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, http://www.timberframe-tools.com