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Hammers and Striking Tools

Buying Guide : Hammers & Striking Tools

There are few tools more commonly known and used than the hammer. More than just simple devices used to pound in and remove nails, they can help you do everything from hanging pictures to installing drywall to setting and splitting bricks. If you take on a wide range of home improvement projects, having a variety of hammers and striking tools at your disposal is bound to come in handy. Framing hammers, shingling hammers, sledgehammers and rubber mallets are all well suited to a number of different tasks.

Consider the following questions to learn more about what types of hammers will be most beneficial to you:
        • What different hammers are available?
        • What can those hammers be used for?
        • How heavy should a hammer be?
        • What is the proper technique for hammering?
        • What special features would you like your hammer to have?

Hammer Design, Types and Usage

While they may look similar, not all hammers are the same. Head weights can range from a couple of ounces to a few pounds, handles can be made from a number of different materials, and the faces may be smooth or textured. Some hammers, such as basic nail hammers, can be used for a wide range of jobs while others, such as drywall hammers, are designed for more specific tasks. Knowing how to properly wield whatever hammer you choose to use will not only enhance your efficiency, it will increase safety as well.
Design and Characteristics: Standard nailing handles are available in two different configurations. Hammers with a curved claw provide leverage for removing nails from wood, a particularly useful feature when working with hard woods. Hammers with a straight or ripping claw can be used to pry apart two joined pieces. For most people, pulling nails out is a more common activity than prying and ripping, making a curved-claw hammer a better choice. They can also be used in tighter spaces.
Weight, which refers to how much the head of the hammer weighs, is another important consideration. While nailing hammers can range from around 10-ounces to more than 20-ounces, a 16-ounce hammer will be sufficient for most tasks. Handles are often made from wood, steel or synthetic materials, such as fiberglass or reinforced graphite. The head of a hammer can be constructed of titanium or steel. Titanium heads are more expensive, but they are lighter, easier and faster to swing and are less likely to transmit shock.
        • Smooth faces are less likely to damage work surfaces and are ideal for finishing hammers
        • Textured surfaces prevent nails from bending, allowing for more efficient hammering
        • Heavy hammers can cause fatigue more quickly as well as increase the chances of injury
        • Look for hammers with a cushioned grip that helps absorb shocks
        • Wood handles are economical and do a good job of absorbing shocks
        • Metal handles are tough and durable for long-lasting use
        • Fiberglass handles offer the toughness of metal with better shock absorption
Hammer Types: Some hammers feature designs that make their uses apparent while others hardly resemble what most people picture when they think of a hammer. It is important to seek out the right tool for the task at hand for two major reasons. The first is that using the correct hammer will ensure more efficient, higher quality work. The second is that working with a hammer designed for a specific job increases safety.
Consult the chart below to learn more about the different types of hammers available and what they're used for.


Description and Uses

Points to Consider

Ball Peen • Features a flat face for use with chisels
  and punches and a round face for
  bending, shaping and creating decorative
• Designed for use on metal
• Head weight can range from 2 oz to
  48 oz
• A 20 oz. head works well for most tasks
• Head is constructed from hardened   steel
Bricklayer/Mason • Features a flat, square striking face with   beveled edges and a sharp, hardened   blade with a cutting edge
• Used for setting and splitting bricks,   masonry tile and concrete blocks
• Handle may be wood, steel or         fiberglass
• Look for a handle with rubber grips for   improved control
• Can be used for chipping mortar from      bricks
Drywall • Features a hammer face on one side of   the head and a small hatchet on the other
• Designed for scoring drywall and properly   recessing nails
• Handle may be made of steel or wood
• Head is crowned and milled to ensure   proper driving of nails
• Angled head is designed for use in   corners
• Head creates a dimple which can be   filled in with joint compound to conceal   nail
Framing • Similar in design and function to nailing      hammers
• Tends to have a heavier head and longer   handles
• Designed for general framing work
• Features a milled face to help drive   nails
Hand Drilling/Mash • Somewhat heavy and has a short handle
• Used in conjunction with chisels, punches,   star drills and hardened nails
• Can be used to strike heavy blows in      tight spaces
• Head features both crowned and      beveled striking faces
Nailing • Most commonly used hammer
• Features a slightly crowned face with   beveled edges
• Designed for driving unhardened common   and finishing nails using the center of the   face
• May have a curved or straight claw
• Claws should not be used on metal   surfaces
• Faces may be smooth or textured
• Available with various weight and   handle lengths
Rubber Mallet • Designed for removing dents from metal   surfaces
• Also used for assembling various wood or   metal components
• Head may be black or white rubber
• Black rubber can sometimes leave a   mark on the work surface
• Available in various head weights and   handle lengths
Shingling • Used to apply roofing materials, such as   asphalt or fiberglass shingles
• One side features a milled hammer face   while the other has a replaceable cutting   blade
• Handle may be made of steel or wood
• Features an adjustable measuring   gauge to ensure shingles are   accurately spaced
Shingling Hatchet • Used for applying wood and composition   shingles
• Features a milled hammer face and a   cutting edge for chopping
• Features an adjustable measuring   gauge to ensure shingles are   accurately spaced
Sledgehammer • Large, heavy hammer
• Designed for breaking up concrete and   driving stakes
• Lightweight sledgehammers are   available for smaller jobs
• Large hammers are ideal for demolition   applications
Tack • Small, lightweight hammer
• Used for holding and driving tiny   fasteners, such as tacks and brads
• Ideal for upholstery or cabinet work
• Usually features a magnetic face that   makes it easier to pick up fasteners
• May feature a small claw on one end
Trim • Smaller hammers designed for more   delicate tasks
• Can be used for hanging pictures, nailing   trim and more
• Handle may be wood or steel

Usage: Regardless of what type of hammer you are using or what kind of project you are working on, using your tools properly will ensure better work, less fatigue and greater safety. Always use safety glasses or goggles when hammering and make sure those around you do as well. Never use a hammer to strike the head of another hammer. Not only can the heads chip off or break, but dangerous debris may fly back towards you. If you are using the hammer on a chisel, punch, wedge or other tool, make sure the face of the hammer has a diameter approximately 3/8-inch larger than the tool you are striking. When hammering, try to keep your wrist straight and use your entire arm.
        • Strike nail surfaces squarely with the center of the hammer's head
        • Hold nails close to the head to steady them and reduce the chances of missing
        • Immediately replace a hammer if it is cracked, dented or chipped
        • Replace handles as soon as they begin to wobble or show any signs of damage


Convertible Face: Hammers with a convertible face allow you to switch back and forth between smooth and textured depending upon which surface better suits the job you are working on.
Soft-Faced Hammer: If you are assembling something that requires pegs or a similar fastener to be pounded in place, look for a soft-faced hammer. These tools won't mar the finish of your work piece.
Antivibration: Using hammers on a daily basis can put you at risk for repetitive stress injuries to your hands, arms and wrists. If you find yourself using a hammer frequently, look for one that's designed to minimize vibration. Some hammers accomplish this by incorporating a tuning fork into the handle. The tuning fork absorbs most of the shock and stress that would otherwise be absorbed by your hands and arms.
Nail-Removing Notch: This handy feature is located on the side of a hammer's head and makes it easy to pull nails back out without marring the surface or when working in tight spaces.
Ergonomic Handle: Handles with ergonomic design are contoured to fit your hand more comfortably, reducing fatigue and tension, minimizing shock and helping you achieve greater accuracy.