While most of the forge work in the shop is done by hand using a hammer and anvil, we do at times use a power hammer. Ours is used to rough out forgings, the work done in traditional shops by the apprentice, where brute force is more important than precise blows.
Power hammers aren’t new; hammers powered by a water wheel were used in the eighteenth century and earlier. This is part of a plate from Denis Diderot’s Encyclopedie. The hammer is raised by a cog on a shaft and drops when the cog rotates away. The smith has no control of the hammer or the force of the blow.
In the nineteenth century different types and styles of hammers were invented ranging from treadle foot-powered to hammers driven by overhead line shafts. In the twentieth century hammers powered by air compressors were developed. Ours is like that. A smith with this type of hammer has precise control of the number and power of blows according to how they press on a foot control.
In this video Molly is using the power hammer to rough out forgings for the tails of latch thumbers. In an earlier post we described the shaping of completed thumber forgings.