Saturday, April 2

Hammers and Tongs

Today I'll be writing about the variety of hammers and tongs out there, my preferences and where to find them.

First off, you can hit and shape metal with any old hammer you find at a hardware store or one of those big box stores. That doesn't mean it's necessarily suited to the job. Carpenters' hammers are best used for pounding nails (if, in fact, there are carpenters out there who aren't using pneumatic nail guns) and construction. Rock hammers are best used for rock work. You get the idea.

Blacksmiths use a variety of hammers in their work. These hammers can range from 10 oz. ball peens for chamfering to heavy sledges for larger work. The standard, every day hammer blacksmiths use typically weighs between 1000-1500 grams (between 2.2 lbs. - 3 lbs. 5 oz.). I've found that the most comfortable weight for me is 2.5 lbs.

My hammer is pictured here with a couple of my favorite kind of tongs. It's a Vaughan S40 2.5 lb. SuperSteel Blacksmith Hammer. It's 15 1/2" including the head. The length and the weight allow for great force to be applied to the metal I'm working with simple, controlled effort on my part. You can find this hammer on-line for less than $30 before shipping.

I used this hammer design extensively while I was learning to blacksmith. The other type of hammer I used, which has become very popular lately, is the Hofi hammer. If you follow this link, you can see the man himself explain his hammer design. It's based on the principles of ergonomics to save time while forging and to save your body over time.

As Uri Hofi briefly talks about, various countries have developed their own hammer styles over time. My preference, the Vaughan hammer in the photo, is based on the traditional Nordic design. It suits me and I've become comfortable with it over time. That's the key, though. You should try out a few different designs and weights to find what is comfortable for you. Once you find your hammer, consider your body movements as you use it. Just as there is "tennis elbow" there sure as heck is "blacksmith's elbow, arm, hands, shoulder...".

Pieh Tool offers some of the best Nordic and German-style hammers. This Peddinghaus Cross Pein is a good one.

Japanese-style blacksmith hammers

Japanese blacksmith hammers like the ones above have a unique, forward-weight head specifically designed for swordmaking. Learn more about here.

For a variety of hammer styles and weights among other things, this is a wonderful, comprehensive website:  Blacksmiths Depot.

Note: You can certainly make your own hammer out of tool steel, but you're going to need a hammer (power or otherwise) to shape it.


Learning the trade at the Folk School in North Carolina, I quickly found a favorite in the tongs category: Tom Tongs made my Capricorn International (Pakistan). Usually found in flea markets or blacksmithing conventions, you can also find them on eBay. They feel good in your hands and a single set of 1/2 inch tongs can be used for square and round stock because of the design of the V-notch.

I was fortunate to have an instructor who was selling some Tom Tongs for a very reasonable price. If you come across them for less than $30, buy them. The Blacksmiths Depot has a wide variety of ready-to-use tongs to choose from as well.

With a hammer and a single set of tongs you can make your own special-purpose tongs. This was my goal during my second course at the Folk School. I set out to make three sets of tongs by the end of the week. Pictured below are a set of flat stock tongs made out of rebar, flat tongs made out of 3/8" square stock and scrolling tongs made out of 3/8" square stock:

I make a lot of heart hooks, so the scrolling tongs seemed like a good choice. They have rounded tips that won't mark the metal as I shape each side of the heart.

For a tong-making step-by-step, Ted Tucker's Practical Projects for the Blacksmith is a great resource. Copies can get expensive ($33 to $300+), but consider it an investment. There are very few truly awesome and widely available blacksmithing books out there.

YouTube also has pages of tong tutorials available.

So, with a hammer, a set of tongs, fire and an anvil, you can make everything else. If you're ambitious, you really only need a hammer, fire and a hard piece of steel.

Next time: Makeshift Anvils and Their Well-Designed (often expensive) Parents


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  1. FWIW, I recently found this site:

    For $10 you can get a pair of tongs that's partially built & ready for your customizing. (I promise I'm not affiliated w/ them, but it's good start, at least until you can get to the point of completely building your own.

  2. That's a great deal. Since they come separate, you can get an idea of how you could make them. Nice!

  3. Have been making "primative" knives for 30 years off and on. usually using power hacksaw blades. Had to anneal them to drill and tap for handle screws. Have got to build forge for leaf spring based blades.

  4. better yet use the blanks as templets to make new blanks and then finish the blanks you make until you become proficient in forging tongs. buy one set an learn from them.