People who have worked with roofing slate know the value of a good slater’s hammer for punching, breaking and trimming brittle slates. After using a traditional slater’s hammer borrowed from the local tinsmith, I set out to find one of my own. I watched the classified ads, attended flea markets and tag sales, and shopped trade and builder’s suppliers. Used hammers didn’t appear, but I was pleased to find a high-quality, brand-new hammer with a leather grip. Pleased, that is, until I learned that they cost from $60 to $80.
An alternative tool was already in my kit, and it took me just 15 minutes at the grinder to modify it.
Estwing geologist’s rock picks, with 14-oz. or 20-oz. heads and a choice of nylon or leather grips, cost less than $20. I modified mine by rounding the hammer face and pick sections to a more slender, smooth profile, as shown in the drawing below. It’s especially important to remove the square corners on the hammerhead — they are liable to break off while hammering nails. I also sharpened the leading edge of the solid steel shank. The modified rock pick makes it a simple matter to punch a smooth hole in a slate, and the sharpened shank has trimmed hundreds of slates without need for further touch-up. I have never missed the small side claws on the traditional hammerhead, and I believe that the 14-oz. modified Estwing has a better feel than the originals.
Bob Sager, Bondville, VT