Yes, we are here!

In times like these our hobbies become lifesavers. At GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE and FARM COLLECTOR, we have been tracking down the most interesting and rare vintage farm machines and collections for more than 80 years combined! That includes researching and sourcing the best books on collectibles available anywhere. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-866-624-9388 or by email. Stay safe!

Home-Grown Trip Hammer

For a farmer in the 1930s, necessity was the mother of invention, and a trip hammer was built from scrap parts from behind a blacksmith shop.

| April 2018

  • Morris Smith’s trip hammer.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • Morris Smith, owner and builder of the trip hammer.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The working components: the hammer and anvil.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The hammer is made up of iron pieces riveted and bolted together. It slides up and down in a piece of reinforced channel iron.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The anvil is a short section of railroad track.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The trip hammer is powered by an electric motor from a gas pump, which is sealed to prevent sparks.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The hammer swings on arms fabricated from scrap.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • A section of a truck’s crankshaft and a connecting rod provide the reciprocating action that moves the hammer.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • When the foot pedal is released, a spring releases the tension on the idler pulley and allows the belt to slip.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The clutch is an idler pulley that tightens the flat belt.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The trip hammer was constructed with gas welds that remain sound after more than 75 years.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The trip hammer is bolted to a concrete block that was buried in the ground.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • A rod from the idler pulley is connected to an adjustable foot pedal. Morris’ son, Dierre, with his father’s trip hammer.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The trip hammer is now owned and exhibited by the Antique Power Buffs.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson
  • The engine generates 1/6 hp at 1,725 rpm.
    Photo by Glenn Thompson

There are few people more resourceful than a farmer with a problem – especially if his farm is a long way from town, his bank account is a bit on the skimpy side and the country is in the middle of the Great Depression.

That man can coax a worn-out engine back to life, climb to the top of a windmill and persuade old gears to turn again, help deliver a calf that’s reluctant to face the world, and anything else that is required to sweat out a living. “You do what you have to do to get by!”

Morris Smith, a farmer near the small town of Maxdale in western Bell County, Texas, was that kind of person. In the late 1930s, he had a need for a tool to help him sharpen plowshares (also known as “sweeps”). For help, he turned to his good friend Charlie Holt, who ran a blacksmith shop in Killeen, Texas. The two of them put together a trip hammer using scrap parts from the pile behind the shop.

Designed for power and precision

The trip hammer dates to ancient times in China and Europe. It is a machine sometimes found in a blacksmith shop. A heavy weight is raised with a lever and then the mechanism is “tripped” and the weight allowed to fall onto an anvil. This action is repeated over and over. The trip hammer can strike with considerably more power and precision than a handheld hammer.

After a plowshare is heated red-hot in a forge to make it malleable, it is taken to the trip hammer and a portion of the worn edge is hammered thin. When the metal cools, the plowshare is returned to the forge and the process repeated. After the entire length of the plowshare is hammered thin, a grinding wheel is used to even out and sharpen the edge. The plowshare might also be reheated in the forge and then plunged into a bucket of water or waste oil to harden the steel.

Morris had a knack for fixing things. As is often the case, less talented neighbors and relatives soon found out about that and turned up on his doorstep with things that needed to be repaired. The trip hammer was made to help Morris with his work. It was run off a line shaft powered by an electric engine, along with a post drill and a grinding wheel. Morris’ shop was in a tin building, so the sound of the trip hammer resonated throughout the building, causing it to vibrate.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.

Facebook Pinterest YouTube


click me