In a recent issue of Tools of the Trade Jeff Kolle wrote a story about Brent Bailey, a blacksmith who claims to have made close to 17,000 hammers at his forge in Orland, California. The videos below show Bailey in action.

The first was shot at his forge in Orland, and shows how the hole (eye) for the handle is made. He could have used a power hammer to drive the slitting chisel through the piece of steel that will become the head but instead he does it by hand.

The amount of labor it takes to perform this one operation goes a long way towards explaining why tradesmen took better care of their tools before the industrial revolution than they do today. Tools were difficult to make and expensive in relation to what people earned—if you lost or destroyed a hammer you couldn’t go to the big box store and replace it for the cost of an hour or two of wages.

The second video was shot during an event at the Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s one of a series of clips that show Bailey forging the type of cross peen hammer frequently used by blacksmiths. He uses a power hammer to do it, but it still looks like a whole lot of work.

A friend who recently moved to my area from Tennessee told me about the Metal Museum. It sounded kind of cool but I didn’t get a full sense of the place until I watched some of their video. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m definitely going to visit the next time I am anywhere near Memphis.

For more on Brent Bailey see:

Handmade Hammers
Brent Bailey Forge