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Hammers are among the farrier’s most-used tools, so it’s important to get good ones. And one of the first things you should consider is how it fits you.
Start with the wood. Although some other hardwoods will do, hickory is by far the most popular choice for hammer handles, according to Danny Ward of the Danny Ward Horseshoeing School in Martinsville, Va.
“It has a very close grain, so it’s extremely strong,” says Ward. “Hardwoods with a grain that is more porous will work OK for a while, but will simply not have the durability of hickory or other close grain woods.”
Bob Schantz of the Spanish Lake Blacksmith Shop in Foristell, Mo., adds that a farrier who buys a new hammer and doesn’t attempt to shape the handle is just asking for pain in his or her hand and less hammer control while working.
Schantz first uses a belt grinder to grind the handle down to fit his hand. At the same time, the grinding removes the varnish from the handle. The varnish on most new hammer handles causes blisters, he says. He adds that a custom-sanded handle that perfectly fits your hand is much easier to control than one straight from the store. He continues using his belt grinder until the handle is the correct size and shape. This process form-fits the handle to his hand.
“If the hammer handle doesn’t fit comfortably in your hand, you’re going to grip it harder and tighter,” Schantz…