Fair Woodworking

November 20, 2016

The Right Hand Of Truth

For some people it’s Mongo, others Lumpy. Many would say Maul, or Sledge or even Mini Sledge, but really, I’ve always know it as “The Right Hand Of Truth”.

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Not in public per say, but on a one on one level, I have to admit, this little guy doles out truth with every blow.

It was one of the very first tools I decided I needed, and chose all on my own when I first started in construction. Being the new guy, I was the first to be volunteered to do whatever needed to be done in an awkward, small or confined space, and those of you who know me will know that there are not many small spaces that I would fit easily into. So especially when it comes to demolition in a small space, this little sledge made the best out of a bad situation.

Come to think of it, there could be an argument for this being my most used hand tool that I still own, and there are very few that date that far back that have not fallen out of favor

The thing is, only until recently, I have looked at it as a second class hand tool. One that should only live in the garage, or if ever in my shop, safely stowed away in a metal tool box so as to not offend any of my good, real, WOODWORKING hand tools.

But then the usual kerfuffle from the usual people start throwing around big claims that Mongo is perfectly at home on a decent woodworkers bench!

OH THE HUMANITY! OH THE DAMAGE IT WILL DO TO THE BENCH THE CHISEL HANDLES THE HOLDFASTS (that hold the historically inaccurate notched batons).

WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY?!!?

And as usual, the nay-sayers were challenged to try it on their un-toothed benches, and on their chisels, but obviously not on their hand planes so carefully placed on their sides so the blades would not be damaged by the work bench…

But for the most part, the nay-sayers could not hear them over their own saying of nay.

I however, fool that I am, yet again chose the road less traveled. You know the one, where you look at an idea, and figure you may as well give it a try, even if it’s just to prove one side or the other wrong?

I love telling people they are wrong. I don’t need to be right, but I love it when others are wrong!

Anyways, I tested the water with my hold fasts.

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I’d been using my deadblow mallet to set and release my holdfasts since I got them, but I was an instant convert to old Lumpy over there. It just has so much mass behind it that you really don’t have to hit it hardly at all, and the hold fast is set. To release it took no wind up to knock it loose, and that was a big win when the hold fast is at the back of the bench and very near the wall. My dead blow was useless in that case, but not for lill’ old Maul’er.

The problem I did run into was that this little guy had seen a pretty hard life. If I was smart I would have taken a picture of how pitted and scarred its faces were.

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Surgery took the better part of a day starting with a drum sander attachment on the rotary tool. Then to careful work with my 1000, 4000, 8000 norton stones, and then finally green honing compound on a felt wheel to bring it to a nice shine.

At that point and only at that point was I ready to try whacking a chisel with it.

And that’s where it really, really clicked for me.

Chisel whacking is what you do when there is not enough mass behind the strike, and that is why you should never use a regular hammer on your chisels. For a hammer to really make the chisel move, it has to compensate for its lack of mass with speed, where as a sledge only just has to be moving to provide the same force. A light tap tap, is almost overpowering and took a little time to get used to, but man! It’s pretty impressive. I’m going to keep using it for a while just to see if I keep liking it, and also I’ve noticed that there are not a lot of entry level chisel mallets to recommend to new woodworkers on a tight budget. Perhaps the Right Hand of Truth could be the perfect affordable option..?

So then today I’m making some dowels for drawboaring, and I remember how the last time a lot of them split and were ruined by my carpentry hammer…

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Yet again, the slow moving mass made this a painless endeavor.

But don’t take my word for it.

Try it for yourself.

Side note…

Hey, check it out! Fairwoodworking turns freekin’ 5 tomorrow!

Really? Five? Still seems pretty immature to me…

January 28, 2012

For want of a hammer

It’s not every day that I need a new hammer for work. Even when they are the bosses tools, I try to treat them well. Yesterday I found myself -1 hammer, and +1 job needing a hammer, so it was off to the local big box store for a new one.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a total tool snob, but I don’t think that was the issue here. You see yesterday, my concern for the state of woodworking, and construction went up yet another notch. While standing in the store (no names, but the first word rimes “dome” and the second rimes with”yo-yo”), I was surprised to find that their selection has changed dramatically since the last time I took the time to look at it. Metal and fiberglass handles were the only options unless you wanted the el cheapo junker on the bottom shelf. It took a while for this to sink in, and while I pondered, I noticed this sign.

When I first got into the trades, back in the Bob & Larry days. I knew nothing about tools. My boss took me to the hardware store and helped me pick out some basic tools. When we got to hammers, he picked up a steel shafted Estwing hammer and said, “here’s a good hammer”. What he said was true, Estwing makes a very good hammer. They are nearly bullet proof to the point that they are as much crow bar as they are hammer.

Within months I started noticing that my right elbow was really sore by the end of the day. Within the year, it hurt all the time. After 5-6 years an old guy on site saw me favoring my elbow and pointed out that vibrations of my steel shafted hammer would one day destroy my elbow. He pulled out his wood handled hammer and said, “give this a try”.

It felt good.

He then explained how important a wood handle is for a hammer. The wood works as a shock absorber so that it is not transmitted through your hand and into your elbow. Although steel handles are strong, the strength come at the price of your physical health.

When I look back at this all, my boss was never taught the value of a good wood handled hammer so he couldn’t know what kind of damage that hammer would do to me. Without proper instruction, who wouldn’t see a steel shafted hammer as a wonder tool. It removes the need to carry a pry-bar, so it must be a good thing.

This sign really concerns me. I’m not in any way a safety nut, but this kind of instruction is borderline negligent. In our society stronger is always seen as better, and lighter weight is is for the weak. The top row of hammers were all steel shafted and portrayed as the best. Below them were the fiberglass for the lightweight sissy’s. The wood handled were tossed in a wire bin at the bottom for the cheapskates.

I know, I know, you may be thinking I’m blowing this out of proportion, but not a day goes by that the pain in my elbow does not remind me of that hammer. I’m not mad at Estwing, they sure are handy for demo work, but I do hope that this post serves as a warning to others to not use tools that will harm them in the long run. I have no experience with fiberglass hammers, but there have been claims that they have similar shock absorption properties to wood. This may be true, but you would never get that information from the sign above.

So if you are looking for a new hammer, or you are using a steel one, please think soberly before you use it. Yes God gave you two elbows, but I don’t think he gave you the second one as a spare…

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