Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tool of the Month #1


Okay, first the title is probably way to optimistic for my reality - but I will try.

In case you didn't already know, I love tools - especially old tools with stories to tell and skills to teach. I've shared some of these in past posts, but will now be attempting to be more regular about it.

The idea is I will pick one tool a month and post about it. I'll share its story if I know it, how I use it, any unique features, any questions I have about it, and what I love about it. So, that's the idea - let's get started.


"Worth" 16oz Bell Faced Claw Hammer

I picked this up with a broken off handle on one of my early tool hunting expeditions back East - probably Maine or New Hampshire, but I can't remember exactly. I punched out the remaining part of the handle, salvaged the wedges and made a new handle from local Alaskan birch.

I had never done that before, and at first I was rather intimidated by the idea. But, like so many other things I have learned on this hand tool adventure, it's really just a matter of getting started and figuring it out as you go along. As I worked on the shavehorse with drawknife and spokeshaves, I just kept holding the handle and pretending to hammer with it, and my hand told me what to do - thinner, longer, more flair, etc. In my mind it was going to be a round handle, but as I worked on it, the flattened octagon shape just felt right. In the end, I had a handle that was custom made to fit my hand. There are some pretty big dividends to NOT having a plan sometimes - in fact, in my experience, this is true most of the time. So if you've ever thought about rehandling a tool - I say do it!



In this shot you can see the "Worth" logo and also some marks that show a previous owner did some hammering with the side of the adze eye. Hmm. I wonder how this little guy ended up with that broken handle? (Not that the side hammering would do that, but I think it shows a level of disrespect for the tool.)


Worth was a house brand sold by the large hardware company of Bigelow & Dowse located in Boston, MA. From what I can find, this brand was made for B&D by Pexto, and sold between 1925-1945, which makes this hammer at least 67 years old. Cool. It also has a "REG US PATT OFF" imprint, which I find a bit unusual, as I don't see anything unique and patentable about it. Curious.

I also have a drawknife with the Worth mark on it (and strangley enough it is my "go to" drawknife, just like this is my "go to" hammer) but it also has an asterisk or star stamp as well, which I think I recall seeing elsewhere as being a symbol that Worth used. I'd love to learn more about this stuff.

Another thing I really appreciate about this hammer is the smooth, slightly convex face. I can consistently sink nails to just below the surface without leaving the so-called "French marks" - an old English term I rather expect.


And a shot of my initials - I'm not sure why I didn't brand this one - maybe because I was thinking of it more as an "owner's mark" rather than a "maker's" mark? Of course, I did make the handle...


I think hammers are under appreciated - but this one makes me happy every time I pick it up.

18 comments:

  1. I was taught when I was working as a framer to use the side of my hammer when I was nailing in places that were too tight to swing a hammer properly.

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    1. Nathan - Yup, I learned that too, but it's not what the hammer was made for, at least not the old ones. Only the face is hardened, and the adze eye is not particularly strong. I think it depends on your own tool philosophy, or maybe which is more important at the time, getting the job done, or protecting the tool. As tools have gotten cheaper (and often times much less functional) the general attitude has become much less reverent - which is too bad in my opinion. I guess I should point out that it works both ways - as the attitude of workers has changed, so have the quality of the tools...

      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Nice hammer and handle. I haven't heard of 'French marks' before but I've heard of them being called ha'pennies.

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    1. Rob - Thanks! I suppose that would be the non "insult the French" version - much more diplomatic.

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  3. I too haven't heard hammer marks called "French Marks". I always knew them as "Mule Tracks".

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    1. Adam - Thanks, that's a new one for me! "Mule Tracks" hmm - where was that? I mean geographically?

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  4. I agree with Nathan - I use a hammer everyday. Sometimes you've got to use it side on as it's the only way it fits in a tight space!

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    1. Kev - I agree, but... see my response to Nathan above. Thanks for commenting!

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  5. I have to agree with these guys, I too use the side of my hammer in tight spots. This isn't a fancy Lie-Nielsen tool, but a working man's hammer. Use it, abuse it, throw it away .... Keep up the good work on the blog... Take it easy, Dan.

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    1. Anon - I've been thinking a long time about this comment. Is a working man's hammer not a valuable tool? Is a LN worthy of more respect because it is more expensive or fancy? I think I understand where you are coming from here, but pretty sure I respectfully disagree. As far as "use it, abuse it, throw it away" goes, I can only agree with the first part. I'm not saying that tools should not be used, or even "used up" but that there is something about tools, especially old, quality tools, that deserve respect. I can’t think of too many tools I would feel comfortable “abusing” – I have an old, metal handled True Temper Rocket framing hammer that has been retired to demolition work, which might qualify.
      Thanks for commenting – you’ve got me thinking, and I just might do a post on this subject when I can get my mind around it.

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  6. Nice write-up for a forgotten tool. I have a few hammer heads looking for the same revival. Thanks for the reminder, Dan.

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    1. Steve - No problem - glad to help add projects to your list!

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  7. So, what's it Worth? :-)

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    1. Nice! You really nailed that one! :)

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  8. Hmmm, about those side marks. If you were side-hammering it seems to me the marks would be about where the Worth logo is. And the marks don't bring nail heads to my mind, either. I'm thinking some other misadventure, but what? Trying to get the handle off? Using the head as a fulcrum for a second tool? Small child in possession of the hammer for 5 seconds?

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    1. Josh - Seems like the kind of marks a bolt might make if you were trying to drive it out. I don't know...

      Oh, and 5 seconds? What kind of a slacker kid is that? 2-3 seconds tops!

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  9. Did you use a metal stamp to impress your initials in the wooden handle and, if so, did you make or buy it? It looks good.

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    1. Oliver - Thanks! I used standard alphabet metal stamps - Millers Falls I think - 3/16" I've been meaning to make a custom stamp, but haven't done it yet. Someday.

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