Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tool Care

A while back, I wrote about finally getting my first set of Fretz hammers for my workbench. It was kind of a big deal, both because it was a pretty significant financial investment and because I had wanted them for a long time.

But now comes confession time: I haven't used them all that much.


I know. I fondle them a lot, and I leave them out on my bench so I can visit with them, but I used the planishing hammer for a substantial project and it's sweet little face got a bit marred up. So I set out to find some good information about how to care for my new tools. Here's what I've found so far:
  1. Not a lot.
Do a Google search for "dressing hammers" and what you get is page after page of people posting in various forums - mostly blacksmith and ironwork - about needing to dress their hammers and looking for good instructions. So I am on a quest for information about tool care - and not just hammers, but everything on my bench.

For starters, here's a video about hammer dressing from a guy named Modern Blacksmith on YouTube that will give you an introduction to the basic idea behind hammer dressing. (Skip ahead to about the 4:15 mark if you don't want to hear about the project he's working on and the history of the hammer he's dressing.)

A while back, we did a little rudimentary hammer dressing with a rotary tool at Wired Designs - see the sparks?

Our goal was to clean up the riveting edges on our classroom hammers, which had been somewhat abused over the last year. As you can see, we were using a small rotary tool instead of a flex-shaft - and while it worked really well and got the job done, it wasn't more than just basic maintenance.

So I've got two mid-sized riveting hammers I'm going to try to dress, plus my poor little marked-up Fretz, and I'll report back to you in my next post with the good, the bad, and the ugly. A few words of caution if you're going to try this too:

  1. Eye protection is a MUST. Don't even think about working without it.
  2. Make sure any grinders, wheels, or flex-shaft or rotary tool components you use on your steel tools are kept strictly separate from anything you might use on your copper, brass and silver jewelry materials to avoid cross contamination. If possible, use a completely separate work area - but at a minimum, plan on doing a thorough cleaning afterwards.
  3. The video shows the use of a single grit grinder. From my reading, we'll need to plan on doing a lot of hand-work after the grinding in order to get mirror-polished hammers suitable for jewelry work - from 400 grit all the way to 1000 grit or higher.
Keep your fingers crossed!

Until next time -


  1. Awesome! I had no idea one needed to do that! But I don't do nearly as much metal work as you so I have not had the problem of hammer wear. Good to know!

    1. Embarrassingly, I had no idea either until last year. Live and learn!

  2. Everyday I polish my hammers after use. If you keep a daily regimen it goes quickly. Any knick in the metal can potentially show up on your work so this it one more thing to keep your work pristine. I do repairs so this is a must. By contrast I like creating rustic pieces for my own jewelry creations. While jewelers need polished hammer surfaces a construction worker benefits by roughing up their hammer on concrete to keep the hammer from slipping off the nail.

    1. That's a great idea - what do you use to do the polishing? And that make perfect sense about construction hammers - I learned something new today! :-)

  3. Very interesting to see how you care for your tools!


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