Are Ball Peen Hammers Good for Blacksmithing?

Using a Ball Peen Hammer as a Blacksmith

ball peen hammer blacksmith

Are ball peen hammers good for blacksmithing?

The short answer is: Yes!

However, there areĀ  a few things to consider when using a ball peen for forging:

  1. Hammer weight.
  2. Hammer face anatomy.
  3. Handle length.

Let’s go through each of these to get a better idea of what’s necessary in a blacksmith’s hammer.

Hammer Weight

In classes at Brown County Forge and in my own work, I use hammers that weigh 2 – 3 pounds.

This is true for most blacksmithing jobs.

The exceptions are fine detail work where a smaller hammer works better and larger jobs where a big one is handy.

Low weight is good for a lot of swinging.

You can imagine swinging an 8-pound sledge hammer a few times.

But when it comes to moving metal on an anvil, you have to be able to control that weight for hundreds of swings. (The overall number of hammer swings depends on the project.)

A hammer that weighs a couple pounds will be easier to use for a longer period.

Ball peen hammers come in a variety of weights.

I use three ball peen hammers when I’m forging:

  • An 8 ounce ball peen for texturing.
  • A ball peen that weighs 24 ounces (1.5 pounds) for working thin flat stock.
  • A 2-pound ball peen to give students more control in knife making class.

All three are useful in their own ways.

Ball Peen Blacksmith Hammer - Brown County Forge

Hammer Face Anatomy

That’s probably not a phrase you come across often.

However, it’s important in blacksmithing to understand the function of a hammer’s face.

The face of a hammer should be:

  • Domed – with the highest point in the middle.
  • Free from hard edges.

Having the high point of the hammer face in the middle helps you hit with the center first.

Hitting on the edge of a hammer’s face will create dents.

Hard edges will also create dents that mark up your metal.

How to Fix Your Hammer’s Face

Fixing the Face of Your Hammer for Forging - Brown County Forge

Whenever I get a new hammer, I take some time to “dress the face.”

This means taking a flat file and/or a flap disk to:

  1. Remove hard edges.
  2. Create the domed shape we want.

You can see in the photo above that there are many sharp edges on that hammer’s face.

Each of those edges and corners can leave a mark on your steel.

My favorite flat file to use is a 10-inch Nicholson Single Cut Bastard File. It removes material well and holds up better than cheaper options.

What about the ball peen vs. cross peen?

Ball peen hammers leave a distinct divot when they hit metal. This is great if you want a pebbled or distressed texture.

However, they don’t move metal the same way as cross peens.

A cross peen hammer is made that way to quickly move metal to either side of the peen.

The best way I can describe it is that it functions the same way an ax or splitting wedge does.

The wedge shape comes down and moves material to each side.

With an ax this means that the log is split in two.

With a cross peen it means that the metal stays intact, but is compressed and pushed out.

Handle Length – The Final Hammer Consideration

Whether it’s a ball peen, cross peen, or mini sledge, you want to consider the length of a hammer’s handle.

The longer it is, the more options you have for gripping:

  • Choking up on a hammer gives you more control.
  • Swinging from the end gives you more power.

It’s as simple as that.

For what I do in the shop, I prefer a hammer with an overall length of 15 – 16 inches.

The hammer I’ve used the most is a 15.5 inch Vaughan Cross Peen that weighs 2.5 pounds. You can see the updated blue version here (mine was black and less flashy, but they work the same).

I purchased that hammer 11 years ago almost to the day.

*Please note that links to products on this page are affiliate links from Amazon.com.

Conclusion: Are Ball Peen Hammers Good for Blacksmithing

Absolutely, as long as you consider weight, the face, and the length.

Want to learn more?

You’re welcome to join an in-person class at Brown County Forge. Details here.

If you’re not within an easy drive, we have online courses for you through DIY Blacksmithing.

How Much Do Anvils Cost in 2022?

How Much Do Anvils Cost in 2022?

Anvils usually go up in value over time. The same anvils I purchased in 2015 and 2016 for $280 a piece, now go for $360.

These anvils, made by NC Tool Company, are high quality, lighter weight anvils that sit at the bottom of the mid-range for anvil price.

Blacksmith Terms - Brown County Forge - Terran Marks

In fact, their low cost and durability were the main factors in my decision to purchase two of them.

I use them weekly in classes at the shop and for forging customer hardware.

Anvil Prices Range from $70 up to $2575

At the low end, you’re going to find cast iron anvils from Harbor Freight and similar companies.

At the top end, you’ll find small anvil manufacturers like Nimba Anvils in Port Townsend, Washington.

Why the big difference in price?

  1. Quality
  2. Size
  3. Production capabilities

Lightweight Harbor Freight anvils are mass-produced with heavy machinery. Nimba Anvils are made one at a time in a small production facility.

Prices come down when manufacturing can be done at-scale.

Should You Buy An Anvil On Facebook?

Short answer: It’s not recommended.

In the current climate, blacksmithing is enjoying an upswing in popularity.

When a thing becomes popular, prices for associated items go up.

As prices go up, more sellers enter the market. Some of these sellers have dubious assets and even more dubious motives.

There are better options than Facebook for purchasing anvils. Directly from a manufacturer or from respected retailers.

To Avoid Overpaying for Anvils Online:

  1. Follow a rule of $7 per pound or less. For a 70-pound anvil, you want to pay under $490. You can absolutely do this.
  2. Adjust price based on the Age and Condition of the anvil.
    1. If it’s old, but severely damaged (missing the tip of the horn, for example), I’m dropping my offer by a few hundred.
    2. Some old anvils are worth the price based on their historic value alone.
  3. Vet the seller as much as possible. Do they know what they’re selling?
  4. Ask an expert. It never hurts to ask someone with more experience.
  5. Consider buying from reputable dealers like Centaur Forge, NC Tool Company, or Blacksmith’s Depot.

An Anvil is an Investment

An investment is an asset that appreciates in value over time.

Anvils do this in a couple ways:

  • The older they are and the better shape they’re in, the more valuable they’ll be.
  • Their value increases the more you use them and the better you get at blacksmithing.

You don’t need to spend more than a few hundred on an anvil.

The anvils I use today each cost $280. They have made thousands of projects to date and generated a full-time income for almost 7 years.

That’s an amazing return on investment.

Conclusion: Anvil Costs Range, But Have a Sweet Spot

Aim to spend at least $350 on your anvil. NC Tool Company’s 70-pound anvil is the one I recommend to students every week.

Directly from them: nctoolco.com

From Centaur Forge: centaurforge.com