The Basics of Hammers

What is a hammer?

    Are you getting ready to start a project? Let me share with you the basics of using, and purchasing a hammer. The hammer is usually the first thing that we buy when we want to start a project. It is so useful, that it is a must for any home improver. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to use these great tools safely and efficiently. But don't worry, with my 10 years of on the job experience and your willingness to learn, you can use these tools with confidence.

  The hammer is used to: drive nails, pull nails, for demolition, and for applying force to an object. Now, lets look at the hammer and understand its parts.


The Handle: usually wood, hickory is my favorite, because of its hardness and shock absorption. I would suggest that you avoid using metal handle hammers because they have a tendency to send the shock into your elbow. When you use the hammer more and more, you will notice little things like that, so heads up. This is where you hold the hammer with your hand.  I hold it like you would a fly swatter, except my thumb is always in line with the head. This gives me a little more control over the head and precision for driving nails. 

The Claw: Specifically designed for pulling the nails that the hammer is meant to drive. Smaller hammers meant for interior trim work have claws that curve more than larger hammers meant for rough framing. The claw should never be used to chip concrete, or hit anything at all. You can injure yourself by doing this, since the claw will not act as predictably as the head when struck against hard surfaces. The claw is obviously sharper than the head, and I always give room to bounce back when hit. Do not make the mistake of using a hammer in tight spaces or close to your face. You will injure yourself and damage surrounding material.

The Head: The head is the part of the hammer that drives nails, and strikes objects. There are different heads for different uses. So, it is important to understand where each one is appropriate. When using a hammer for  anything where the surface you are driving into or striking is a finished surface, you must use a "smooth" head hammer. This is important because it will not damage the surface as much, when you sink the nail or hit the member. Sinking a nail, is   used to describe hitting a nail so that the head of the nail is buried slightly in the wood.

I use "Waffle-heads" in rough framing because of the added grip the uneven surface of the head gives. This help when you are driving nails, since the head will be less likely to slip off the nail when not hit "true." When you are trying to work fast and efficiently, it is best to use a "waffle-head" or "framing" hammer, where it does not matter if there is some impressions left by the hammer.

When you are starting a project, I suggest you get an inexpensive finish hammer. 16 oz will be plenty of weight and ease of use for a homeowner. Do not buy a very expensive hammer. I have looked at all types of hammers and for me, I only use hammers that are wood and in the $10-$20.oo range. There is not enough of a difference to justify spending the extra $30-$60 to buy a high-end hammer. 

I hope this helps you with your next project.

Stay safe.