    I had a very good friend, John, in SLC in the 80’s, who did body work old school, who had over 300 body hammers. An entire room, just pegboarded, and hanging in a mind blowing display.

    That is, uh, a lot of hammers.

    But who am I to judge!?

    I just straightened a forklift door to within 1/16″ of factory, with hammers and wooden drifts, without damaging the paint. I thought about him the whole time. It only took me about 6 hours, versus days stripping and re-painting the door.

    It took you 6 hours plus years of practice. There’s the trade-off: someone who’s not going to do it all the time, or even often, won’t find it worthwhile to learn the skill; they’ll just do it the more time-consuming lower skill route.

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