Dressing is not just for Salad
How many forging books do you know of that delve info dressing your hammer?
How many classes are taught without discussing hammer preparation?
The simple answers are; too many.
The is not an article on how to do it. This is a quick introduction into why to do it.
Take a look at the picture attached to this article.....those edges/corners look sharp to me. Hammer meets anvil at the right angle and a chisel mark appears in your anvil. Anvils are generally considered harder to replace.
When i get a chance to talk to folks over the phone, via email or in person, and they are purchasing a hammer, I make sure to show them the differnce between a new forging hammer and a dressed one. There are a few that are predresses but this is not the norm for commercially made forging hammers. Why? Most of these hammers come from over sees and there it would be an insult for a manufacturer to decide what is the correct radius a master blacksmith should want on thier forging hammer. If one radius fits all, then one style of hammer should fit all as well.... and weight...and handle size.
Handle size. girth, finish (lacquer, oil or just wax) are also part of getting your hammer dressed. Some of the same hammers above have oversized handles; both length and girth. Why? Marketing a hammer with a smaller handle, weaker looking, would be bad. What size should it be? Length is a personal preference, but girth is something else. Every time you swing your hammer, what muscles tighten? Fingers? Yup. Part of gripping is encircling the hammer handle, so if it has too much girth your fingers will try to pull at the joints every time your swing. What about shape? Oval or rectangular..ish? If you were to look at your bones in your fingers from one joint to the next (not girth of bones, but lengthwise) are they round or straight? Fairly straight for those of you who dont have bone issues. Should the bones in your fingers rest across the semi-flats of your hammer handle?
You decide as this is only food for thought. There are others out there who have doctorates in this area. There are also a few blacksmiths/knifemakers out there that do discuss dressing your hammer it in there books or on their youtube channel.
The book that we put in most of our beginner kits and recommend highly for a real foundation to build on is Skills of a Blacksmith- Vol. 1 - Fundamentals of Blacksmithing by Mark Aspery
Let me know your thoughts,