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How to Shape Metal With an Air Hammer



Kevin is working on a fireplace sculpture commission, which will have three sections that swirl upward. "It'll look like a little fire tornado," he said. The sculpture will replace the usual gas logs and the regular burner. Caron also recommends trying broken tempered glass in this type of setting as the glass reflects the light.

Kevin needs to adjust a divot in the fire sculpture's 1/8" steel structure. He tried using his detail hammer, which has a small head and a pointed end for getting into tight areas, but the metal was too thick for the hammer to do the job.

But Kevin has a hammer that will.

Some guys call it an air chisel because you can put a chisel point on it for cutting, and some refer to this tool as an air hammer.

For the job at hand, Kevin is using a flat head on it for pounding. It's great for driving out bushings and stuck bolts. Yes, Kevin learned about this tool when he was working on cars - it's from the automotive industry.

He got his air hammer from Snap-on, and Kevin says it hits really, really hard. It's great for reaching down into tight areas, so he can put the sculpture up against the anvil and has plenty of air power coming from his compressor (you'll need 60 gallons or so to have enough volume to run this tool). That allows him to pound that small area back into place more easily.

Kevin shows a close up of the area he needs to pound out. He explains how he is going to position the metal on the anvil and use the hammer to shape the metal.

He's even used this tool to smooth small dents in big sculptures, fitting the tool up inside and holding his dolly on the outside. "It's better than trying to reach up in there with a hammer and swing it," Kevin says.

Kevin uses the air hammer on the metal. Afterward, he says, "It almost got it all." There was one small stubborn area where he needs to come back and hammer it more. Or, he says, "I might break out the big hammer."

He shows the inside of the sculpture, and explains that an outside skin will hide the hammer marks.

It's close enough now, though, that he can tack weld it on the inside and weld it on the outside. Once it's welded, he uses an angle grinder to grind it smooth.

Then he needs to add his side for the inside edge of the curve. He'll then continue to fit it, bend it, shape it, "beat on it a little." "It'll come together," he says, "and look pretty cool when it's done."

The air hammer is a nice tool, Kevin says, something you may want to add to your toolbox. He adds that you can get different length shanks, different diameters and varied ends. You can get a point for punching through; a chisel for removing spot welds, etc. You can even get a pipe splitter, which cuts pipe and sheet metal easily.

Kevin reminds everyone to wear ear protection and safety glasses when using this tool.

But don't miss the end where he tells you what he really thinks ....


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