Wednesday, February 28, 2018


The topic of hammers in blacksmithing is both fundamental - and often contentious.

Individual smiths will almost certainly favour a certain style and weight for their personal forging hammer. Typically there will be just one hammer that they will use for the majority of their work.
Now, hammer style, handle and weight most often will reflect back to body shape and size. These factors in turn will affect the physical motion dynamic used by the smith.

As you might guess - all these elements, merging an influencing each other as they do, makes the selection and use of a personal hammer a very complex choice.

I maintain there is no such thing as a single 'best' hammer.
Unfortunately, there has been a trend over the last decade to 'designer hammers'. Often promoted by those deemed to be 'famous' (who often make and sell that unique type). The dominance of YouTube as an information source has accelerated this.

Let's look at some hammers:

the group, roughly the same scale - (see at '1/2 life' when clicked)
You will notice that all of these have the handles fitted up in a uniform way, and marked with a loop of green tape. These are 'Dad's Hammers' - my personal tools, NOT to be used by students. (Each anvil / toolbox in the shop is colour coded, primarily to match hardie tools to the various hardie hole sizes.)
More on handle adjustments later.

I personally favour a round faced hammer. Many smiths prefer a square, or rectangular face.
I will suggest that a square face will provide a very definite 'line' when you dig the edges into a strike. This can be an advantage if you are attempting to work in tight to a corner. Personally, I find that most of the time, what you naturally will create is a diagonal cut on to the bar - potentially creating more distortions than helpful effect. A round face will allow you to make any edge the front - just by simple (slight!) rotation of your wrist. Do note here that my own working style makes considerable use of the edges to pinch and push the metal around as it is formed.

On the images below, a click will give you life sized versions:

Group 1 - Round Faced
The top hammer is my primary working hammer.
• 800 gms (marked) / 1 3/4 lb / 28 oz
• I have been told that this is a 'German Engineer's' hammer from some time in the 1920's or 30's. (not sure if this is true?)
• I purchased this hammer at a yard sale about 1985, for about $8 - but...
• In all my years I have only seen one other exactly like it. I do about 80% of all my forge work with this hammer. I consider it absolutely irreplaceable!

Middle *
• 700 gms / 1 1/2 lb / 24 oz
'Antique' Farrier's hammer, from the first half of 1900's
• I purchased this hammer used, at a tool swap, about 2000, for $22
• Note the extra wide cross peen

• 700 gm / 1 1/2 lb / 24 oz
• 'Antique' Mechanics / Engineer's cross peen, also likely from earlier 1900's
• I purchased this hammer used, at a tool swap, about 2000, for $22
• I had purchased this one as a back up for my main hammer, when I started actually wearing through the case hardened surface (!)

Group 2 - Square Faced

• 800 gms (marked) / 1 3/4 lb / 28 oz
• 'Swedish' pattern
• I purchased this hammer just as the head, paid about $35, then added the handle.
• Note how sharp / aggressive the cross peen is here.
Also how much of the mass is to the forward, face side.

Bottom *
• 800 gms (marked) / 1 3/4 lb / 28 oz
• 'Ancient' pattern (sometimes called 'American')
I have seen the virtually identical shape and sized head, made in polished stone, dated back to roughly 3500 BC (from Egypt, for working copper!)
• This is one of the series of 'Twin Swallows' brand from China. I paid $8 for it (about 1995). The original imports had bad junk wood handles, the short lived fiberglass where actually better. Now available with (horrible!) plastic handles, these cost about $10.

Group 3 - Crowned Round face
Top *
• 710 gm (marked) / 1 1/2 lb+ / 25 oz
• 'Italian' Ball Peen
• Currently available via Princess Auto, $23 (1)
• I consider this an excellent hammer all round - which out performs its lighter weight = better control, for smaller diameter stock sizes

• 800 gms / 1 3/4 lb / 28 oz
• Crowned / Flat
• I paid about $35 for this hammer
• I find the crowned side here slightly more aggressive than the one below

Bottom *
• 800 gms / 1 3/4 lb / 28 oz
• 'Diamond' Crowned / Flat
• widely available, typically cost about $ 65 (check Professional Farriers)
• although a perfectly balanced, lighter and easily controlled hammer, I personally find the handle too short for my long arm length.

Other Types - Retangular Faced
This group of hammers I purchased as examples - I don't actually work with these.

• 1600 gm (marked) / 3 lbs - / 45 oz
• 'French' pattern
• typically more expensive (plus $60), I found this one used for about $35.
• Note the amount of mass to the face side of the handle line.
I personally find that although this hammer strikes hard, it also puts a huge amount of strain on the elbow as it flips forward on the down part of a swing.

• 1000 gm / 2.2 lbs / 35 oz
• 'Hofi' style
• (this a cheap knock off!) I purchased this for about $35 ('real' ones cost +$100)
• the working style for this type of hammer is radically different than the classic 'European' methods. The hammer is perfectly balanced, and you drop it, rather than swing it

• 900 gm / 2 lb / 32 oz
• 'Hand Sledge' - set up with one flat and one slightly crowned face
• easily found at cut rate tool / surplus stores, usually run about $10 - $15 (although these days often with plastic handles)

You will notice that the majority of these hammers are in the lighter weight class, bracketing about 800 gm.
Although working style most certainly will modify the effectiveness of this size, I personally find for metal stock sizes up to about 5/8 diameter, no more weight / force is required.
Those types marked ( * ) are ones that I also own samples in the next heavier class - in the range of 1000 gms.

Further Related postings to come?
• Handles
• How to Hit

(1) At time of this posting - these are on sale at 50% off - a steal at $11.50 each!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

"Trillium Party of Ontario' ???

An opinion:

I received the following flier in my mail on Thursday February 15 :
Front and Rear (click for full size)

Inner (click for full size)
In light of what has occurred in the United States of America - and especially with recent appearances that a similar political movement was gathering in Canada, I was unsettled by this handout. In some cases it was how things (unstated) were phrased. In some cases it was *exactly* was was stated.

So I took the trouble of going to the Trillium Party web site :
I then sent an email to the indicated contact address :
(highlights added for this article)

Ms Marshall

(duplicate to main party e-mail : the hot link on the party web site that should auto load your direct email was not functioning just now when attempted- fyi)

I received a one page handout from you, as Trillium Party candidate in my riding area, in the mail yesterday.
I am a long term resident in lower Grey, south east of Flesherton, just shy 30 years.

I find a number of things troubling as listed on this handout. I did take 15 minutes to go over the party web site ( in the hopes of better understanding. Not with better details, I am afraid.

To refer to the pieces:

1) 'Private Property'
Much reference is made to 'property rights'.
- What of those who do not have the financial ability to purchase private property?
- Do individual private property owners have rights that would surpass those of the overall community in general?

2) 'No Carbon Tax'
- if Ontario residents, who demonstrably consume substantially more energy via fossil fuels, do not take any responsibility for their personal consumption - who would be expected to?
- I state this as someone who personally requires the use of both propane and coal in my daily business operations.

3) 'Repeal Green Energy Act'
- see above
- it is clearly the case that without some kind of significant monetary penalty, individuals most certainly rarely cut back on their personal consumption. (The vast number of massive, over equipped, 'sport toy' pickup trucks seen on Ontario roads is certainly proof of this.)
- the NIMBY approach by what is observed locally as 'seasonal' property owners towards wind turbines is also clear evidence of how those with economic power are not mindful of the environment into the future.

4) Reference to current Minimum Wage increase
- As an individual who economically has lived very far below the defined 'poverty line' for my entire life, I find the suggestion that their is some kind of core problem with paying people something that can only remotely reflect an actual 'living wage' to be offensive.
What is your party's plan to support the 'working poor'??


 "provide...TRUE FACTS.."
- In light of the use of this exact term by the American Right Wing - and specifically Mr Trump, it is hard to believe this was not intentionally stated as a direct reference.

Guiding Principles

"All voting Citizens"
- This can easily viewed as excluding some large segments of the Ontario population.
- As the term 'voting Citizen' is repeated several times, I find it hard NOT to see this as an appeal directly to a core group who would consider themselves 'real' Ontario.

" family will be prioritized"
- As someone without children - where does that leave those who have NOT decided raise children?
- there is continual reference to 'family'. I note that I did not find the term ' return to family values' specifically. I suggest that any reader would be hard pressed NOT to make that connection.

Looking over the published materials of the Trillium Party, it is my distinct impression that the overall approach is intended to appeal to a hard core, right wing, solidly middle class -  dare I suggest Christian Fundamentalist, and White, membership.
Hoping that somehow the clocks can be reversed so to make 'Ontario Great Again'.

I am hoping you will be able to take some time to explain how the elements detailed above *should* have been interpreted, and that my initial impressions are wrong.

Darrell Markewitz

This is what I received in return :

Hello Mr. Markewitz
It would seem you have made up your own mind about the Trillium Party of Ontario.  There will nothing I can say to detract from your opinion,  As a blacksmith, though, I find it curious that you would not be concerned that there are policies being created to ban all use of coal and the cost of your production with increase with the carbon tax when using alternative types of fuel.  This increases the cost of living on those who can least afford it.  That being said as you had said you have taken 15 minutes to read over our polices - these policies include upholding the Constitutional rights of the people.  These rights include private property rights and the democratic rights of the people, which, Mr. Markewitz, has not been done in decades.  I hope this information is of assistance, but again you didn't seem to have any questions you merely wanted to express your opinion, which I have noted, as that is your constitutional right.  Have a good day.

Elizabeth MarshallCandidate, Trillium Party of Ontario
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound
B.G.O.S. Trillium R.A.
P.O. Box 4
Singhampton, ON
N0C 1M0

Ok - I know I got a bit heavy near the end of the letter.

Count the highlighted sections from my letter.
I make that FIVE specific questions.
All are points referred to in the original handout. NONE have any details indicated. NO further details are given on the web site.
See the response? "didn't seem to have any questions" ??

So I sent a follow up:
without discussion - there is no understanding

I am old enough to remember a time when Civil Rights were lacking - and being fought for.
I'm afraid you have decided not to explain, which does not in my mind, represent true flexibility.
The lack of *detail* on your Party web site does not allow for any accurate assessment.

As to my own use of fossil fuels:
I have done through several exercises in the past in an attempt to accurately assess exactly what my personal impact might be.
I freely admit that any ability to determine 'source to my door' costs and impacts remains almost impossible to determine.
In my case, there is no realistic, technically feasible alternative to burning coal or propane. So I am prepared to accept the upcoming increased costs related to a carbon tax.
I consider this only ethical, rather than further dumping that loading on to future generations.

I did find the portion of the Party web site about 'carbon tax' did not appear to be much more than a photo op for your leader - image of him in a large farm tractor. Yes, a statement was made that 'carbon tax would (unfairly) impact farmers'
No numbers, no details.
I certainly will not be convinced without statements of actual fact, actual numbers.

You stated below "you didn't seem to have any questions"
I count a total of FIVE question marks within my original.

Good luck
You can expect me (especially after your decision NOT to inform or clarify) to actively work AGAINST the Trillium Party.

What I have seen so far too closely resembles Donald Trump for my personal comfort.


And this was the reply:

I expected as much.  Seems you neither know or understand the Constitution nor your moral obligation not to place burden you future generations.  That is your option and prerogative and I respect your choice.  Have a good day.

Elizabeth Marshall


"...nor your moral obligation not to place burden you future generation."


Do remember, as is clearly seen, that it was * I * who stated that:

" I consider this only ethical, rather than further dumping that loading on to future generations."

"Seems you neither know or understand the Constitution.."

MY Canada does not hold "voting Citizens" as somehow worthy of special privileges.

This is someone who is attempting to gather votes for an upcoming election?
At the initial introduction does not attempt to actually answer questions?
Or provide any actual details beyond vague generalities?
Intentionally uses the phase 'True Facts'?

I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions...

Friday, February 16, 2018

'Legacy' in Elora

Once again, I am quite pleased to have a piece chosen for inclusion in the Elora Sculpture Project for 2018:
'Legacy' drafted submission


What do we leave behind for future generations?
The pyramid structure recalls one of the oldest enduring human structures, the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The covering of plastic water bottles indicates one of the longest enduring objects produced in current days - sure to also endure for centuries to come.
Individual bottles (makers labels removed against liability) are each attached on to long bolts, those welded to the underlaying steel frame. It is the intent to start with the frame only partially covered, with additional bottles added to ‘complete’ the structure over the course of its installation.
This piece originally conceived during the ‘Turf to Tools’ project at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in 2017, as a commentary on human impact over the ages on the natural environment. (It is a topical piece, with controversy about the impact of water bottling in the Elora region.)

Those following this blog may remember the original posting on Legacy, as a concept, from September of 2017.

Behind the whole thing was a lot of thought I had about ancient landscapes, human impacts, artifacts, and modern interpretations. The 2017 trip to Scotland had included touring Edinburgh, work with Celtic Iron Age Iron at the Scottish Crannog Centre *, and a one week residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.
This process was certainly an extension of the larger Turf to Tools project series (2014 & 2016) at SSW.

Although the original design for Legacy was sparked by road side trash in normally clean Scotland, it turned out the concept also was topical to the town of Elora, back here in Ontario. Right now there is a large controversy (with protests and angry meetings) about a major water bottling plant being proposed by Nestle for the area. 'Jobs' and 'it won't effect the water supply' are the two standard statements made by industrial water corporations.**

The slight modification to Legacy to use only plastic water bottles, with their endurance in the environment of as long as 500 years, was obvious.
The piece becomes a statement not only about how the past might be perceived by some future observer, but also about how what we do NOW will massively impact generations to come.

* the Crannog Centre had provided the base funding for the 2017 trip. Along with a honourarium to help offset car rental, meals and lodgings for the time at Aberfledy, they covered the air fare costs from Toronto. I added funds for the time in Edinburgh and the week at SSW.

** I can tell you from personal experience - here at Wareham. 
When the Ice River Springs industrial bottling plant was put into operations at near by Feversham in 2002, I started having heavy levels of clay silt in my own well water. A filled glass coffee pot, if left for 10 minutes, would have a deposit settle out which completely covered the bottom. This problem persisted for about six months. I have a deep well (about 150 - 175 feet), so drawing water out of the limestone of the Niagara Escarpment. This is well below a thick red clay layer about 20 - 30 feet thick laying about 30 feet down here. That effectively seals that ancient water from any surface effects (contamination) - or modern replacement of the aquifer. 
It is illustrative that on the Ice River Springs web site - there is no mention of exactly how much of this ancient water is being pulled out, bottled, and shipped away to consumers.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Fine Kettle of Fish

How do you Measure an Anvil ?


EUROPEAN Anvils, and many (most) modern cast steel alloy anvils, will be marked in KILOGRAMS. For you Americans, 1 kg = 2.2 lbs.
(Join the rest of the world, will you?)

'Antique' - so forged - Anvils will be marked in HUNDREDWEIGHT (cwt) / QUARTERS  (qwt) / POUNDS.
A QUARTER is 1/4 of the hundredweight.

AMERICAN Anvils have the weights defined under their own 'rationalized' system (appears to date back to the Revolution ?) use the 'short hundredweight' :
100 lbs = 1 hundred weight
25 lbs = 1 quarter

GERMAN Anvils use the 'long hundredweight' :
120 lbs = 1 hundred weight
30 lbs = 1 quarter

BRITISH Anvils use the original Imperial system, with an ancient history (see bellow)
112 lbs = 1 hundred weight
28 lbs = 1 quarter.

Anvils historically were made in size 'ranges', about:
1 hundred weight (typically farmer's anvils)
1 cwt + 2 qwt (typically small rural blacksmiths)
2 cwt (typically urban shops or carriage works)
3 cwt (typically mines, rail yards or other industrial)
4 cwt + (typically ship yards)
Although produced in a size class, each anvil was individually marked with its exact finished weight before it left the factory.

Check the rear side (horn placed to left hand, the side away from you).
There should be three groups of numbers punched in, typically placed across the narrow 'throat' area.
Run the math for your actual weight.

See also my 'Guide to Purchase an Anvil' :

At 112 pounds ??
Where the heck does that come from ???

Honestly, although I was well aware that this came from ancient British ideas about measuring things, I had always wondered.
Tracking this down proved worse than I imagined!
(A lot of Wikipedia references here.)

The hundredweight has had many different values. In England in around 1300, various different "hundreds" (centem in Medieval Latin) were defined. The Weights and Measures Act of 1835 formally established the present imperial hundredweight of 112 lb.

The Weights and Measures Act of 1835 defined the Imperial hundredweight as comprised of 8 STONES.

... Established the imperial stone & hundredweight of 14 and 112 lbs. respectively, based on the wool stone of Edward III

Now it gets weird...
You see the stature above refers to a much earlier system - the 'standardized' (??) system as defined by Edward 3 - 1350. The STONE as the base unit :
...every Stone to weigh 14 lb

You see 'pounds' as a base unit. Problem is that there were at least THREE different 'pounds' in use :
Troy / Avoirdupois / London (Tower)

Depending on what you might be measuring (silver / fish / iron) you might be using one or another of those base 'pounds'. And to further mess this all up - a "Hundred' refers to different counts of different units - depending on the type of material being measured out.
If you are interested (and want to get really confused here) check the article on Troy Ounce - which has a good conversion chart between all those:

So now we have to make a step even further back - to the 'codified' set by Edward 1 - 1303.
Per Ordinance of the whole realm of England the measure of the King is composed namely of a penny, which is called a sterling, round & without clipping, weighs thirty-two grains of wheat in the middle of the Ear.
And an ounce weighs twenty pence. And twelve ounces make a pound of London. And twelve & a half pounds make a stone of London.
But in other things the pounds contains fifteen ounces, the ounce in either case weighs twenty pence. …
But the hundred of iron and shillings consists of 100. The sheaf of [steel] consists of thirty pieces. The Dozen of iron consists of six pieces.
The system called tower weight was the more general name for King Offa's pound. This dates to 757 AD and was based on the silver penny. This in turn was struck over Arabic dirhams (2d). The pound was based on the weight of 120 Arabic silver dirhams, which have been found in Offa's Dyke.
The tower pound was equivalent to about 350 grams.[30][31]
1 tower pound (12 oz) = 7,680 tower grains = 5,400 troy grains
1 tower ounce (20 dwt) = 640 tower grains = 450 troy grains
1 tower pennyweight (dwt) = 32 tower grains = 22 1⁄2 troy grains

You see that the standardized 'Silver Penny' as the base weight unit. It is defined by a number of wheat grains- the PENNYWIEGHT. Ounces and Pounds are counts of these coins. (Partially blame the Danes for this - 500 years earlier!)

Before this, it gets really weird :
The Latin edition of the Assize of Weights and Measures, one of the statutes of uncertain date from around the year 1300, describes hundreds of (red) herring (a long hundred of 120 fish), beeswax, sugar, pepper, cumin, and alum ("13½ stone, each stone containing 8 pounds" or 108 Tower lbs.), coarse and woven linen, hemp canvas (a long hundred of 120 ells), and iron or horseshoes and shillings (a short hundred of 100 pieces).[1]

Later versions used the Troy or avoirdupois pounds in their reckonings instead and included hundreds of fresh herrings (a short hundred of 100 fish)

So - Based on Edward 1 measures :
One Penny = 2.92 gm
20 Penny = one Ounce = 58.4 gm
one Pound (iron) = 15 Ounce = 876 gm
one Hundred (iron) = 100 Ounces = 87.6 kg

That makes the 1303 'iron hundred' = 192.7 (modern) pounds

Is that a LONG hundred, or a SHORT hundred - of herring?

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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