Introduction: Giant Wood Hammer
It's 8 feet tall, 90lbs, made from reclaimed southern yellow pine, and it's my baby. I start this last year, what a different world that was, by laminating up a bunch of old pine wall studs into something that was vaguely the shape of a hammer. This giant mass of wood was then carved down freehand using an angle grinder and Arbortech cutting disks until it looked unambiguously like a hammer. I made this as a promotional piece for Carolina Shoe (a work boot company), because leather boots --> leather hammer, so I modified some of the branding on the hammer slightly. The handle actually ended being wrapped in craft paper and epoxy to mimic the look of the original leather stacked Estwing hammer. Full build video is linked up above for the full experience, but I've also broken it down step by step below. Enjoy!
Step 1: Notable Tools & Materials
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► Halcyon Clear varnish - https://bit.ly/3fHX8D1
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Step 2: Preparing the Template and Materials
I'm a man of perfection, to a fault, so I kick things off by meticulously photographing the original hammer, scaling it up to 8' tall and then printing it out and taping the giant hammer. Why did I pick 8' long for the scale? Well, the studs that I had were just over 8' long, so I figured that anything less would just be a waste! My back disagrees though.
After carefully running a metal detector over every stud and removing any stray nails and screws, I send them all through my planer to take off the rough sawn surface from both faces.
It's at this point that, after listening to the planer scream for hours, it clicks in my head just how much work is ahead. I'm at the point where I could reconsider and make this thing smaller, but I'm a man of my word, and that word is "superfluous".
Step 3: First Glue-up
I keep the edges rough for now, since I'll clean that up later, and slather glue on each of the studs and glue 3 panels together that are roughly 14" wide. The studs are a bit warped still, so I work from one end and get that clamped up securely with everything in line and then add a clamp every foot or so, bending each of the studs into alignment before clamping.
There are a few smaller panels too that I glue up which will be the head of the hammer. I let all of these glue-ups dry overnight (since they're under a bit of tension) and then remove the clamps the next day. The right way to do these glue-ups is to clean the warps out of the pieces of wood with a jointer before gluing them together, but I don't own a jointer and also with the law of averages, after all these things are glued together, the finished piece shouldn't warp.
Step 4: Planing and Cutting the Panels to Size
The panels are quite large, especially the ones for the handle, so I start cleaning them up by hand with my power plane. This knocks down the high spots quite quickly so that I have more time to eat avocado toast later (boom! I hit my millennial joke quota really early in the post this time).
I clean up the panels the rest of the way using the thickness planer to bring both faces down smooth. I also bring them down to thickness so that the 3 panels combined will be equal to the thickness of the scaled up hammer to save me time later (yes, to eat more avocado toast).
The paper template that I made earlier was cut out and used to trace the shape of the hammer on both the head and the handle pieces. I cut each of these out on the bandsaw, the hammer heads were pretty straight forward, but the 8' long handles were a bit of a challenge... superfluous.
Step 5: 2nd Glue-up and Loading the Hammer
I made the connection between the handle and the head so that it would interlock. Each of the outer layers have the handle stop when it reaches the head and then the center layer of the handle extends all the way through to the top of the head. This will create a super strong joint once glued together, because you don't make an 8' tall hammer if you're not going to smash things! This was glued up with all the clamps I had in my shop, plus one, and then set to dry for the night.
Carving the hammer to size started at an event in another state, so I had to figure out how to load this beast into my truck. The finished hammer ended up weighting 90lbs, and I didn't weight it at this point, but my guess is that it was maybe twice that since I couldn't easily lift it up by myself.
Step 6: Starting the Power Carving
After a little road trip up to New York, with many near accidents on the highway due to people trying to drive while also taking a photo of my giant hammer (no joke), I can finally start throwing some chips! I start with the Arbortech Industrial Wood Carver to carve away the bulk of the material. You can see some marks on the edge of the hammer here, I actually measured out the hammer in 1' increments and scaled up the dimension from the original hammer and marked it there. I can then connect the dots to give myself a guideline of where I need to carve to when shaping the hammer.
Most of the material removal was at the top half of the handle where it tapers down at the top of the metal grip, all the way up to the head of the hammer. I tried to clear out this material as fast as I could, not to make time for avocado toast, but so that I could leave most of the wood shavings behind, rather than clean them out of my own shop.
With the bulk of the material removed, I pull out the Turbo Plane and finish carving what is left to get down to the line. This carves on the face rather than on the edge and leaves behind a smoother and flatter surface. The technique that works best for carving is to set the profile in 2 directions and then start shaping from there. So I cut the main profile out on the bandsaw before laminating and then this process here brings the profile to shape in the other direction.
Step 7: Making a Mess
So I called them wood chips before, but here I started calling it mulch just to make myself feel better. It is nice though the longer I carve, the thicker the carpet gets beneath my feet.
I also got to start carving the curved profile, starting with the head of the hammer, but I had a few distractions that slowed me down.
Step 8: Making a Giant Nail
So this event that I was at was a bunch of different groups of makers joining together to hang out for the weekend and share their craft. This night I ventured over to the dark and scary blacksmithing tent and forced them to teach me how to forge. And by "teach me how to forge" I mean that they helped me to make a giant nail. And by "help me" I mean that they showed me how to do it while I got in the way and swung a hammer a few times.
For reference, this is the results of our labor, a normal sized hand forged nail up top and our giant hand forged nail below that is banned in 53 of the 50 United States.
Step 9: Smashing Pumpkins
Before packing up and heading back home with my hammer (minus the mulch), there were a few pumpkins who I had heard call me fat over the course of the weekend, so I had to deal with them.
Step 10: Power Carving the Final Profile
Back in the shop, I get to start really shaping this thing. It's been about 9 months since I kicked this project off and I figured this was as good a time as any to finish it while I was on lock down. I wasn't locked down because of Covid though, I just locked my keys in the house and was stuck in the shop with nothing to survive on but wood chips and wood glue to drink... I keep a mark at the high points, which are the centers of the handle, and connect the dots between the 2 with a curve using the Turbo Plane. I left a chunk of square material on one side to help clamp it until I was almost done shaping.
I also round over the rest of the head of the hammer, this was a littler trickier because I had to play with the changing direction of the grain where the joint connects the pieces here. The connection between the handle and the head is also carved down to shape by leaving the center high and tapering the edges down.
Step 11: Sanding
The carving is then clean up with days and days and days of sanding. I start with the flat spots on the claw and face of the hammer.
The handle of the hammer is cleaned up using a similar technique, except with a little more hip action. I sand through the grits after this with a random orbit sander until everything is smooth at 320 grit, everything except the handle because that is going to get covered up later.
Step 12: Cutting the Claw
I've left this part to as late as I possibly could, both because once I cut out the claw the grain is going to make it a lot weaker, but also because I knew it would be a pain to cut the claw out and clear out the material. I start the cut with a pull saw and then switch over to the oscillating saw when I get into the tighter spots.
Step 13: Adding the Branding and Pre-finish
With the shaping and sanding complete, I get to add on the branding now, which is honestly probably the most proud part of this build for me. I make some slight modifications from 20oz --> 90lbs and "Safety Glasses" --> "Safety Shoes" since I'm making this hammer for Carolina Shoe. To get this stamp, I just print out a mirror imagine of the graphic that I want and use a wood burner with a flat pattern bit in it and the heat transfers the toner from the paper to the wood.
For the plate that is mounted to the bottom of the handle I make some slight modifications again changing Estwing --> Carolina and "Safety Glasses" --> "Safety Boots" with my CNC. I screw the plate in place temporarily.
I decided that the color of the hammer was too yellow, but I also didn't want to stain or paint it and lose too much of the grain pattern, so I wiped the "metal" parts down with an aging accelerant that creates a grey weathered surface on the hammer when it dries.
Step 14: Wrapping the Handle
Getting the right look on the handle was a challenge all on it's own. I'm making the piece for Carolina Shoe, a boot company, so the original plan was to wrap the handle in strips of scrap leather from their factory to mimic the stacked leather handle of the original Estwing, but once I did the math and realized how many cows that would take, I started working on an alternative plan. After a lot of trials and errors (mostly errors) with faux leather, suede, etc, I figured out that the best material was actually craft paper. The recycled paper has the right visual texture and I can stain it and get the right color when I epoxy it in place. The trick with installing it though is that the handle is curved, so I have to custom cut each strip to fit.
I figured out that the best method was to cut a bunch of extra wide strips and then tape them temporarily in place around the hammer where it laid flat. Then I was able to scribe a line on the strip making it 2" wide and then cut that line through that layer and the layer below it. This gave me a perfect 2" wide strip below it and the joints between the 2 strips lines up perfectly because I cut them at the same time. I work my way up the handle of the hammer and use the same method cutting each strip. Once I got too far up the handle to use the end place as a scribing surface, I installed a band clamp around the handle and used that as my reference straight edge.
Step 15: Preparing the Handle Wrap
Each of the strips gets pulled off and numbered so that I can keep them organized when I install them later. I then randomly pull each of the strips and stain them one of 3 different shades of wood stain and also keep a few strips raw.
The epoxy apply is then assembled to prepare to attach the strips in place. I'm legally too old to have a TikTok account, but I can still Tok! I used table top epoxy because it's very thick and will bond well with the wood while dripping the least.
Step 16: Epoxy Paper Mache
I mix up the epoxy and slather each of the strips in it and then squeegee them off with my fingers leaving a thin layer of epoxy behind. Each of the strips is then wrapped around the handle and massaged into place and pushed tight against the other strips.
The blue tape at the top of the handle protects that part from epoxy since I always make a mess. With all of the strips in place I can keep coming back every 30 minutes to check on it for any pieces that are bubbling up and flatten them down. Over time as the epoxy cures, everything flattens down and sticks to the wood.
After the epoxy cures fully, I remove the blue tape and apply wood sealer to all of the raw wood on the hammer. The wood sealer gives it a nice slight amber color and prepares it for varnish later.
Step 17: Epoxy Flood Coat
The sections at the top and bottom of the handle that are usually plastic spacers, I paint to create some white and black strips. With that complete, I can perform the final epoxy pours that build up a thick coat over the entire handle.
I pour one layer of the thick table top epoxy on one side and then smooth it out with the stir stick and come back every 30 minutes to clean up the drips on the bottom side until it is cured enough to stop dripping.
Then I flip over the hammer and sand off the worst of the drips so that the surface is somewhat flat and do the same epoxy pour on the other side so that I have an even coat all the way around. I do the same epoxy baby sitting that I did on the other side and every 30 minutes or so, come back out in the shop to brush the drips smooth until the epoxy has set up firm enough to stay put.
Step 18: Sanding and Finishing the End Cap
After a couple days letting the epoxy, I sand around the handle of the hammer to smooth everything out and make a nice fine layer of dust around my entire shop that looks like I've been eating all the worlds powdered donuts in here.
The end cap was left oversize to allow me to use as a scribe point, but also because I wanted to wait until the epoxy coat was applied to cut it to size. So once the epoxy is sufficiently sanded, I remove the packing tape that was protecting this piece and then trace the profile of the hammer handle and cut the end cap to size on the bandsaw.
With it cut to size, I just sand it down, add a slight round-over to the bottom edge and apply the same weathering/wood sealer treatment that I did to the head of the hammer. The wood weathering solution is applied every heavily in the lettered portion to make that slightly darker than the surface. I glue and screw the end cap in place and then turn a couple of caps that look like the metal rivets and glue them in place too.
Step 19: Varnish and Final Decal
Last step is just to apply the final coats of finish on the entire hammer. I use a water based varnish to protect the wood and epoxy, but it also fills in whatever little scratches are left from sanding the epoxy (up to 600 grit) and makes that shine again.
I figured if I was going to go after all the details, that I had to add on the original decals too. I decided to make some slight modifications to the logo though and had my buddy cut me a custom Carolina Estwing logo sticker so that I could stick it to the hammer.
Regular hammer for scale. I can't even fit the whole thing in frame because of my small shop, maybe I should have made it a little smaller...
Step 20: Smashing Watermelon
"You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs", or as the saying is now known "you can't make an 8' tall giant hammer without smashing a few watermelons".
Step 21: Glamour Shots
Thanks for following along as my mind devolves during this Covid lock-down, and the fun part is that it's not over yet! As always, for the full experience, the YouTube build video is linked below. Now be careful with your fingers and don't smash them with a hammer, especially this hammer.
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First Prize in the
Super-Size Speed Challenge