A Beginner's Guide to Buying Hammers
Curved Claw & Framing Hammers
Both types feature a wood, fiberglass or stainless steel handle, smooth or waffled striking face and a claw at the back for removing nails.
- Curved claw models - These hammers typically have short handles and weigh between 16 and 20 ounces. Their smooth faces help keep you from damaging finished work when driving home nails, and the curved claws at the back provide more leverage when prying out old nails.
- Framing models - With heavier weight and longer handles than curved claws, these hammers provide more force per swing. Framing hammers often have waffle faces that are well equipped to control large nails, making them ideal for rough, unfinished projects.
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Ball Peen Hammers
Ball peen hammers have rounded ends opposite of flat-striking faces. These options are built with either steel or wooden handles.
- Perfect option for metal work - These models are built to help you shape and manipulate metal projects. The rounded head is designed to mushroom out rivets to make the fastener smooth and secure.
- Used when chiseling - Ball peen hammers are designed to withstand heavy blows but are still lightweight. This makes them perfect options to use with chisels during metal and woodwork projects.
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Sledge & Demolition Hammers
When you have to deliver a heavy blow, these hammers are built to do all types of heavy-duty jobs.
- Sledge Hammers - When you need to drive home a stake or tear down an entire wall, sledge hammers are what you need. The long handle is typically made of wood or fiberglass and has a head that can weigh between 6 and 12 pounds.
- Demolition Hammers - Demolition models look like small sledge hammers but are built specifically for demolishing stone and light masonry. With a smaller size and weight, they're more manageable and can be used in areas with limited space to swing.
- Dead Blow Hammers - These variations of standard demolition hammers can make long periods of work easier on your arms. They nearly eliminate rebounding and deliver all the force of the swing to the surface.
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These hammers feature a rubber head with a wood or fiberglass handle. The rubber face allows you to provide a gentler touch.
- Ideal for dents - When trying to hammer out a dent, rubber mallets allow you to provide just enough force without causing more damage to the surface of the material.
- Used for finished work - If you need to make a few firm adjustments, these options have a reduced chance at damaging finished surfaces.
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When paired with the right chisel, these hammers connect to your air compressor to deliver plenty of power.
- Provide power for concrete demolition - With ample force provided from a compressor, air hammers allow you to break up large chunks of concrete and stone without the stress of manually breaking them apart.
- Use interchangeable bits - Depending on the material and the desired effect, you can swap out the bits in air hammers to provide the right amount of power accurately and efficiently.
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Once you know which model you need, it’s important to think of different factors before making a final decision. Here are some features to consider when buying a hammer.
- Handle length - Regardless of the type, the handle length plays a key role in your work. The longer the handle, the more force you can put behind each blow. For everyday hammers, a length of about 13 inches will provide the right amount of force. Stubby models allow you to get into tight spaces for more intricate work.
- Weight - The weight of the hammer's head will determine when and how you use it. A 16-20 oz. hammer is great for standard home repairs. Demolition and sledge hammers can reach up to 12 pounds in order to efficiently break up tough materials. Finding a balance between weight and handle length is key when picking the right tool.
- Handle construction - The three most common types of handles are wood, fiberglass and steel. Fiberglass models are a little easier to handle, since they're relatively light. Wood options tend to absorb more vibration, which will help reduce user fatigue. Steel handles, on the other hand, are tough and durable, but they’re only suitable for framing and rip claw hammers due to the added weight.
- Smooth vs textured faces - Smooth-face hammers are best when you're hammering into and towards a material or surface you don't want to rough up. Waffle or diamond faces are better for driving larger nails as they provide a more stable contact with the nail head, but they can create more noticeable indentations on your work. When you’re using these variations, make sure to sand or fill any imperfections before painting.