I took 5 minutes to tidy up a couple of my hammers today. For those who know me, I’m pretty much the antithesis of a neat freak in the shop, but I periodically put a mirror finish on my hammers.
Why would I bother?
Well, here is a picture of a couple of my more used hammers, one repolished and the other before polishing:
Can you tell that I used an iPhone to take the picture? There’s a clear visual difference, but is there really a big difference on the metal to a hammer? The answer is “maybe”. When I have been doing a lot of work on the edges of pieces, there is a chance that my hammer face will pick up a nick, or worse, get a chunk of material embedded in it. This imprefection will transfer to whatever it hits. I spend a LOT more time making sure that my planishing and raising hammers are mirror finished (and made of really good steel) than my sinking (dishing) hammers, but I have had a piece ruined because it picked up a small chunk of something – and then tattooed this onto the back, giving my finished work a (not so) lovely irregular golf ball look on the outside.
There were a few such minor dings on the hammer I cleaned up, so I had to spend about 5 minutes cleaning it up, sanding it with 240grit, then 400 grit and polishing. My regular routine is to simply polish whatever hammers are in my work area (and have thus been used recently) whenever I am polishing. It takes about 30 seconds per hammer, and if there are any actual dings, I can sand them out and polish, since I generally have the sanding stuff out as well.
A few minutes of preventative maintenance saves a whole lot of unnecessary clean up of your work, and if you make this a habit then you are very unlikely to repeat my aggravation of throwing out a Couter (elbow cop) because it’s faster to rebuild it than try to planish out dings, or have extremely variable thickness.