It’s widely believed among blacksmiths that cold shaping horseshoes is a prescription for a sore elbow. Just don’t tell that to International Horseshoeing Hall Of Famer Jim Keith.
“Perhaps I’m fortunate, but I’ve hammered on something all my life,” says the Tucumcari, N.M., farrier. “Throughout the 57 or so years of hammering for a living I would estimate that over 75% of all horses were shod cold, and that’s considered a no-no because it’s supposed to wreck your body. I have absolutely no problems with my hammering arm.”
Keith believes if you’re having arm problems, your hammering mechanics might be to blame.
“The proper use of your hammer is the key,” Keith says, “not what you’re hitting.”
The founder of Jim Keith Tools suggests using a lighter hammer, a softer grip and letting the tool do the work for you.
“Using a lighter hammer with a longer handle increases the velocity of the hammer head,” he says. “It’s a lot more efficient in the long run than using a big, heavy hammer and it’s a lot less work because it rebounds more.
“The way you grip the hammer will modify the rebound. If you hammer with a death grip, you’re restricting the rebound. It also fatigues and leads to joint and muscle damage.”
The anvil must do its fair share of the work, though.
“Even though I have used farrier pattern anvils, most of the cold shoes were fitted without the benefit of turning cams or holes on a regular blacksmith anvil,” Keith says. “If your anvil knows what to do, then it is not difficult to cold shape a shoe to any desired pattern with a minimum of hammer blows.”
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