A reader, Kathy in Wisconsin emailed me some time ago to ask a few very good questions. So I thought I would share with you the answers. First some pictures of different types of hammers.

From left to right : household hammer, chasing hammer and a plastic hammer.

Ball peen hammer
Rubber mallet

What is the difference is between a chasing hammer and a ball peen one?
Chasing hammers are really like ball peen hammers which have both rounded and flat sides. The flat part of a chasing hammer is however a larger area. This big area avoids the edge marks you get with smaller hammers. The round side is used to deliberately get a hammered texture (sort of like small dents).

Household hammers have one flat side but the other is pronged for lifting out nails. If you are just starting out and don't wish to shell out for a chasing hammer just yet, you can get away with the flat side of a household or ball peen hammer. There will be edge marks though especially if you are flattening and not just work hardening the wire.

Which hammer to use when work hardening wire?
If you are using coated wire, the best hammer would be either a plastic hammer or rubber or raw hide mallet. You have to be gentler with coated wire. You can also use a metal hammer but tap gently otherwise you risk losing the coating. I use my plastic hammer to work harden uncoated metal anyway as I do not want to accidentally mar the piece.

The alternative method for hardening wire work apart from hammering is to use a tumbler but not for coated wire as the surface treatment will be lost.

Is a protective base for a steel block necessary?
Kathy was planning to get a steel block for the hammering process and wondered how important is it to get a protective base to deaden the noise. It's actually not just for the noise but a base of wood, carpet, cork tile etc is recommended to protect whatever surface you have your steel block on.

I actually bought my steel anvil first before someone gave me an unwanted off cut piece of steel (see picture above). I much prefer the steel block as it is a larger surface area. The anvil has interesting horns to form wire but I have never used them. The anvil travels with me in my tool caddy as it is smaller and lighter than the steel block. I just turn it on its side when hammering.

Need a tutorial to practice hammering? Dana's Jewelry Design blog has a lovely Swirl and Curl Chain necklace you can make. I love how she used different metals for visual interest.

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