Monday, April 22, 2013

What is the Smallest Reasonable Air Hammer / Power Hammer and Suggestions How to Sell Your Work?

What is the Smallest Reasonable Air Hammer and Suggestions How to Sell Your Work?

Hello David,
Thank you for your time in creating these emails and your web site. The information is very helpful.
You talked about power air hammers but can you say something as to the size of the different hammers. The head weight varies and I am not sure what weight is appropriate for my work. I know the heaver the better in general but one has to consider the weight of the machine. That is an issue for me as I move a lot. My real question is how light can you go while still being able to work on larger pieces of stock.
Also maybe something on selling. A big obstacle for most all blacksmiths I have come across is how to sell the work and how to price it.
Thank you

 Hi Fernando
You have good suggestions and questions.
Air Hammer
This is a bit tricky and it sounds like you have done a bit of research. The reason heavier overall and heavier head weight is better is that the over all weight prevents the machine from bouncing around in your shop. This means more energy transmitted to the bar therefore more efficiency. Same idea as a heavier anvil is more efficient. As the head weight increases this is the equivalent of a bigger hammer so you can impart more energy to the bar as well.

But your question how small / light can you reasonably go. A few years back I built a 50 lb hammer that weighed total about 400 lbs. Once this was well bolted down to the floor it was surprisingly efficient. It was light enough that I could move it on a two wheeled hand cart. (although possible it was awkward better to move with two people)

This design was an H frame much like the KA75 see I made some modifications but essentially the same idea. The KA-75 is a single strike hammer. That is every step on the foot peddle produces one strike. A light tap = a light tap on the work, a heavy step = heavy blow on the work. This machine has a great deal of control and best for punch work or single blow tools.

I do a lot of continuous draw outs and this tapping the peddle every time I needed a strike drove me crazy so I switched it over to a regular cyclic hammer. There are a couple other issues with the KA. Most important is that you don't have full range of motion on dies since one side is blocked with the H frame. Other than that this little hammer works very well and is reasonably portable.

Realistically you can work a 1 inch square bar with a 50 lb hammer. The air hammers I build are 75 lbs and will comfortably work 1.5 inch square. I have worked 2 inch but it was slow going. Sizing is going to depend on how big a piece of steel you expect to work.

This is a hard question. I think I have an article up on the website about pricing and what really goes into the cost of making a piece. That is a bit different from the actual selling and that does warrant a full article in itself. Some suggestions.

  • For smaller items, craft shows. This helps for leads on larger custom work. Always have your portfolio with you and the best pictures you can take. (Some people are using tablets for this now with some success)
  • Wholesale trade shows for items that you can sell and make fast and in quantity.
  • Website Online. I would say this is number one marketing strategy in this modern world.
  • If not a full website look at Etsy some people have had very good luck with it. I don't use it myself but I have heard good comments.
  • Consignment at higher end art galleries and art stores.
  • Your own retail location (means you have to stop traveling for a while) also probably means you have to hire someone to run the store as you make the items.
  • Art studio tours. This one depends on location and local studio tour availability. For some people very profitable.
  • Advertising in high end home decor magazines. (This one can be expensive with no returns, possible but be cautious)
That is most of what comes to mind off the top of my head. Each smith has a slightly different path as we each specialize in different products.

I hope this helps.

David Robertson