GETTING AN EDGE. Beveled edges on hammer faces add durability and safety.

The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” is true more often than not — especially when it comes to buying farrier tools. Still, I have to admit that I’ve seen some fancy tools with fancy prices that weren’t worth much and a few “down and dirty” ones that were surprisingly good.

So just how do you know if you’re getting your money’s worth? I’ve been working with farrier tools for a long time, and there are definitely some things to look for to make sure you’re getting a tool that will last.

Handles And Hammers

A driving hammer is one of the farrier’s most-used tools, so it’s important to get a good one. One of the first things you should look at is the handle. Although some other hardwoods will do, hickory is by far the most popular choice for hammer handles. It has a very close grain, so it’s extremely strong. 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.

A Tight Fit

No hammer is much good if the hammerhead isn’t securely attached in a way that holds permanently without causing so much pressure that it damages the wood and weakens the joint.

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TIGHT FIT. Dual wedges hold this hammer head securely.

The best way I’ve seen to secure the head of a driving hammer is to use two wedges. With the dual-wedge method, a wooden primary wedge is driven into the handle at the hammer eye. This gives right-to-left strength. A secondary steel wedge is then driven in at right angles to the primary wedge. This second wedge gives the head corner-to-corner strength.

The dual wedge method provides excellent strength without displacing too much of the handle wood in the eye.

Another method is to use a steel “bulls-eye” wedge, but I feel this is better suited to heavier hammers with larger eyes than those found on driving hammers, as it tends to displace quite a bit of the wood in the handle.

Checking Out The Head

It’s also important to take a close look at the hammerhead. You’ll get the longest life from one that has a 45-degree bevel around the perimeter of the face.

The bevel helps prevent not only spalling and mushrooming, but also chipping. That means the hammer will last longer and be safer as well.

For a very slight sacrifice in surface area, you get a tremendous increase in durability. This holds true no matter what shape the hammer face is; round, oval, square or rectangular.

For me, face shape is purely subjective — sort of like the feel of a handle: If it feels right, then it is right.

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HICKORY IS BEST. Look for a hammer with a hickory handle.

You Are The Final Judge

That’s one of the reasons that final tool selection always seems to vary from individual to individual. You can have a hammer that seems to perform well, but if it feels wrong, keep looking.

Since we as farriers use our tools so continuously, it’s important that they are made well and feel good in your hands. Find a hammer that passes both tests and you’ve got yourself a winner.