Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Little Thwacker Hammer!

Adam puts his new die filer to use in today’s One Day Build of a small thwacker hammer! Starting with a beautiful piece of koa wood for handle and brass for the head, Adam works around the shop using his table saw, lathe, and mill, all producing wonderful shop sounds. But this is also a build that doesn’t require heavy machinery, and could be done with hand tools. Let’s watch this lovely little thwacker come together!

Comments (16)

16 thoughts on “Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Little Thwacker Hammer!

  1. The activator spray embrittles CA glue (and it’s quite brittle to begin with) – I’m surprised to see Adam use it so liberally in an application where impact and flexural strength are important.

  2. My question is why is that part of the handle so thin? Is there a reason for that? Maybe I missed the explanation.

  3. From the very start, I thought, “Isn’t that neck on the handle a little thin for the size and weight of the head he’s making?” But I don’t know the properties of this wood – in fact, I have no woodworking experience at all – so I expected Adam knew the tensile strength and flexibility well enough to make that judgement.

    In the end, we both learned better this day. 😉

  4. I’m a professional jeweler and jewelry making instructor who at least semi-regulary hangs hammer heads, and I saw that coming. The cyanoacrylate coating is a bad idea too. The wood will lose moisture and shrink, which will eventually cause the head to come loose. The way to fix that is to soak the whole assembly in oil (some folks use antifreeze) so the wood swells and the head re-tightens. The super glue, especially kicked like that, will prevent wood from soaking up the oil, which makes it impossible to repair a loose head. A hard finish like that is also rough on the hands. That said, just in terms of aesthetics, it’s an absolutely beautiful hammer.

  5. When you have a very thin handle near the head it creates a bit of snappiness or spring action. It’s good for hammers that you use for operations that require lots of quick taps in succession, like with a jeweler’s chasing hammer.

  6. Thin CA glue is an excellent wood finish which will wick into and stabilize soft fibers handily and humidity is both fairly constant and fairly high in the SF bay area (I can’t find a single stick of anything in my shop below 11-15%) so concerns about it shrinking its way loose are not all that concerning at all. If someone were manufacturing hammers for sale all around the world then some different choices would be advisable but that is not what’s happening here.

  7. That’s fair. I live in the desert. It’ll happen eventually, even out there, but it will take a very very long time. Certainly longer than Adam has to worry about.

  8. Other reasons to choose a CA finish on decorative pieces include:

    * It will lay down perfectly smooth without any fancy spray equipment–the only thing you really need is some polyethylene food service gloves (and a respirator as the fumes are quite searing).

    * It will happily bond even if your water-based stain isn’t completely dry. I think we can safely assume that the stain applied in the course of this video’s production would have been highly problematic for any other kind of finish.

    * It can act as its own high-build sanding sealer, filling open grain in minutes rather than hours.

    * On a similar note, mistakes sand out very quickly. If you goof with CA, you’re back up and running in seconds. If you get a drip in your polyurethane, you’re waiting hours before you can even attempt to fix it.

    * It can be polished to a glassy-smooth finish in seconds, even if only a very thin layer has been applied. This can often be preferable to something like an epoxy finish which will always level out much thicker and give you something of a plastic-y look no matter what you do. If your wood has any kind of iridescence or “flame” to it, CA will not take it away the way an epoxy might. Zebrawood in particular looks much better with CA than epoxy or any kind of oil finish.

    * In cases where damage occurs and the wood is dinged up, it does not delaminate and peel up in ways that require a complete strip and refinish. More often than not you can simply sand it out a bit and re-coat.

    * If you’re carving out of something incredibly spongy like tupelo, it will wick in a millimeter or two below the surface and make it feel about as solid as soft maple as well as render the piece much less prone to damage through casual handling.

    It is not at all suitable for floors or table tops as it scuffs very easily, but it’s extremely useful on pens, fishing lures, carved ducks, and picture frames, and it is extensively used in spot repairs of guitar finishes where a re-spray is either too expensive or too risky. Nothing can impart perfect dimensional stability to wood, but it comes as close as anything.

  9. I’m not much of a woodworker, my expertise is in metal, stone, and plastics/polymers, but I’m not opposed to CA as a finish for things aside from tool handles. My wife is a fine woodworker/cabinet maker and recommended the finish to me once for a handle I was hanging, and I learned from experience that the hardish smooth surface sticks to skin (especially if the skin is a little clammy or sweaty) and causes all kinds of blisters. For this and the previous reason stated, I’m a die hard oil-only-for-tool-handles guy. I can’t stand any kind of lacquer, poly, or varnish either. Some cheaper hammers come with finishes like that and I have to sand it off. And I love a beautiful tool, handle included, but not at the expense of functionality.

    I’ve been making fishing lures since I was in the Scouts and CA makes a fantastic treatment before painting (or even if you don’t paint).

  10. ADAM

    Your way of finding the centre is way too much work

    Touch off the work piece on one side and zero the DRO

    Then move to the other side of the workpiece and touch off

    then push the 1/2 button on the DRO and then the axis

    This halfs the reading which is exactly the centre

  11. In summation: Fully cured CA is not “hard on the hands.” Some people have overly sensitive skin and if you’re making something for one of them then you should care about it.

    The user of this particular hammer will have their hands covered in metal filings and cutting fluid so the texture of the handle is likely of little to no concern. It’s not a jewelry tool. It’s not being marketed to jewelers. The fact that it’s ill-suited to tasks jewelers face is completely irrelevant mansplainy silliness.

  12. In summation, it actually is. If you use any hammer that has a hard handle finish for any longer than a few thwacks it absolutely will give anyone without extensive calluses, blisters and even then depending on use. I use hammers nearly every day for multiple hours. I forge, I chase, I angle raise, I stamp, I rivet, and many more processes that require the extensive use of many different types of hammer in a number of different ways. Do you not think jeweler’s hands and spaces involve metal filings or cutting fluid? How do you think jewelry is made, by whispering sweet nothings to the metal? Do you not think that jeweler’s are also machinists?

    I never once even implied that the issue was that the tool was ill suited for jewelry purposes. This actually would be a lovely die striking hammer or nice light utility hammer. All I said was that a CA finish and a hammer handle is hard on the hands. This is true regardless of whether you are striking a jewelry tool, or hitting a nail, or playing a percussion instrument. If that doesn’t bother someone, that’s fine, but it’s still useful information for people who have little experience with hammer making or use.

    I thought we were having an interesting conversation about differing experiences with tools and materials. I deferred to other’s expertise more than once. I never once attacked anyone the way you seem to be attacking me and I’m frankly baffled. I apologize that I have offended or hurt you, as seems to be the case. It was not my intent and I regret it if so. That said, I have not made assumptions about anyone in this thread the way you have done with me, and I would ask you to please not.

  13. and here i was readying myself to point out that the glue is not what’s holding the head on the hammer. (you never know, people assume the strangest stuff about glue.) then i started playing the video and wondered if it was just between my OCD and background in bowyery that would’ve demanded hunting a growth ring in the wood blank before roughing out, to ensure fibres go longitudinal and there aren’t any earlywood points of failure across the handle.

    and then it turned out we were both right!

  14. So, um, does anyone know what that little bit of music plays at 16:42 is?

    Asking for a friend… (ok fine, it totally for my own curiosity).

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