It’s ‘Be Kind to Hammers Week’

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If you told someone you like to restore hammers, they might think you lazy. Aside from tightening the head on the handle, what else is there to do?

Today during a lull at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, I spied a hammer on a student’s bench and had to snatch it. It was a Bluegrass 16 oz. claw hammer. Though this hammer isn’t made anymore, the student had one that was still factory fresh – or “new old stock” as the collectors call it.

The head and handle were still covered with factory goop. So I sneaked away with the tool while the student was occupied.

Step 1: Get the goop off. Yes, it protects the hammer from rust while it is on the shelf at the store. But it is as attractive as the plastic covers on the furniture in your grandmother’s fancy “drawing room.” Lose it. Remove it with solvent or elbow solvent.

Step 2: Dress the striking face. Sand the face of the hammer to remove the rough milling marks and to ensure the face is very, very slightly bulged. (It should come made this way, but the sandpaper ensures it will be that way.)

I usually start with #150-grit and finish with #220 – at most.

After you sand the face, don’t touch it with your hands. Ever. If some numbskull touches the face, dress it (the hammer head, not the numbskull) with sandpaper. Any lubricant on the striking face encourages the face to slip off a nail head.

I then returned the hammer to its owner.

— Christopher Schwarz

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16 Responses to It’s ‘Be Kind to Hammers Week’

  1. John Preber says:

    An old trick is to then drill a 1/4″ hole in the bottom of the hammer handle (in the end grain) and fill it with beeswax to tip your nails with before driving them in.

  2. My goodness, Chris, now we have do deal with “sharpening” a hammer? The engineers will be happy with new instructions…

  3. I have the same hammer. at one point NOS for those was about $40 each, they quickly went to $150 after a while. Don’t know what it is now.

    Well built hammer.. to bad you can’t just go to the local hardware store and buy them anymore.

  4. waltamb says:

    and… was the owner of the Hammer appreciative?

  5. rljatl says:

    I have an old Bluegrass that belonged to my dad. The handle is broken though. Anyone know where to get a replacement handle that will match the original?

  6. Mike Siemsen says:

    It was an old carpenter’s joke to rub ear wax on some unsuspecting fellow worker’s hammer head. I have and do sharpen my hammer’s claw, a good hammer needs to be able to grip the shank of a headless nail and pull it out, this requires a sharp claw of decent steel.
    I personally wouldn’t wax nails as unlike screws they require friction to stay in, also any stray wax around the nail and you have wax on your hammer head(see first sentence).

  7. dmitchell999 says:

    Does nobody see anything wrong here? If I had been that student, I’d have been pissed.
    First, nobody has any business messing with my tools (woodworking or otherwise) without
    asking me, no matter their intentions. Second, as a student I want to learn by doing or at
    least watching. (It may seem a triviality, but I for one have never seen someone dress a
    hammer head.)

  8. John Griffin says:

    Chris, did you sand all of the grinding marks off the head?

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