Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's Hammer Time (sorry, couldn't resist).

One of the true pleasures about traveling to teach workshops is that I can return, all fired up, to my own studio at the end of it all.

As I prepare myself to make a few major new pieces for my upcoming exhibition in Hervey Bay, AU, I took up the enjoyable task of creating a few hammers, using a pair of antique hammer heads purchased on eBay during my trip.

This was a great way to get back in the groove, and in one case, the experience yielded a tool I'll be making extensive use of. Here are a few in-progress shots of these tools being made.

Sifting through a few new goodies, some of which I scored in the US last month. The left object is a 200 year old bronze finial - which feels perfect as a handle.

Using square nickel wire that I twisted as the upper part of the handle allowed me to solder a bronze gas valve, about 150 years old, into place as the middle area where my thumb and index finger would rest.

Trimming the block of brass I made for the eye of the hammer - the part that keeps the head in place. Since I didn't have a chunk of brass that thick, I had to sweat-solder 5 sheets of 16-gauge brass together, as seen below.

This chunk was to be used for both hammers. I used brass because I own a Victorian watchmaker's riveting hammer that is my absolute favorite tool in the world (and can be seen at the top of this page on my site, FYI) - this was in homage to that good little friend.

Fabricating a little handle-cap out of brass tubing that I've shaped to contour to the bronze handle. No, that's not blood on my hands - I'd just used asphaltum as resist for my etching, and it stains fingers and makes them look really horrible. Ah well, the hand-modeling career was a pipe-dream anyway.

Cap in place. And here are a few images of the completed riveting hammer.

The little cap on the bottom is one of the few remaining upholstery tacks in this style I have left - look familiar? These were scanned for my website's homepage as the green buttons to navigate the menu - love these little chipped tacks.

I love the heft of this tool, and it really fits my hand well - the ball of the handle rests in the flesh of my palm, while the valve can be gently gripped by my thumb to help steady the hammer. Can you tell I love tools?

The second hammer became a much more straight-forward design - a nice little tool, but doesn't have the pizazz of the first. Here I had just finished resurfacing the striking face, but hadn't yet roughed up the front sides, or cheeks.

Filing and grinding the block into the proper tapered oval shape needed.

fitting the block to the head, and readying to solder the brass to the twisted wire.

I chose an old ice-pick handle for this hammer. Notice the deteriorated lettering on one side that reads, in beautiful pre-refridgerator adspeak: 'Air Condition Your Food.' A quick Googling unearthed this gem from a 1939 newspaper.

Number two, done. No excuses now not to get in there and use them both in my new work, which, um, stay tuned for. Boy, it feels good to be back at it. Check back next week for an update.

Thanks for stoppin' by.


  1. wow... these little hammers look amazing! To use simple tools to create more complex tools is an amazing concept. And the tools that these tools will then create... amazing.

  2. Keith Keith What can I say You are a legend
    Totally awesome

  3. GLORIOUS! So satisfying working with home made tools, especially such beautiful ones. I'm salivating!

  4. Be still my hammering heart ;)

  5. I'm glad to see the hammers you purchased from me have found a "New Life". nsc999

  6. Those hammers are awesome.
    Have a great day!

  7. Keith I have had so much fun reading the saga of these mysterious objects and the contest! Super cool!
    I look forward to the day when I can take another class with you. you are a fabulous teacher!

  8. Nice work, Keith. I once provided my own hammer when I was doing construction of our farmhouse. I used supplies from my friend who's a brass distributor in Brooklyn. It was a satisfying job.