Monday, June 29, 2015

Dog's head hammer

There is a style of hammer typically associated with metal smithing, more often blacksmithing and within that, working with blades of one kind or another. Regionally it's often associated with Scandinavia and Japan. Known variously as a dog's head, cutler's and sawmaker's hammers, they all exhibit a weight forward design, usually having only one striking face. As a historically trained blacksmith I have encountered and used them but had for the most part forgotten about them until recent conversations jarred my fractured memory. 

In the forges of my youth we used mainly straight or ball peens as well as larger sledges. When I lived in Japan I saw some used in the shops I visited but again the majority of hammers were straight, ball and sledge. A recent visit to James Austin's forge in Oakland got my head wrapping back around iron, coupled with a move to East Bay it was kind of a mental homecoming. 

To that, I've been dusting off some tools and memories and thought I might post about an old dog's head I layed hands on. It came from Michigan, north of where I grew up, and was found in a log house built in the 1880s. By style, location and time of construction of house its associated with my educated guess is the hammer pre-dates the house. It's very clearly hand made and hafted with a hand shaved handle with wedges we would expect from a smithy. Based on Scandinavian settlement patterns in Michigan and the time period we know the hammer was there, it makes sense to have found it.
It could use some help, cleaning up anyway but in spite of looking rough can be used as is. There are no clear brand markings but there are what appear to be letters, "XhB" or maybe "XRB" on one side of the head. 

This type of hammer could very likely have been used to make and maintain crosscut saws of the type introduced into the Michigan logging industry in the 1870's and later and I'd say that's the likely history of this one, especially considering it was found in a log house. 

It's future will be as part of my forge tooling. Someone put a lot of time and effort into making it and clearly valued it enough to mark it so it would find its way back to them if lost. The least I can do is put it back to work. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bianchi Sport SS reinvented

The Bianchi Sport I worked over a few years back(similar to the Eco Pista pictured above) turned out to be a great bike. It saw a lot of Nor Cal and even made it into a Blackburn video. While not one of the legendary Bianchi marks, it really is a great riding bike and it is my Bianchi regardless. Alas it suffered a setback when I took an off road shortcut and trashed the wheels beyond repair during the filming of that same Blackburn video. 

The replacement wheels got it back on the road but even with the help of pro mechanics, I never got it dialed in and working well again. I was lucky enough to have a loner bike through Blackburn and then get a couple of other nice late model bikes leading me to mothball the Bianchi. 

As noted, this Bianchi Sport wasn't a high end machine even new but it does have some nice frame tubing that's supposed to be better than the fancy all Italian manufactured bikes of the same era. So, it's both a good candidate for a radical upgrade and far from "ruining" a rare vintage bike. In part this is about realizing ideas I've had for it from the start. It's also an experiment to see how far I can take an old ten speed short of cutting and welding the frame. Turns out you can do a lot and it doesn't have to cost a fortune. 

Since these photos were taken its been through a couple evolutions including an upgrade to a modern stem. That will require an upgrade to different shifters and I finally found a celeste saddle for it. 

Specialized Sequoia

This one is more of a case study for discussion rather than a project post. I needed a more suitable commuter than my CAAD8 or Daily. This Specialized Sequoia is about one frame size smaller than I usually ride, and stock, it wasn't something I wanted to ride but it had promise. That's the point of this case study. It needed a lot of part swapping and some repairs but turned out well.

The first image is my complete(almost) Sequoia, the second is of a stock bike from the Specialized website. As sold, the Sequoia had a clunky adjustable stem, a heavy shock absorber seatpost and a funky comfort saddle. It also had an OK gruppo and a light, rigid frame with a nice carbon fork. In short, it didn't look like much at first but, by not ignoring what it could be, I was able to build a nice bike. It's also not too far off from the Sequoia Pro that sold for about double the price of the Sport model. Even got the bar tape looking decent this time! 

...of course now that it's built the way I want, works well and looks decent, much like my CAAD8, I'm left questioning whether to risk it locked in a rack.
 With the addition of a Tioga style saddle I think it's ready to roll for now. least until I remember where I put those Dura Ace brakes.