I picked up a couple old ball peen hammers that need a little clean up. I want to use some of my ball peen hammers for working metal which is why they’re getting this treatment. This hammer is in good shape. The handle is straight, tight, and not cracked. So, I won’t be removing the head from the handle. Cleaning up the head would be easier without the handle but can still be accomplished with it. The hammer I’ll be cleaning up is an unbranded 8oz head.
To work sheet metal or thin plate with a hammer a smooth face is beneficial. A rough face will texture the surface with each blow leaving you a problem to deal with later. Depending on what you plan to do with the hammer, you may want to round the surface. A rounded face is useful when pounding metal as is puts pressure over a smaller area and allows you to land blows that won’t have a sharp edge marking up the metal. The radius of the face depends on the use of the hammer. If you’re pounding into a depression the face needs to have a radius smaller than the radius of the depression. I made a template out of cardboard for my chosen radius and then headed to my small belt sander. I started with a 100 grit belt griding away metal in circles from the outside in. After each pass, I checked my progress with the template and ground as needed.
The 100 grit paper leaves scratches in the surface and requires a finer belt. So, I replaced the belt with a 400 grit one and went over the face again with a light touch. The 100 grit belt cuts much faster than the 400 grit belt but you still have to be careful with the finer grit as it can put flat spots into the face.
Speaking of flat spots, I also cleaned up the ball on the opposite side of the hammer. It was fairly pitted so I used the sander again with the 400 grit paper and a light pressure. Even using the part of the belt not over the platen I still ended up with numerous flat spots. This is ok though.
The next step is to start hand sanding. I started at 120 grit paper and used it until all of the flat spots were gone. It’s important to do a good job with this first grit as it will save time later.
Eventually, I worked my way up to 600 grit paper. I used it to smooth both the face and ball of the hammer.
At this point the surfaces would probably be ok for use. But, to put the final finish on my hammer I pulled out my 6″ buffer. It’s a Harbor Freight branded buffer but it is impossible to beat for the value it provides. One can be picked up cheaply on sale and buffers are much quicker than hand polishing. I used a green stick of compound and polished up the face and ball.
The last thing I did was give the handle a light sanding and a coat of boiled linseed oil. Some hammers have a lacquer finish and I prefer to remove them as I find an oiled finish to provide better grip.
If you have other ball peen hammers you get the joy of getting to go through the process again and again! In the middle is a 32 oz surrounded by a 24, 12, and a couple 8 oz hammers. I might have a few more not pictured… But hey you can find hammers all over and do your part to restore them! You can’t have too many, right?