Hammers are an essential
part of silversmithing and goldsmithing. While one can buy hammers ready
made one can also do a lot with home-made versions and adaptations.
Ordinary hammer heads may be reshaped providing they have not been cast.
Reshaping is a good way of getting a few new shapes inexpensively, as
used ones are fine. Upset (hit them like rivetting to thicken the striking
surface) them while red hot. Note that if they are cast iron when hit
while red hot they will explode all over the room. Goggles and leg protection
while doing this are a must as always when hammering hot materials. A
'sandy' looking surface and parting lines indicate a cast head. If ground
all over it indicates but does not prove a drop forged one.
Tack hammers are often very cheap at flea markets but have only one
useable face, the flat one. If one takes a ball bearing as for the home
made dapping tools, grinds a flat spot onto it to relieve any potential
pent up stress in it and brazes it onto the split end of the tack hammer
one has a reasonable forming hammer easily and with little cost. As with
dapping tools use a lot of white paste flux. When I've done this I have
packed the hammer handle near the head and the eye of the head with soaking
wet rags and used a hot torch. This allows one to braze the ball on without
having to take the head off the handle and re-seat it later. To finish
sand and polish with Fabulustre®.
Small hammers may be made from drill rod or small pieces of high-carbon
steel. The hole should be oval and taper slightly towards the front to
allow proper wedging. The hole may be made by drilling twice close together
and filing out the intervening metal. Remember to clamp the head securely
Old hammers, particularly ball peen hammers from the flea market can
have their faces reshaped by removal with grinding wheels to make raising
and forging peens or be carved into with separating discs or chisels and
so become large stamps on a stick to cover large surface areas quickly
Car body-bumping hammers are useful when finished off a bit. They are
however often soft and dent easily. It is possible with some work to case
harden the ends. There are also quality tool suppliers for serious car
body builders and repair people which are good potential planishing and
forming hammers for about 25.00 or so. See Eastwood for such tools. Eastwood
Company, 580 Lancaster Avenue, Box 3014, Malvern, PA, 19355, 1-800-345-1178:
Delrin® hammers, metal and body working tools.
For forging and fold-forming work a old-fashioned welders chip hammer
which has two driving peens at right angles to each other is very useful.
Sometimes one can find flea market versions or inexpensive Chinese versions
which work well. One rounds off the ends of each peen to make them useful.
A turned spindle from a chair makes a good handle for a hammer in a pinch
though an oval cross section on a hammer handle is better than a round
One can buy round leather dog chews in different diameters at the pet
store, cut them in half, drill through them and mount an appropriate sized
hammer handle in them to make very inexpensive good quality leather mallets,
particularly in the small sizes. Look for one that is solid all the way
through as some will have cavities in them.
A number of nice wooden hammers may be fashioned from old croquet mallets.
Sometimes an old wooden meat tenderizing wooden hammer is adaptable.
Paper mallets have become hard to find and a rare item even in flea
markets. They are my favorite mallet because they do not mark the metal
as even a leather mallet will yet they have enough solidity to move the
If you know someone who has access to a log rolling tool for making
combustible logs from old newspapers one may be able to make paper mallets
by rolling the newspapers very tightly, possibly slightly dampened with
some watery white glue and letting them dry out, cutting them to length,
drilling a hole for the hammer handle and then making the mallets from
the cut sections.
Horn hammers are rather pleasant to use and very good ones may be made
from water buffalo horn. Moose antlers and other antlers work but tend
to disintegrate. Nylon and Delrin® are excellent substitutes but may be
more expensive to make. I have also seen a Delrin® mallet suddenly chip
and shatter when used and a piece of it fly past someone's head so safety
glasses are in order when using such materials. It is a good idea anyway
to wear eye protection at all times in the studio. Knife making magazines
often carry advertisements for companies that specialize in materials
Hammer handles are often worth reshaping or making to fit your hand.
The comfort and control gained is worth the time spent doing this. This
is particularly so with chasing hammers where the head is tipped to about
8o so one does not have to lift one's arm high to use the hammer and the
hammer is actually held mostly with two fingers so it flops easily like
a see saw and is balanced. This is so one does not have to move ones wrist
much when using the chasing hammer.
As with stakes a set of silversmithing hammers cast in 'semi-steel' can
be obtained from Casting Specialties Inc. One has to finish them oneself
and also put the handles on which come with them. I usually suggest that
one connect with a local high school shop and offer to teach a workshop
or lecture in exchange for the students finishing off your stakes for
you. It is a day and a half of grinding and finishing with an angle grinder
to do the whole set.
Casting Specialties, W 51 N 545 Struck Lane, Cedarburg, WIS 53012, (414-377-4361):
Cast semi steel hammer set; unfinished (94.00), also set of T stakes,
8 for $130 and vertical set at $102.
Pitch can also be used to hammer and shape into. I've seen Renaissance
Wax® (very similar to bees wax) used as a pitch substitute to very good
effect with much less clean up problem at the end. The same goes for hot
glue. If you use lead to hammer into use a rubber sheild like a latex
glove over the lead to avoid contamination. Wood and wooden stumps are
excellent for all kinds of metal forming with hammers.