The Travelling Anarchist’s Tool Chest Contents: Hammers

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I know, we all know about hammers. When I earned cash dismantling exhibitions at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London in 1978 the deal was this: We meet at this pub on Sunday night at 9 p.m., each of us with a nice big 16 oz claw hammer. Two hours bashing apart exhibition stands, and by 11 p.m. we were back in the pub for last orders and with cash in hand.

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“Most important tool in the workshop,” my mentor Alan Peters would say, whacking a builder’s lump hammer onto the bench. The so and so did it hard enough to make me jump. Alan used this tool to aid assembly of almost all carcase work. He was precise in how he used it, but he would drive home dovetailed sides where the glue was getting stiff with mighty whacks.

He told me once he had to assemble a small casket built to house the ashes of a client’s late husband. The client arrived. They carefully poured the ashes into the carcase, three sides had been assembled. The secret mitre dovetailed last side was glued and WHACKED down.

“Stop, Stop, please don’t hit him,” cried the distressed client. Alan carried on. Two more good whacks and it was all down and quiet resumed.

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There is not much to a hammer. Weight, a nice, well-formed head and a handle of good length. “Well balanced” we say. Always hold your hammer low down on the handle; don’t strangle the damn thing. Use the length to give you accuracy and weight of the blow. It’s about rhythm and eyeballing the stoke.

We have a group nice hammers to chuck in the chest. My own hammer drawer is full of the damn things of all sizes, shapes and nationalities. Dead-weight hammers, nylon, soft-faced tappers and the good old Warringtons.

I used to not properly fit steel hoops to my Japanese chisels. I was a prat (some say I am still a prat, but they can b….. off). Now I do it properly and can whack the living daylight out of them. These are my favourite hammers; they are Japanese and bought on eBay. Though I did like a nice American hammer that Chris had when he was with us this summer.

— David Savage, finefurnituremaker.com

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One Response to The Travelling Anarchist’s Tool Chest Contents: Hammers

  1. PC says:

    Could you give me an idea of how much the lump hammer weighs? Thanks!

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