A few years ago I was handed a scrap of paper with a phone number on it and told to inquire about a power hammer. I am a metalsmith. I teach blacksmithing at the Crucible in Oakland. A power hammer is tool that not all metal smiths have. In fact, they are big, heavy, rare and difficult to move. These reasons make them expensive and cost prohibitive for many metal workers. Nevertheless, those who can afford them find themselves able to work in a bigger scale and scope with better efficiently and usually more fun. A power hammer completes a metal shop.
The man who handed me the the number was a retired volunteer in the art dept where I attended grad school. He was a jack of all trades and had taken a liking to me, I suppose, because of my interests in blacksmithing. He was quite familiar with forging techniques and general blacksmithing culture and always seemed to be excited to talk about it. He was also a collector of antique tools. This was the grapevine where he heard about the hammer.
I called the number a few days later and a nice woman answered. I asked about the power hammer and she referred me to another man whom I finally connected with. Years algo, he had purchased a 100 yr old Little Giant power hammer to have as a retirement project. Before that could happen, the city Gov. of San Bruno had claimed his land through eminent domaine and he was forced to put most of his shop into storage.
Years passed, and sadly he was never able to pursue the endeavor of re-building the hammer. A few weeks before the phone number landed in my hands, he was evicted from his storage area. Given such short notice, his choice was then to scrap the hammer or give it away.
I had every intention to resurrect the tool and use it in my practice, but as these things go, I never found the time. Traditional forging work is scarce and the cost of a re-build outweighed the need for the hammer. Besides, I have access to three other power hammers at the Crucible so I posted the hammer on the CBA forum and passed it along to another smith who had the time and resources to bring it back to life. I had always felt so fortunate to have this hammer fall in my lap that I decided to give it away for free.
They say blacksmithing is a dying art, and they are right. I am glad that I was able to divert this piece of American industrial history from the scrap heap back into the world of creativity.