Hammerschlagen is a great fun games involving nails and hammers, so what could be better. Here’s the “real” rules, but the most important rule involves having your “favorite beverage” in your left hand while you’re playing Hammschlagen [I like iced Sweet Tea]. Got to stay cool after all.
Hammerschlagen is a German game reportedly dating from 1940,] in which several contestants try to hammer a nail into a stump.
Hammerschlagen (“Hammer-Striking”) is a variation of Nailspielen (“Nail Game” or “Playing With Nails”). Both versions are essentially the same, Nailspielen is played with an axe, Hammerschlagen is played with a hammer.
The game is typically played with a Cross-peen hammer or blacksmith’s hammer and a large cross-section of a soft hardwood. Cottonwood is suitably soft for this game. The hammer must have a wedge-shaped (but not sharp) end on it and should be at least 2.5 pounds.
The log is set up waist high with the flat sides facing the floor and ceiling. A bright common nail (12/16d) is driven about a half inch into the wood in front of each player. Each player’s turn consists of setting the wedge-end of the hammer on the log next to their nail and taking a single swing at it. The swing must be done in a smooth up and down motion. Male players must use one hand. Female players may use both hands.
Frequently, a player will bend their nail in such a way as to make driving it further nearly impossible. In this case, the player may use their turn to make a single-motion swing at the nail from the side in an attempt to straighten the nail. You are not required to stand in the same place for the entire game. Often it is necessary to switch sides of the log to get a better angle on your nail.
Play continues to the right and lasts until one player has driven the head of their nail to (or below) the surface of the wood.
In a bar setting, each player pays a nominal amount to get into the game (~$2) and the winner is rewarded with a small prize or a shot of a German spirit, often Apfelkorn. Conversely, the last player to drive his nail into the wood might be forced to buy the next round of drinks.
Nailspielen is a northern German game. Traditionally, the sharp end of an axe was held against the vertical edge of the slab, and swung at stag nails. In some German taverns this game sits in a corner and losers are bound to buy the next round.
Nailspielen made its way to the United States in the mid-twentieth century. A commercial version was established and named “Hammer-Schlagen”.
Another derivation of Hammerschlagen in the United States is called Stump (game). Stump has several large deviations from the rules of Hammerschlagen, primarily that the goal is not to drive your nail in first, but to be the last to have their nail drive into the stump.
See ya at Cornfest and bring your best Hammerschagen game.