Engraving Hammer Styles

cowplop

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Dec 21, 2019
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I recently took a 5 day engraving class focused on engraving of reproduction muzzleloading rifles. The class tool list recommended a 6 oz. hammer (#112230) from Rio Grande that is a "typical" style with a rounded face and bulbous handle. I guess it is my inexperience, but I find this hammer awkward to use ... it seems that keeping the hammer head properly lined up with the graver handle is as difficult as the actual engraving process. And the bulbous handle just doesn't fit my hand well ... it just doesn't feel comfortable.

So..... I was wondering if anyone has used hammers of a "non-typical" design? I'm thinking of maybe a hammer in the style of a wood carving maul; ie. more of the "wooden potato masher" shape? Or, maybe 6 to 8 oz. of round bar stock mounted axially on a thin hammer handle .... sort of a wheel & axle configuration?

Any thoughts, ideas, experience, or suggestions? Or, should I just suck it up and get used to the traditional hammer style!
 

Sam

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I recently took a 5 day engraving class focused on engraving of reproduction muzzleloading rifles. The class tool list recommended a 6 oz. hammer (#112230) from Rio Grande that is a "typical" style with a rounded face and bulbous handle. I guess it is my inexperience, but I find this hammer awkward to use ... it seems that keeping the hammer head properly lined up with the graver handle is as difficult as the actual engraving process. And the bulbous handle just doesn't fit my hand well ... it just doesn't feel comfortable.

So..... I was wondering if anyone has used hammers of a "non-typical" design? I'm thinking of maybe a hammer in the style of a wood carving maul; ie. more of the "wooden potato masher" shape? Or, maybe 6 to 8 oz. of round bar stock mounted axially on a thin hammer handle .... sort of a wheel & axle configuration?

Any thoughts, ideas, experience, or suggestions? Or, should I just suck it up and get used to the traditional hammer style!


McKenzie used a straight, non-bulbous handle on his chasing hammer. I have used both and prefer the bulbous version. On mine I installed a small brass pin on the handle for orientation so I don't have to look at which way my hammer head is pointing. I can feel it with my thumb.

As for the head, I'd stick with a traditional chasing hammer head style, although I've seen engravers use many different shapes.

I'm not trying to sell you anything, but my video on hammer & chisel engraving does have a short chapter on various type of chasing hammers.
 

gcleaker

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I am thinking that you can use whatever is most effective and feels wright in your hand, as the hammer is an extension of your hand. I like a flattened rod, so I am saying that you need to start trying things find what you like and use it.
 

cowplop

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Sam,
Thanks for the brass pin suggestion, I'll definitely give that a try.

It seems to me, the main problem with the traditional hammer design is that the striking face is significantly heavier than ball peen end, so when trying to keep a "light touch" on the hammer grip, the heavier face keeps trying to rotate the hammer around the axis of the hammer handle and away from the graver. But, that's all probably because of my inexperience

Do you have a link to your engraving video that you referenced?
 

cowplop

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I am thinking that you can use whatever is most effective and feels wright in your hand, as the hammer is an extension of your hand. I like a flattened rod, so I am saying that you need to start trying things find what you like and use it.

Thanks, gc.

Going to try the brass pin suggestion offered by sam.

But, I think I'll also get a 6-8 oz. length of round steel bar (maybe 3/4" dia.??), drill a hole through it axially, and install a thin wooden handle. Keep a bulb at the end of the handle, but make it cylindrical rather than the elliptical shape on typical hammer handles.
 

SamW

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I know one engraver who uses a "hammer" that is a mallet with a bulb like on a normal chasing hammer on each end. I have one he sent to me and it works fine. My home made chasing hammer is basically standard but I put a flat in the handle where my thumb rests when properly oriented so I don't have to continually look to see if it is right. I can feel if it is right.
 

Jonathan.Silas

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In the book engraving historic firearms, the author mentions having a student who was having issues with the hammer. He ended up using either a bit of steel round stock, or flat plate, one or the other as a makeshift hammer I misremember. Having never done HNC I can offer no other advice.
 

JJ Roberts

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I could never understand why an engraver would sit or stand at a stationary vise while cutting scrolls and keep turning & turning the vise to complete the scroll that's when I came up with a vise mounted to a pedestal so I could walk around and cut scrolls in one pass with out stopping,make sense? J.J.
 
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cowplop

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I could never understand why an engraver would sit or stand at a stationary vise while cutting scrolls and keep turning & turning the vise to complete the scroll that's when I came up with a vise mounted to a pedestal so I could walk around and cut scrolls in one pass with out stopping,make sense? J.J.

Even being at only the very beginning of learning to do simple engraving, I have already noticed it is rather cumbersome to be constantly "fiddling" with the vise or adjusting way the workpiece is mounted.

In Sam A.'s video, he apparently has a vise that will rotate a full 360 degrees ... I assume it is some "professional" engraving vise. However, even being able to completely walk around a vise would be quite helpful.

Can you post a pic of your pedestal-mounted vise and info on how you have supported it so it doesn't move?
 

John B.

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My grandfather was a master wood carver and forbade me to strike a wooden handled chisel or tool with a metal headed hammer.
Some of my liners are in wood handles and I drive them using a very small rawhide mallet.
But I mostly use square metal graver handles to provide hand felt orientation, and generally drive them using a steel hammer.
 
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John B.

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Sir John, when Viramontez used metal handled gravers and a metal hammer he always attached a thin layer of leather on the end of the graver handle to soften the shock of metal to metal blow...claiming it helped graver tips to last longer.
Thanks, that is a good tip King Sam.
There are times I use my small rawhide mallet on my metal graver handles and notice the tips last longer. Especially on gummy metals.
 

Roger Bleile

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Cowpolp,

You have not said whether you are cutting in the Asian method or the European or side hand method. Did you take your class from John Shippers? He uses the Asian Style (cutting toward yourself with a short chisel and short handled hammer). Most of the comments above are for the European method where you use a long handled hammer and chisel. You have to use the right combination of hammer and chisel for the method you are using.

Below are examples of both methods.
 

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JJ Roberts

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I like the feel of wood when comes to a chasing hammers that hammer looks it would be cold in my hand and heavy to work with. J.J.
 

DKanger

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Why don't you just make your own handle to fit your hand? It's the 1st thing I did when I started out. I took a block of maple, bored a hole in it and glued in a hickory dowel for springyness and resiliency. Then I shaped the handle so whenever I picked it up, the head was properly oriented. It's really no big deal other than it'll take about an hour of your time.
DSC00078.JPG
 

gcleaker

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I could never understand why an engraver would sit or stand at a stationary vise while cutting scrolls and keep turning & turning the vise to complete the scroll that's when I came up with a vise mounted to a pedestal so I could walk around and cut scrolls in one pass with out stopping,make sense? J.J.
that's easy for you to do, I wear 13 H shoes. I'm lucky to be able to walk a crossed a baron desert without tripping over something let alone walking around a pedestal. :D
 

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