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Proper way to use a hammer

Can anyone help me find resources, youtube if possible, on how to
properly use a hammer? I find that I am hitting my hands instead of
the metal. I am searching for some good leather quality gloves, but
that won’t stop the blows to the hand when working on small pieces. I
have a piece of nickel about 2 inches that I am making into a pocket
for a natural bean and I don’t have the hand strength to hold it with
my fingers as my instructor does. The reverberation is much too
strong for me. I am using a hammer head in a vise as the stake so the
work area is indeed small.

Any suggestions?

thank you,

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a hammer for your jewelry projects? We recommend:

Brenda I am not sure of the shape you are trying to hammer, but if
it is like an open bean pod then the method that I showed of making
a leaf on an old tutorial may be of help, it was re posted on
Ganoksin a couple of years ago by Hanuman, see;

Peace and good health to all.
James Miller FIPG

I have a piece of nickel about 2 inches that I am making into a
pocket for a natural bean and I don't have the hand strength to
hold it with my fingers as my instructor does. 

Hold the nickel with a pair of pliers, and hit softer.

Start slow and soft with your hammer blows then increase the speed
and force until you get your accuracy up.

Regards Charles A.

Nylon tipped pliers

Any suggestions? 


1 st, Im surprised your instructor cant see your problem and help
you resolve it.

He cant be much good as an instructor nor is it your place to
criticise him.

Thats my perogative.

2,d any metal needing to be moved needs to be as soft as possible.

you need to anneal it properly. if not already done so.

3rd. you need to have a much larger working surface, ie at least as
large as the work piece.

Take a leaf out of an iron smiths workshop. He will use a proper

4th. Making a depression in a flat sheet needs the right radius
hammer head.

Thats why hammer men/women have lots of different hammers.

5th. another tip from an iron smith, they invariably use tongs not
just because the metal is hot but also to Keep their hands away from
the hammering and most importantly of all to HOLD small pieces

So what id suggest having done the above is to get yourself
something to hold your metal.

a pair of pliers with masking tape would around the jaws to start
with, if you dont have any snap clamps or proper iron smiths tongs

These sometimes have a locking ring to hold the handles shut to save
on grip energy.

Also finally make sure your anvil/ working face is the same height
as your forearm when held horizontally.

Dot be afraid to hit it!!. Practice first on some scrap copper. Once
you have the technique right then apply it to your final work piece.

Let us know how you get on.

I I’m presuming you are using a horn anvil of at least 50 lbs., " 50
Lbs. for forging, land not a small "bezel /jewelery anvil as in the
vendor catalogues.

If you are getting reverberation the hammer is too lightweight.

Nickel is hard stuff -for one, anneal frequently I’m also presuming
you are using a delrin or ball peen hammer, if not a planishing
hammer. Anything instead of a rawhide hammer (even a lead shot filled
one)…you can always polish a mar if its bad, but on a curved anvil
(the horn) it shoiuldn’t be an issue unless you are angling the
hammer so the peen or the flat planishing head isn’t hitting dead on.
which brings me to a dead blow hammer- you can get one at harbor
freight for 3 or 4 dollars if not on sale!

With a larger surface area to aim at, instead of the small anvils,
you can place the piece of metal down on the horn to start the bend
of the “pocket” (if curvature is needed) and hit: using your hammer
as an extension of your arm and aim with your hand not looking at the
end of the hammer. With a large anvil you could place a magnetic bar
on the anvil’s top as a “stop” and turn the metal as it gets textured
where you want it (unless you’re just trying to thin it out. then a
rolling mill is called for)to get it to a size you can fabricate a
"pocket" from…

If you have a wooden stump in the studio that the anvil sits on it
will help absorb some of the ‘reverb’- you could take the anvil off
and just use a hammer on the presumably flattened stump and finish on
the anvil you have.

A bench block though will also work .Being a small piece of steel,
place the corner of your annealed metal at the squared end and hold
it down with a small piece of painter’s tape until it’s time to turn
it. annealing is key to keeping it malleable. Spray the warmed metal
with some Cupronil and let it form a skin, each time you anneal and
don’t pickle until finished in a nickel pickle (Not Sparex #2- the
other one. or use a citric acid pickle) however I can’t imagine how
you are holding it and hitting your hands each time, or frequently!..

A vise won’t work like a magnet but unless it’s dipped in a plastic
dip (or sprayed with some) the magnet being hit may mar the metal as
though you were stamping it! I must say this isn’t a common question.
so I’m a bit puzzled at what you are using to hit with and what you
are hitting on ? Nickel, as I said is harder than sterling. or.999
silver, gold etc. but if annealed frequently you should be able to
control the metal not it controlling you! And the planishing hammer
used correctly should be able to form any metal around the horn of an
anvil. those tiny chromed, blue ceramic bottomed bezel anvils aren’t
for planishing- bench blocks are more appropriate. for that task.

Oh, leather gloves won’t stop a blow- it may deaden it some but it’s
not protection from being hit- you should have some anyway for
melting and pouring or hot metals…(actually I’d buy kevlar gloves at
a home store).

One of my main complaints with classes and teachers are that they
don’t introduce students to tools first- before anyone touches a
piece of metal. sounds like a potential problem in your case. I also
recommend reading Tim McCreight’s “The Complete Metalsmith”, if
teaching yourself…

I’d like to see this “pocket design too…” there may be an easier
way than planishing to fold a thinned piece of metal- like scoring it
in the center and then folding it. or…there are a number of ways to
make a container without soldering it…

I am using a hammer head in a vise as the stake so the work areais
indeed small. Any suggestions? 

Give yourself a handle. Something many people have yet to learn. One
of Jo-Ann’s students at CCA was making this little wax bee and every
time she picked it up she ruined the work she did with her fingers.
Put it on a wax “stick” so youdon’t touch the work. Same with this
project - use a six inch piece of nickel, do your work and then cut
it off when you have it done. Easy…

Brenda- Practice. I was a liturgical silversmith decades ago. 6
hours a day of hammering metal. Do that long enough and you will
develop hands like iron and great accuracy. Years later I can still
swing a hammer with deadly accuracy with either hand. I never hit my
fingers anymore. Ever.

When I was younger I used to get free beer all the time by betting
folks that I could bend a beer bottle cap in two with just two
fingers on one hand.

When folks first start in the trade they often hurt their fingers.
After awhile your body learns it’s critical distances. Our bodies are
smarter than we are sometimes.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry- painlessly

Jo Haemer

HI Brenda,

It sounds to me that the primary problem you are having is holding
onto such a small piece of metal. No matter how good your hammering
technique is, it is difficult to hold onto such a small piece. Try
holding on with a pair of pliers. I like to use a small pair of vise
grips for this kind of thing. You may need to wrap the jaws with
rubber or leather, or grind off the teeth, to prevent marks from the

In terms of how to hammer, I teach people to “shake hands” with the
hammer handle. This gives a grip like that used on a tennis raquet
or golf club, rather than a tight choke hold. Hold the hammer
loosely, so that it can drop, and then bounce back. This is also
known as “letting the hammer do the work”.

I hope this helps!
Cynthia Eid

I don’t know what you are trying to form, but have you thought about
a pair of smooth jawed pliers, possibly parallel jawed.

Hi Brenda

I don't have the hand strength to hold it with my fingers as my
instructor does. 

this is where you keep practicing. It takes time to build up

If the metal is reverberating you are hitting in the wrong place on
your “stake”.

You should get a clear “ping” when the metal and stake and hammer
meet correctly.

Forget the gloves, get some glasses to magnify your work and look
closely at where you are hitting with the hammer. Don’t choke the
hammer use a flexible wrist and hold it at the end of the handle.

Also throw the nickel in the bin it is toxic sh*t 1 in 10 people are
seriously allergic to it. It is banned in the EU for good reason.

If your instructor is using nickel leave demand a refund and find
someone who knows about precious metal smithing.

A 2 inch piece of sterling/fine silver is worth less than $20 so use
real quality metal and make real jewellery not toxic waste, aka

Also I have to ask:

why has your instructor not taught you how to use a hammer?

how much are you paying to not learn the proper skills?

youtube the best source of how not to make jewellery in the

AKA I have just done a weekend course and am posting a video on how
to set up workshop.

Even though I don’t have full training and years of experience I
will show you what to do.

like get a grip, don’t show us how to set up a death trap.

youtube + jewellery = intensive care in the local hospital.

stick with orchid, we are still alive and have all our fingers
because we are trained.

Use fine silver as you are a newbie to metal smithing. Move to
sterling when you get stronger.

I use a standard planishing hammer/leather mallet/ nylon mallet every
day to make small bezels or to round rings. Don’t hit my hand, never
have, properly trained.


Hi Brenda - the way to use a hammer is this: look at where you want
the hammer to hit, your hands and brain will make it go there. If you
look at where you don’t want it to hit, ie. your hands, you will hit
your hands.

That’s the ONLY way it will work - it’s the same rule as when you
drive - if you look at the pothole, you will hit it, if you look at
where you want to drive, you will avoid the pothole and go where you

As to how to hold bitty stuff - sometimes a bit of masking tape is
the answer.

Hi Richard,

I like what you ask!!

I thought I was the only silver smith here with strong enough
convictions to put them in writing, on how hammer work should be

We all know that there are many paths to a door.

But the basics? they are the same.

Thanks for adding to my point of view.


Wow ok I feel better Richard they were all my thoughts. I was just
too afraid to say anything. Like who are you payinge? wow my
instructor (waves at Jo) let’s people start with copper but next
project is silver. Sawing, hammering all those things the most
important part is the correct posture andbody mechanics. I saw well
because I learned to hold it properly and let the saw do the work and
sit in a position so that the end is swift sawing and no physical
pain. Hammering the same. Only tip I have is that while learning I
had to take breaks more often to rest my hands until my strength
improved. working diligently every day no matter if the result is
good, bad, or wow. Just do it every day. I keep studio hours 9-7pm
with a break for lunch. Doing that in any art form is the only way to
improve. Now among my friends I am official jar opener. lol No matter
where if a lid is stubborn bam hey open it please.


Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a hammer for your jewelry projects? We recommend: