Choosing the right hammer for knifemaking is one of the first important things you have to do. There are a lot of controversies about this topic so I have decided to explain the differences between various types and sizes of hammers. You may already notice that some people have very strong opinions on the ideal hammer for knifemaking.
So, what is the best hammer for knifemaking?
A cross-peen hammer is generally considered one of the most popular hammers for knifemaking. It is an extremely versatile hammer and it also allows aggressive drawing out. For most people, a 2-3 pound hammer is typically recommended. Note that, the heavier the hammer is, the harder is to control it.
That would be a direct and short answer. But what about other important aspects like hammer shape, type, size and handle? Don’t worry, we got this all covered in the rest of the article.
Ideal Hammer Size for Knifemaking
One of the first factors you have to consider when choosing a hammer is the size, actually, the weight, better said. To make things more clearly, I will divide hammers into three major categories:
- Small Size Hammers – 1 to 2 lbs
- Medium Size Hammers – 2 to 4 lbs
- Large Size Hammers – +4 lbs
So, first, we have small hammers ranging from 1-2 pounds. These light hammers offer much higher control and precision. Due to their lightweight, they are ideal for beginners, as it allows them to work much longer and more efficiently. Another great news about using small hammers is that you minimize the chance of injury. Also, if you work on a very small blade, small hammers may be the only choice.
Next, we have a medium size hammers which usually range from 2 to 4 pounds. They are heavier than the previous group of hammers and therefore they tend to be harder to use.
In terms of the size, 2-4 pound hammers are the best choice for knifemaking in most cases. They move the steel very well and allow good control. Since they are not too heavy, knifemakers can work with them for a much longer period of time.
For beginners, having good control and being able to work for a longer period is crucial. As a beginner knifemaker, you want to practice control and endurance. So, choosing the medium size hammers make perfect sense since they achieve both things.
Finally, you have large hammers which are usually heavier than 4 pounds. Heavy hammers are an ideal choice when you need to move a large piece of steel or when you want to speed up the forging process. If you want to make Damascus steel but you don’t have a power hammer or press, a heavy hand hammer is your only choice.
Unfortunately, they are much harder to work with, especially for a long time. If you ever tried to work with a heavy hammer you know exactly what I am talking about. Swinging large hammers tend to increase the chances of elbow and wrist injury. This is why proper hammering technique is extremely important. If you don’t learn how to strike the metal properly, you can injure yourself with any size of the hammer.
Another vital factor is the size of the anvil. You don’t want to use a 10-pound hammer on the 10-pound anvil, that would be insane. Generally, you should not use a hammer heavier than 1/50 of the weight of the anvil. Just don’t pick the heaviest hammer you can swing. That would be a recipe for ruined shoulder and elbow.
All in all, you will use various sizes for knifemaking purposes. However, most of the time 2-4 lb hammers are used the most. To be even more precise, a 2-pound hammer is considered to be some standard for general knifemaking work. It all depends on the type and size of the project you are working on.
Ideal Hammer Type for Knifemaking
Once you decided the size of the hammer, the next factor you have to consider is the type of hammer. Keep in mind that there are many different types of hammers. Some of the most popular include a cross-peen hammer, straight-peen hammer, ball-peen hammer, and round peen hammer.
However, a cross-peen hammer is generally one of the best options for knifemaking. The Cross-peen hammer is extremely versatile and can be used for many different aspects of knifemaking work. The peen of this hammer is perpendicular relative to the handle. It is used in line with the blade to draw it out.
For beginner knifemakers, a cross-peen hammer is also recommended due to its wide possibility of use. Due to its shape, it allows you to work in a small, restricted workshop without any problem. Since the drawing technique is so common in forging a knife, cross-peen is an ideal option as it can easily do this.
Another very common hammer in knifemaking is the ball-peen hammer. One of its greatest benefits is the fact that you can spread the steel evenly in comparison to a cross-peen. They usually range from 8 ounces to 3 lb.
Don’t forget about the face of the hammer. For general blacksmithing, a round face with a good crown may be better as it moves the steel much quicker than a flat face. However, a round face leaves that faintly wavy effect. Obviously, this is not something you want in a blade. You want a flat face in the center with a slight radius on the edges. This will teach you how to control the hammer since you will immediately notice if you leave deep marks.
Ideal Hammer Handle for Knifemaking
When it comes to handling, the choice primarily depends on personal preferences. However, we can talk about some general recommendations. Some people prefer wooden handles while other metal ones. If you are one of the ones who use a metal handle, I strongly suggest adding a rubber layer to improve your grip.
However, the ideal hammer handle for knifemaking is one made out of wood which is long anywhere from 12-16 inches. Usually, the larger the blade, the longer the handle should be. Note that the upper part of the handle should be somewhat thinner to improve shock absorption.
One method of finding the ideal length of the handle is to simply grab the head of the hammer and point it to your biceps muscle. The handles end should be at the crook of the elbow. As you can see, very simple.
From my experience, I find a wooden handle to be much more convenient because you can adjust it much more to your preferences. You can easily shorten it or make it thinner. The thickness of the handle is extremely important. The thicker the handle is, it is more likely that you will over grip it. Overgriping the handle causes you to lose a lot of energy and you also increase the chances of injury.
There is one simple way of determining the ideal thickness of the handle. You grip the handle and observe your fingers. If your fingers easily touch your palm, it is too thin. On the other side, if they dont reach the palm, it is too thick. Again, very simple. You want to find your sweet spot.