Living on a remote homestead, embracing a minimalist lifestyle, and becoming more self-sufficient requires a major change in attitude, particularly how you approach the material side of life. We are bombarded daily with messages from the outside world telling us that we should want this or want that. We all know people who get it into their minds that they must have something expensive even when the object they crave won’t give them anything more than something less expensive but equally functional.
Nonetheless, people steeped in the mindset of hyper-consumption can’t seem to disentangle themselves from a worldview steeped in the acquisition of stuff, as George Carlin used to phrase it.
When it comes to forging tools I have two choices. I can make them or buy them. If I decide to buy them then I can pay a little or I can pay a lot. Some tools, however, are IMO exorbitantly priced. I would not have imagined paying more than twenty bucks for a hammer, but I’ve seen hammers going for $100, $150, $200. To each his (her) own but I choose not to go that route. I long ago gave up the addiction of wanting things and paying for things that I believed unnecessary. It’s true that hammer requirements (like the tong and jig necessities) become more specialized as one gains experience but one does not need to spend oodles of dinero to acquire a good hammer. So here’re my two cents for those of you who are starting to walk away from the American lifestyle of avarice, materialism and hyper-consumption: If you want to take up homestead blacksmithing as a hobby then modify the inexpensive hammers you find at garage and yard sales, flea markets and roadside vendors. In learning to modify hammers you’ll expand your skill levels and you’ll find comfort in knowing that you are not as addicted and driven to spending as the advertisers, marketers and corporatists want you to be. Of course, you can even make your own hammer. A simple forge, a decent anvil thingy, some pick-up tongs, a couple of hot punches and a drift or two and you’ll be set to go. I choose, however, not to go that route. I’d rather modify a hammer I picked up at a yard sale for 25 cents or thereabouts and then get on with whatever I intend to make.
Above a modified ballpeen hammer used to make farrier’s type bolt tongs.
A 3-pound drilling hammer converted into a top tool. It also works well for other forging projects.
A 2-pound engineer’s hammer turned into a specialized cross peen hammer. It now weighs about 1.5 pounds.
This 2-pound engineer’s hammer is the same used for the ball peen hammer above and the rounding hammer below.
My most used hammer above is a 2-pound rounding hammer made from an inexpensive engineer’s hammer.
The three hammers pictured were all made from engineer’s hammers. Left to Right: 1.5 pound cross peen hammer; 2-pound rounding hammer; 3-pound rounding hammer.
A larger cross peen hammer properly dressed to suit my needs.
An assortment of top tools and rounding hammers made from engineer’s hammers and drilling hammers.
Ballpeen hammers scrounged up at flea markets and yard sales.
The three hammers above were found in my dad’s garage about a year after he passed away. I recall having seen these hammers when I was a boy.
This is the most widely used anvil in the world. A 10-12 pound sledgehammer head is used from Nepal to Africa to Asia to Latin America to places here and there all over North America. You can do just about anything with a sledgehammer head that you do with a big and ponderous blacksmithing anvil. Metalsmiths, bladesmiths and blacksmiths around the globe prove me right.