All About Metal Shaping Hammers

Hammer Time!

No gold parachute pants and patent-leather shoes—just one of the most versatile tools known to man. Obviously a hammer is one of, if not the most, important tool in any metal shaper’s toolbox. There as many different hammers as there are methods of using them and results they can give. This month we are going to touch on the basics that any metal shaper should have within reach. Probably the most recognizable metal-shaping hammers are going to be those commonly referred to as body hammers. The most common of those typically fit three different head styles intended to give you the most bang for your buck to allow you to do just about any hand hammering. You’ll see them being referred to as “bumping,” “finishing,” and “pick” hammers.

metal shaping hammers

There are many shapes and sizes of body hammers available, many of which have heads designed with specific uses intended for them.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

You’ll find some hammers with similar-shaped heads but with different radii on the hammer faces. Hammer faces with a more pronounced or tighter radius are used for stretching, while the flat-face hammers are used for planishing. You’ll also find more variables like head weight and handle length. Right versus wrong or pros versus cons just come down to personal preference, in my opinion.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

Like anything, you can spend a little or you can spend a lot on shaping hammers. When you invest in a hammer it should be able to last you a lifetime as long as you care for it and use it for the purpose it was intended for. That means a body hammer should never strike anything other than a piece of sheet metal. Maintaining a clean, unblemished hammer face is the most import thing you can do for your body hammers. Most metal shapers like myself will actually try to keep a polished finish to their body hammers and become very protective of them. You’ll threaten death or worse to anyone who uses your body hammers to drive a nail or set a punch. Seen here are the faces of my hammers. With some frequency they will see time on a buffer wheel as if I was sending them off for chrome.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

The reason for keeping the hammer faces clean and smooth is really quite simple. These hammers are used mostly for detail and finish work. Any blemish or flaw in the hammer face will be transferred to your work surface, which will result in more finish work. These two hammers are the two I use the most because they offer me a very versatile amount of shaping results with only two hammers.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

When it comes to roughing in a shape quickly and starting the stretching and/or shrinking process, a bossing mallet does a great job.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

Mallets are readily available for metal shaping mostly made from wood or nylon plastic.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

I like to work with wood-bossing mallets because they do the job well and I can make them in almost any size or shape to fit my needs.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

A good, heavy steel hammer with a bossing face is certainly something to keep in your war chest too. Obviously it can be used to move material quickly or to move heavy gauge steel when a lighter-weight mallet might not get the job done.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

metal shaping hammers

If you choose to do a lot of metal shaping, you certainly find yourself using a lot of different hammers to see how they might work in different applications. Rubber mallets, dead blow, chasing, cross peen, ball peen, slappers, spoons, and many more will end up in your hands. All hammers make dents, so that’s what you need to do. Try all different types of hammers on different gauges of steel and aluminum to see what results. The trick is learning how to make the right dents at the right time to achieve what you’re looking for.

Words and Photos: Big Joe

I originally intended for this month’s column to be titled “Hammers and Dollies,” but while preparing this installment I decided that both topics required their own column. So next month we’ll be looking at dollies, anvils, stumps, and beater bags. Then I’ll delve into how you can combine different “hammers” and “anvils” to achieve different desired results. If you have any questions or suggestions for the column you can reach me at [email protected]

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