The most powerful tools in the studio are the power hammers, the hydraulic forging press and the fly press. Each has a distinctly different way of delivering force which is very helpfull in different circumstances.
I recall Abraham Maslow’s, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_instrument I became acutely aware the the differences when I really became interested in die making.
The fly press is a precision instrument which can make detail very well and is easily hand controlled because it is a slow operation. It’s down side compared to the two other big tools is that it is less powerful.
The hydraulic forging press produces a squeeze without any bounce, but, because it is slow it can’t coin as well as the power hammer.
The power hammer is best for coining but because it has some bounce it is not as easy to control as the other two.
When the only big tool I had was the power hammer every die was designed to work with it. After I built the forging press I could immediately see I needed to make some changes and move to a progressive die strategy where some preforming mass was done with the press so the coining finish work would be easier on the power hammer. It has taken a couple of years to get this nearly perfected and it has been very helpful in extending design options.
In almost every project I try to get as far as I can with the power tools before I have to resort to hammer on anvil. It is in some ways the most intimate and pleasurable phase - the finishing - but it is also the part which is hardest on my old frame.
I’ve often said, “My work determine my tools and my tools determine my work.” In this circular process my work has evolved to use a lot of dies. I have perhaps a couple of hundred which I have made to do very specific processes. I’ve learned a lot how to make these dies as I climbed the learning curve. I’m thinking that I should try to pass on some things I discovered which helped make the process better and easier. Last September, I posted an introduction to the subject. http://persimmonforge.blogspot.com/2012/09/introduction-to-blacksmithing-dies.html Now, I’m planning to move on from there with some further details and illustrations. Probably, it will be somewhat jumbled as I don’t have enough time to get it better organized now. I’ll try to explarin how each of my power tools related to my die making proceedures. We’ll see how it works out.