Testing the Crap Out of Tools

Posted on 11 October 2017


Raney handed me four pairs of dividers he’d made with a simple set of instructions: “Ruin these.”

So for a month I went at those dividers during my regular work at the bench, over-extending their legs, wrenching the hinge and being “unkind” to the tips.

I ruined a couple of the dividers right good. And the two surviving pairs had traits that passed into our Improved Pattern Dividers.

With our holdfasts, however, I wasn’t able to ruin them. I beat on them with a sledge and quickly became worried I was going to crack my 6”-thick benchtop before our Iron Holdfast gave out. I knew from long experience that ductile iron was going to work just fine (see this blog entry for an explanation).

For the last several months I’ve been testing our forthcoming lump hammer. What you see above is still a prototype – the final handle will be a bit different. But the prototype has taken (and given) a good whupping.

So last week I loaned it to a crew that is helping me demolish the interior of my shop and rebuild a masonry wall. They showed no mercy. They used it to beat mortar, concrete, metal, tile, plaster and who knows what else.


The hammer’s faces survived just fine (so we got the hardness correct). And, most importantly, the crew gave me the stink eye when I took the hammer back today.

— Christopher Schwarz


P.S. We’re still finishing up work on the hammer, so I cannot promise a timeline or retail price. We’re shooting for the end of the year and less than $100. But no promises.

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26 comments

  • Michael Keller: October 11, 2017

    I saw this peeking out in one of your instagram posts, super excited. The shape of the hammer head is great!

  • Christopher Schwarz: October 11, 2017

    The head is hardened steel and weighs 1,000 grams (2-1/2 lbs.). The handle will be hickory and octagon in section. (Sorry curly maple is too fragile for this tool.)

  • John Cashman: October 11, 2017

    Please make the handle octagonal. And curly maple.

  • Andrew: October 11, 2017

    What’s the head made of? When I first saw the picture, it looked like stone to me (and still does a little!). In case your followers don’t recall, you did a nice article on “In Praise of the Engineer’s Hammer” (https://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/chris-schwarz-blog/in-praise-of-the-engineers-hammer-aka-a-lump-hammer) a while back, and since then I’ve used a little 3lb mini sledge at my work bench for setting my holdfasts, but it looks awfully… “big box”.

    I would love to get something that shows a little love for and specificity to the craft.

    Assuming it’s not stone (haha).

  • Goerge : October 11, 2017

    Much looking forward to this one!!

  • david savage: October 11, 2017

    My mentor Alan Peters shocked me when it came to assembling a large dovetailed carcase . My carcase. He took this “lump hammer” a builders tool, and beat the stuff out of the dovetails to get the surfaces down and the glue out of the joint. This looks like a worthy successor to the builders hammer he used.

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