Credit: dreamaker

Hammers 101

The Basics of Banging Things

Lets start out by talking about the basic hammer. Something to pound in a nail is what usually comes to mind. Most will find, after reading this article, that there's a lot more to know about this primitive tool. 

One of the biggest reasons to get the perfect hammer for the job would be the extremities on the end of your hands. We call them thumbs but if you hit one with the wrong hammer you will have a little pancake on a stump to show all your friends.

So, to start out with, you'll need to know what you're banging on, or in, and just how much hammer you'll need for the job. To figure this out you must take into consideration not only what you're banging in but what you're banging it into.

Let's assume your working with a 2" X 4" (5cm x 10cm) piece of wood made of soft spruce. You have an 8 penny nail (translates to 3" common) and you need to nail it to another piece of the same type and size. You should be able to get the nail driven completely in with about four or five swings. If it takes more the hammer is too small; if it goes in two swings, then your hammer is too heavy or you're a brute.

The best rule of thumb would be just enough hammer to get the job done without wasting too much energy. You want the hammer to do the work, not your arm.  The above example would  be in good shape with a twenty-four or twenty-eight ounce hammer.

It also matters what your working on because some hammers are made specifically to avoid marking the surface of the wood as with a finish hammer. Some hammers such as framing hammers will have a cross-hatch face to show when you've buried the nail into the wood. Using the framing hammer on a fine piece of furniture can quickly make a mess of your project.

Take the time to read on and get a bit of insight into the varieties of hammers that are out there and you'll get a better result from all of your home improvement projects.

Drywall Hammers are a Necessity for this Trade

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Types of Hammers

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

Hammers are often chosen by trade. A roofer will use a straight claw roofing hammer and this is tradition. If a roofer slips and begins falling down a pitched roof, he can slam the claw end of his trusty hammer into the roof and stop his decent and possible demise in this fashion.

A brick mason will have a brick hammer with a stylized side opposite the head to strike a score in a brick and using this method can cut bricks to size with a simple blow to the right spot. This eliminates the need for a wet saw in many instances and reduces overall labor costs. Another instance of the right tool for the job saving a substantial amount of money.

A finish carpenter will choose a nice smooth twenty ounce finish hammer to carefully work their magic, turning wood from every kind of tree into family heirlooms.

Even smaller hammers are available to the upholstery trade. Tack hammers are used to secure fabric to most furniture. These are the ones your mother had in the draw when you where a child. Not big enough to do most jobs but always missing when it was needed for some reason.

Then you can find even giant sledge hammers and malls that are used for driving in stakes and splitting firewood . These are the big boys and no one wants to be the one holding the stake for this job. It takes a good eye and a steady swing to bring a ten pound sledge down square enough to hit the mark. Good heavy gloves are always recommended and can save a broken hand in some cases.

Once you have a good idea what you'll mostly be doing with your new hammer you'll be able to look in the right place to fill your needs. Home improvement tools are available through Amazon on-line at costs that rival any DIY brick and mortar store and you can get it in a couple of days right at your door.

Mill Faced Framing Hammer

This is the Big Boy to Build your House With

Estwing E3-22SM Framing Hammer Metal Handle
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The one that every framing carpenter.

Framing Hammers

Sometimes you Need a Big Head

Framing hammers come in smooth and cross-hatched face. They usually weigh at least 28 ounces and some can be as big as 40 ounces. This usually depends on the size of the arm that's swinging them and is always a matter of personal preference.

The only sure way to know what size framing hammer you'll enjoy using is to try out several weights until you get the one that is going to do the most work with the least amount of effort for your arm.

If you are going to be doing rough framing, that is the stuff that isn't going to be seen once the job is complete, then you may like a checkered face on your framing hammer to let you know quickly when the nail has been driven home. It also makes it easier to see how many nails you've put in each board. This can help to keep the framing job consistent.

If you are just using heavy nails maybe in some flooring that will be seen, you'll need a smooth-faced hammer to keep from marring the finish product. Again the weight will always depend on what you're nailing into. Some hardwoods will need drilling to avoid splitting the wood and when this is done a much lighter hammer will be needed.

Quality Matters

Estwing has Long Been Considered the Best Hammer Money can Buy

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Finish Hammers

For When you Need to be a Little More Subtle

Finish hammers are exactly what they sound like. They are for doing finish work. Fine woodworking such as moldings and furniture making. They take finesse to use and normally have a super smooth face that's slightly rounded to hit only the nail head and not the wood. 

A good finish carpenter may own many hammers of different weights and sizes but will always have their favorite. This will be the one that's done the least amount of damage to their work over time.

This hammer should also be the right one to do the job and it's even more important in this type of work because the product you're working with is extremely expensive. One missed swing and your buying a new piece of wood. The right hammer on the other hand can give you years of service and never cost you another cent.

Leather Handle Can Add Control to Your Finish Work

Smooth Matters

Estwing E20S 20-ounce Straight Claw Leather Handle Hammer
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Masonry Hammers

For Making Little Ones Out of Big Ones

Masonry hammers take a beating. A cheap one will offer you service for very little time before breaking or chipping itself. A mason will spend as much as they need to for the best they can get.

Masonry hammers come in different weights and sizes and they're chosen according to the product they'll be used on. If you'll be using them to lay bricks then you'll have about twenty ounces of hammer, some block hammers on the other hand will weigh up to five pounds. It all depends on how much force you need to cut the product your using.

Masonry hammers as with most are normally made from hardened steel. Proper eye protection should always be used. Any type of hammer can ricochet the nail or send a chip of masonry into an eye causing permanent damage.

The claw side of a masonry hammer will be a chisel of sorts that's used to cut bricks or blocks squarely with a good sharp blow. Masons become quite proficient at sizing their product with a hammer.

The sharp chisel edge is used to score the block or brick around the entire circumference and then a good sharp blow breaks it on the score. To get good at this it takes a bit of practice. You may wreck a few bricks in the process. It helps to overhang the part your cutting off on a solid surface for the last blow.

Masonry Hammer

This is the Twenty Four Ounce Model

Roofing Hammers

Just About Obsolete but this can Save your Life

Roofing hammers as I stated earlier will always have a straight claw for emergency's. Sliding down a roof getting closer and closer to the edge will make you very glad you chose that straight claw. I don't know how many roofer's saved their own lives by burying the claw into the roof on the way down. Even if it's only one guy it was worth having.

Most roofers are well into the era of the nail-gun now. A pneumatic powered tool that installs a roofing nail simply by pulling a trigger. This gun has revolutionized the industry by cutting the labor to shingle a roof by tenfold. A good roofer can complete an entire house in days when weeks are required by hammering the shingles on.

If you are making a small repair sometimes a nail-gun and all the setup that's required isn't practical. For that you'll get a nice smooth-faced roofing hammer that will weigh about 28 ounces and have a pretty good shank on it to give the leverage needed to drive a roofing nail in one or two swings.

The idea with roofing hammers was always tailored towards the speed it can drive the nails. This type of job was very repetitive and being able to strike once and move on was the goal. Again you don't want too heavy a hammer for this job because you probably value your thumbs.

Jack Hammers

When All Else Fails, Bring out the Big Boy

Jack hammers are used to break up concrete and pavement. They're used in construction for tamping the ground before paving with a large plate mounted on the end. Busting out old walls and pools is another job the jack hammer will tackle. 

Most hammers of this type work on air or pneumatics as its called. A compressor fills the hammer with air and a piston moves in and out to give the hammer the smashing power it needs to get the job done. Using one of these will shake the apples off the tree so use caution not to overdo it and take frequent breaks when jack hammering anything.

Electric jack hammers are also available for smaller jobs and rotary hammers. The latter combine a jack-hammer action with a drilling action. Rotary hammers are used to drill into concrete and other masonry products. 

The Mechanics Favorite

For Knocking out that Old Bolt

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A good ball peen hammer will always be the mechanics best friend. Usually small and dense with a blunt flat face on one side and a blunt rounded head on the other. The ball peen hammer is a very handy tool when doing mechanical work

Estwing Rock Pic

The Prospector's Best Friend

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This is what you'll need to go find that stray vien. Leftover from the gold rush waiting for you!