Generations of Hammers

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Blog entry by swirt posted 11-02-2010 09:31 PM 8273 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am fortunate to have a hammer that belonged to my Grandfather and one that belonged to my Dad. Hammers generally are pretty generic items but there are a couple of aspects about each that I like and are not seen in todays’ assortment of hammers available at the hardware stores.

My Grandfather’s hammer is one that fortunately I had long before Chris Schwarz dubbed it as his “favorite hammer” and made its price jump up. It is an old Belknap Blue Grass rip hammer and other than being a well made hammer, it is probably best noted for its octagonal handle. The shape and comfort of the handle is why the Schwarz has featured it several times in his writing. If you have a Belknap or are just interested in more details, you may want to read my full post on the Belknap Blue Grass Hammer. If you know why Chris calls it a “Hamilton Hammer” I’d like to know.

My Father’s hammer is a Cheney. It is a claw hammer with an ingenious pair of ball bearings that hold a nail securely above the claw so it can be started with single whack without getting your hands in the way.

I’ve seen and owned a few hammers over the years with nail starters in them. Some were in the face of the hammer and some were in the side. None of them ever worked as well as this ball bearing mechanism (they are more like bullet catches).

I replaced the handle a long time ago with just an off the shelf oval handle, but decided recently to make it more octagonal. The facets just fit my hand better and seem to give a lot more control.
So after a bit of work with a scraper (the scraper keeps the curves along the length of the handle but removes them around the radius) I made the handle on my Dad’s Cheney feel more like the handle on my Grandfather’s Belknap.

I finished it up with a bit of amber shellac and a bit of BLO mixed in. The results show from left to right in this photo (the octagonal facets don’t show up well in the photo, but they are there).

If you are interested in more details about the Cheney hammer including patents and such, you can read the full version of the Cheney Nail Holding Hammer.

-- Galootish log blog,

11 comments so far

View Bob Simmons's profile

Bob Simmons

505 posts in 3094 days

#1 posted 11-02-2010 09:50 PM

My 20 ounce Bluegrass curved claw was purchased new in 1976. The handle is still very comfortable to hold and the hammer is well balanced. It has driven tons of nails, built many homes, and helped me take home a few decades worth of of paychecks. It is now within easy reach in my shop. Great tool!

-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV,

View swirt's profile


2868 posts in 3051 days

#2 posted 11-02-2010 10:19 PM

That’s great Bob, then you too own one of Chris Schwarz’s favorite tools without having to deal with finding a used one after his fame ran up the price ;)

-- Galootish log blog,

View mafe's profile


11740 posts in 3169 days

#3 posted 11-02-2010 10:50 PM

Thank you to tell os this story.
Interesting, perhaps we should do a show us your hammer / saw and so on for all members one day, it could be interesting.
The blue grass are extremely beautiful.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View canadianchips's profile


2602 posts in 3077 days

#4 posted 11-02-2010 11:39 PM

OH OH, a show me your hammer show. lol

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2936 days

#5 posted 11-02-2010 11:43 PM

My Dad gave me mine when I was 13, an Estwing 18oz.
I still use it daily. :)

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3195 days

#6 posted 11-03-2010 12:18 AM

who called and waked my sledgehammer :-(
it want to travel to see the show

some very niice hammers you have there Steve :-)
and I like the exstra little nail gimic in the Cheney , very clever made

now you just have to find the hammer of your generation
so the fammely tradition can continue…......LOL

good luck with the hunt

View swirt's profile


2868 posts in 3051 days

#7 posted 11-03-2010 04:26 AM

Okay Dennis, here you go.
4 Generations of Hammers :)

Left to Right: My Grandfather’s Belknap, My Dad’s Cheney, my Craftsman (from the early 1990’s), and my son’s hammer (2009). Care to bet which one will not still be in one piece within another couple of years?

-- Galootish log blog,

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3195 days

#8 posted 11-03-2010 03:56 PM

LOL great reply Steve
I baw for you :-)


View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3020 days

#9 posted 11-05-2010 11:06 PM

Hey swirt! I recently found a Cheney Hammerhead in a junk shop, ballbearings intact. Can you imagine, out here in Africa! It came a long way. I have to make a handle for it and an octagonal one will be perfect. Thanks for the post.

I have an old Stanley with a hickory handle that I got from my father and I love it. Feels just right. Also have an old Estwing, another favorite.

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View swirt's profile


2868 posts in 3051 days

#10 posted 11-06-2010 04:59 AM

Hey Div good to hear from you. Was wondering where you were hiding. Thought maybe the wild animals had run off with you. That is pretty cool that you found a Cheney way over there. In my bit of searching for history I found one reference that after the Cheney Hammer Co was bought up and moved from Little Falls NY that it started selling hammers in Australia…. not sure if production moved there too. Maybe yours came by way of Australia?

I have an old Estwing on my old tool hunting wishlist. I hear great things about them. One of these days I’ll find one I like at a price I like.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Rust's profile


2 posts in 2553 days

#11 posted 02-01-2012 04:36 PM

A couple of points. Belknap BG-47 (hickory handled model) were made by True Temper for the Belknap Company. Absolutely nothing to do with Hamilton. The later Belknap fiber glass ones were firstly made by Plumb and later True Temper. The tubular steel ones were made by V&B and True Temper depending upon the model. Cheney hammers were made under license in Australia by Cyclone.

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