Tuesday, March 29

Japanese Blacksmith Hammers - A Guide

Japanese Blacksmith Hammer - Crossed Heart Forge

Blacksmithing hammers come in all shapes and sizes depending on their use and their country of origin. You may be familiar with the 2 - 3 lb. Nordic style cross peen used by many blacksmiths. Or maybe you've come across a Hofi-style hammer with its centered weight distribution and focus on ergonomics.

Each blacksmith hammer has its strengths and can be customized for a specific type of forging. In this article, we're going to talk specifically about Japanese and Japanese-inspired blacksmithing hammers as they relate to traditional swordsmithing.

First, let's go over the most obvious difference between the Japanese hammer and its more familiar cousins.

Hammer Types Around the World

Japanese Blacksmith - Edo Period

The most striking difference between a Nordic hammer and the Japanese style is the shape of the head. The Japanese hammer has the majority of its weight thrust forward to a smaller surface area than the various European styles. 

This shape has been used for centuries to concentrate the downward force of each hammer blow. This aids the blacksmith as they fold the three types of steel together to create each sword. These three types of steel are hocho-tetsu (very low carbon), tamahagane (high carbon steel), and nabe-gane (cast iron). 

The smaller face of the hammer makes it easier to control hammer blows on the narrow pieces of steel used to make swords and knives. The hammer pictured at the top of the post was forged by a Canadian bladesmith specializing in traditional Japanese techniques. 

He forged it from a piece of scrap axle. Its final dimensions are 5 7/8" long head with a 1 15/16" face. Sealed in pure tung oil.

What Is the Japanese-style Hammer Suited for?

With its smaller face and forward positioning, it's specifically suited for hammering narrow pieces of metal. Traditional blades made with this style of hammer include:

  • Katana - the familiar slightly curved sword
  • Wakizashi - similar to the katana. These two swords worn together signified that the wearer was a samurai.
  • Tanto - literally: "short blade"
  • Yari - a straight-headed spear
  • Naginata - a pole weapon with a curved blade at one end
  • Tachi - predecessor to the katana
  • Nodachi - Field sword
  • Uchigatana - another descendant of the tachi
If you're interested in the process of forging a Japanese sword, the video below is excellent:

Where to Buy Japanese Blacksmith Hammers and How Much They Cost

Aside from traveling to Japan to find a blacksmith who hand forges hammers, you can also find them in a few places online. They range from beautiful, hand-crafted pieces to mass-produced. Here are a few we found and their prices.

Option 1: GSTongs.com

Each of these Japanese-style hammers is forged by hand by an American smith living in Taiwan. The round hammers (pictured above) are made from hot rolled 1045 steel and weigh 2.25 pounds. He also makes square heads with hot rolled 1050 weighing 2.5 pounds.

The handle is jiu qiong, a local hardwood.


  • 2.25 lb. Round Face - $94 + $13 (shipping anywhere in the world from Taiwain)
  • 2.5 lb. Square Face - $104 + $13 (shipping)
  • 3 lb. Double Square Face - $114 + $13 (shipping)

Each one is handmade. Ordering instructions and the rest of Glen's beautiful tools are available here.

Option 2: Testufuku

Tetsufuku offers a wide variety of traditional blades, kitchenware, blacksmithing, and gardening tools. Their line of blacksmithing hammers includes a few different sizes and weights:

  • 970g (2.14 pounds), 365mm (14.37" long) - $202.90
  • 1142 (2.52 pounds), 365mm (14.37" long) - $221.07
  • 1381 (3.05 pounds), 378mm (14.88" long) - $238.76

Shipping from Japan via Japan Post will cost around $30 - $50. Shipping with UPS will run you $90 - $100+. Tetsufuku.com

Option 3: Forging a Japanese-style Hammer Yourself

What blacksmiths around the world like Glen at GS Tongs and Dave at Crossed Heart Forge have shown is that creating your own tools can have amazing results. 

They each used different types of steel, some fresh and some re-used (axle scrap). I recommend reading up on both of their processes and checking out this selection of videos on hammer making:

If you're ready to try your hand at it, but want the guidance of an experienced smith, you can find one in your area

Cheers and Happy Forging!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting video on how a Japanese sword is made.
    Have just started getting in to blacksmithing due to the site I just launched.
    A friend who is a blacksmith got me in to this as I never realized how much is involved from the tools to the technique