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Making a Small Brass Hammer

by P. Michael Henderson

Some tasks in a shop call for a small brass hammer - such as adjusting a wooden plane, tapping on a chisel, or just for making adjustments to joinery.  While these hammers can be purchased, I decided to make my own. 

For the head, I purchased some 7/8" brass round stock from Online Metals.  A foot of the round stock is about $21 and you can make a number of hammers from that one foot.  You won't need that many hammers yourself so see if some of your friends will take some of the brass stock, or make some extra hammers as gifts for your woodworking friends. 

A good size for a small hammer head is about 2.5".  If the head is all brass, it will weigh about 7.25 oz.  I also made a hammer with 2" of brass and 1/2" of wood on one end.  That head would weigh a bit over 6 oz., depending upon the wood used.  If you would like a heavier or lighter hammer, you can purchase larger or smaller brass stock.  For example, for a heavier hammer, you could use 1" or 1 1/8" round stock.  For a lighter hammer, choose 3/4" round stock.

You can cut the bar stock with your miter saw.  Just cut slowly and clamp the rod well when making the cut.  A carbide blade cuts brass very well and it doesn't damage the saw blade. 

The picture below shows a hammer I made earlier, with one face of wood and the other of brass.  Also shown in the picture are the components of the hammer I'm going to make in this tutorial.  I'm using a 2.5" piece of brass stock and I'm going to dome one end while leaving the other end flat.

Small brass hammer materials

I'll begin by creating the dome on the brass stock.  To do that, I mount the brass rod in my lathe using a chuck.

Brass in the lathe

Then, using a double cut file, and with the lathe running, I begin to work the brass into a dome.

Begin cutting with a double cut file

Eventually, I get the end of the rod to the shape I want.

The end is domed over

I used sandpaper, working to finer grits, and then polished the end with brass polish.

Sand and polish the brass dome

I turned the rod end-for-end in the chuck and took the sharp edge off the flat side.

Now work on the other end of the brass

Then, just for decoration, I cut a couple of grooves on each end of the hammer head.  I cut these with my V-shaped parting tool, held sideways.

Cut decorative grooves

This is what it comes out looking like:

The brass stock with grooves cut

Next, we need to make a jig to drill a hole for the handle.  Since the hammer head is 2.5" long, I took some scrap 8/4 stock and cut it to 2.5" wide. 

Stock to make the drilling jig

Next, I marked a line across and down one side, using a combination square.

Mark a line for dirlling the holes

On the side, I made a mark half way along the line.  I will drill a 7/8" hole and insert the hammer head into it to hold it while I drill downward to make the hole for the handle.  Since one side of my hammer head is domed, I don't want to drill exactly half way I want the hole closer to the flat face of the head.  If I put the handle exactly in the center, it will look like the flat face side is longer because of the dome on the other side.  So my mark on the top of the wood is not in the middle, but just a bit to one side.

 In the next pictures, I'm drilling the 7/8" hole with a Forstner bit, using my drill press.

Drill the 7/8" hole The jig with the 7/8" hole drilled

Next, I use a 3/8" bit and drill downward to create the locating hole for the handle hole.  You could use a 1/2" hole but the 3/8" seems to work well and leaves more of the brass in the head for weight.

Drill the jig hole for the handle

Next, put the hammer head into the jig and drill the hole for the handle.  I wasn't paying attention here and I put the head in backwards so I drilled the hole closer to the domed side.  I plugged the hole with a 3/8" dowel and re-drilled the correct way.  These things always seem to happen when you're taking pictures.

Put the brass in the jig

The brass in the jig

Drilling the hole for the handle

Here's the head with the hole for the handle

On the next page, we will proceed with making the handle.

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