The hammer is the most fundamental tool in the art of the blacksmith. It’s possible to use impromptu tools made out of scrap metal in place of your anvil, tong, and forge, but you can’t fake a hammer. SOMETHING has to make contact with your red hot stock. It needs to be able to handle the heat, it needs to be able to handle the force of striking, and it needs to be flat so that you can craft silky smooth surfaces on your otherwise roughly hewn bar stock.
Poetics aside, you need a hammer that will allow you to efficiently create beautiful artwork. Which begs the question, which hammer allows me to do this? Which blacksmithing hammer is best?
Are Rounding Hammers The Best Blacksmithing Hammer?
I wish this were a simple yes or no question, but its not. The best hammer for any project largely comes down to a couple of factors:
- Experience with said hammer
- Personal preference
Not a very exciting list is it? Well, hammers are not really that complicated. So the real question is what advantages do round hammers have that other hammer do not?
Pro’s and Con’s of Rounding Hammers
The main benefit of rounding hammers is that it offers a multitude of different shapes that you can strike with. Make sense? If not, bear with me.
When you hit a piece of stock with your hammer, you leave a dent in the stock that is the shape of the hammer. It’s a bit like hitting a piece of clay, you leave an imprint.
What makes rounding hammers so cool, is that by tilting the angle of your hammer ever so slightly at impact, you can create a different shape dent than you would have had you hit it straight on. This allows you to create a many different impact shapes without ever having to change tools. This means that you get the equivalent of a straight peen, cross peen, and even a diagonal peen all in one hammer.
In addition to the multitude of shapes you can get with a rounding hammer, you have another factor, which is the die or anvil beneath your stock. By using the anvil’s edge to the fullest extent, you get even more possible shapes.
By combining the optionality of the rounding hammer with clever anvil technique, you get combinatorial bonanza. Don’t worry about the word “combinatorial”, it’s just a nerdy way of saying that you can hammer a bunch of different shapes very quickly without having to change hammers.
In my view, this is the chief advantage of the rounding hammer. With a bit of skill and practice, you can make most shapes without ever having to change tools, it’s pretty neat.
Are there cons to rounding hammers? I guess it depends on who you ask. Some people just prefer the classic cross peen or straight peen over the rounding hammer.
Another factor in the cross peen vs rounding hammer debate is price. As far as I know, rounding hammers are not really mass produced in the same fashion that cross pein hammers are. This means that rounding hammers tend to be more expensive, and if you buy them online they can be of varying quality.
Regardless, it’s fun collection tools. If you have the spare change, I highly recommend getting a good quality rounding hammer, they are a lot of fun.
Famous Blacksmiths That Use A Rounding Hammer
There are a number of trailblazing blacksmiths that have popularized the rounding hammer. These folks have been wowing people at blacksmith conventions, art fairs, and online for quite some time. It is largely tanks to these folks that rounding hammers are as well known as they are.
Alec Steele is one of the most popular blacksmithing youtubers out there right now. Based out of Norfolk, UK. He has been forging metal since he was 11 years old. His youtube channel has over 162 million views as the time of this article being written.
So why is he relevant to the subject of rounding hammers? He has been using rounding hammers for years now and they (the hammers) feature prominently in many of his videos. His videos are well done and I highly recommend them!
Brian Brazeal is another well known figure in the blacksmithing community. He teaches blacksmithing classes around the world and once taught the aforementioned Mr. Steele. Mr. Brazeal is another well known advocate of the rounding hammer.
Best Rounding Hammers For Blacksmithing
Well enough talk, after a certain point it makes sense to actually look at some of the top hammers on the market. So here we go!
Remember earlier how I said buying a rounding hammer online can be a bit dicey? Well that is why I am starting of with this hammer. It is one of the most highly review rounding hammers for sale on amazon. You would think that such a hammer would come with a hefty price tag, but it’s one of the more affordable available on the site.
As far as rounding hammers go, this is really one of the best out there, you can’t go wrong!
This hammer features a 3 ⅓” wide head on a 14” handle. It is a well balanced hammer, and according to the manufacturer it is made in the USA.
Last but certainly not least, this Diamond Farrier anvil is the largest anvil in this guide coming in at a whopping 36 oz. Like all rounding hammers it features one crowned round face, and one flat face. These faces are beveled for safety and to prevent chipping.
This hammer has a handsome hardwood handle.
The company that creates this hammer runs one of the largest independent horseshoe manufacturers in the world. This means that you can expect professional quality hammers from a company that knows how to use them!
Are Rounding Hammers Good For Beginner Blacksmiths?
As I alluded to earlier, which hammer is best for beginners is a question that has a subjective answer.There is no yes-or-no answer. Rounding hammers make it a breeze to make subtle curves in your work. If this sounds appealing to you go for it.
If you are worried about choosing the “wrong” hammer, stop worrying. If you enjoy this hobby you will most likely end up trying every type of hammer over time anyways. Rounding hammers are perfectly acceptable hammers for newbie smiths.
Are Rounding Hammers Good For Knife Making?
Knife making is a subset of blacksmithing, so the answer to this question is, of course! Although seeing as most blades don’t feature many bends, you will most likely use the flat side of this hammer as you would any other hammer.
If you plan on making unique, curved handles however, a rounding hammer will work great for what you have in mind.
Long story short: rounding hammers work great for knife making.
Are Rounding Hammers Good For Farrier Work (Horse Shoes)?
This question is similar to the blacksmithing one in that there is significant overlap between the skills of blacksmiths and farriers. In olden times, they were one in the same. In modern times, the general hobbyist blacksmith community is less focused on farrier work.
As with knife making, or blacksmithing, it really against comes down to preference. Rounding hammers should work just fine for work involving horse shoes.
Techniques Used With Rounding Hammers
I already covered this pretty thoroughly in the pro’s and con’s section, but I’ll go over it again briefly:
The rounding hammer allows you to spread metal in all directions. By tilting the hammer on its side slightly, you can get the same effect as using a cross peen, or a straight peen, or a diagonal peen. It’s also great for hammering round shapes, who would have thought?
Rounding Hammer Uses
This hammer can be used for any and all forging work. Whether this forging is for smithing, farrier work, knife making, making armor…whatever. This hammer can do it all.
Well that sums it up, I really don’t have too much more to say. Hopefully this review was helpful to you. Blacksmithing is a magnificent hobby that allows you to craft one-of-a kind masterpieces that are an extension of your artistic self.
Actually, hold up, smithing is MORE than just a hobby. Smithing is an artisan brotherhood that goes back millennia. It’s one of the few traditions that hasn’t changed throughout history. The basic techniques for hand forging are the same today as they were thousands of years ago. That is what I love about this hobby. I get to build things that last, using techniques and methods that have withstood the ravages of time. It’s a beautiful thing.
Anyways, I hope you all have a wonderful day, go and hit some iron for me!
Note: you can’t begin forging with just a hammer! Check out my guide on blacksmithing anvils and help yourself get the most bang for you buck on your next anvil purchase.
Title Image Source