A few months back, I wrote a post about hammering, showing the differences between hammers and mallets (read post HERE). Today’s post is provide more detail about chasing hammers, and the two distinct purposes they have: to “chase” a tool into metal (such as stamping, or repousse work), or, to flatten wire. They are lightweight hammers made with a springy wood, which reduces hand fatigue whed doing repetitive striking. Personally, I like a heavier hammer for stamping, but it is an excellent hammer for repousse (a technique sorta like embossing on thin metal), which requires a lighter touch.
Chasing hammers are also a great shape/weight for hammering wire… which is how many jewelry artisans use them. The faces come in two different “flavors” – the domed face, and the flat face. In the photo above, you can clearly see how they different as they rest on a steel block… but do you know when to use each one??
Look at how the hammers are positioned above, on a piece of wire. The domed face hammer (left) strikes the wire with only the center part of the face, but the edges don’t strike the wire at all. The flat face hammer (right) strikes the wire with more surface, but the sharp edge of the hammer can easily mar the wire.
On the left, you can see the markes made from repeated strikes when the edge of the flat face hammer hits the wire.. On the right, the wire is paddled flat and is mar free – no sharp edges hit the wire when properly using a domed face hammer. In addition, the force is focused at the center, rather than across the entire face, so you have more power when striking.
This link is a great example of how useful a domed face hammer is – you can see how it was possible to hammer just the bottom part of the link, to taper the wire on each side, providing an even, gradual change from round to flat. If I tried to use the flat face hammer on this link, it would be very difficult to create this smooth transition. and it would be difficult to avoid hitting the top of the link, where the wire is doubled over.
Although I loooove my domed face hammer, and it is my favorite hammer to use with wire, the flat face hammer has it’s place too! In the photo above, you can see how the domed face hammer leaves the surface of Spiral “A” a bit less consistent than the surface of Spiral “B,” which was hit with the flat face. Because the domed face has a curve, the hammer strikes with a bit more force at the exact center, which can leave slight differences in the pressure placed on the surface. A flat face hammer is a good choice when flattening an item that is smaller than it’s face diameter, because the force is displaced evenly across the head.
This week, I decided to start selling my favorite domed face hammer in my Etsy shop. I looked around at the other hammers being offered, and realized that there was no info being posted on using the hammers, which is why I decided to write this post. Hopefully, it will be helpful – for someone new to hammering, a flat face hammer can be very very frustrating, because it is so difficult to obtain mar-free results!