The humble hammer has existed in one form or another since the Paleolithic Stone Age. Just about every modern day homeowner, craftsman and contractor owns one or more of these versatile striking tools. As simple as they are, there are several different styles to choose from. Here’s a primer on this timeless toolbox tenant.
The Claw Hammer
Named after its signature curved claw, this is the basic household hammer, used for driving and pulling common and finishing nails. The curved claw serves a dual purpose by making it easier to seat the claw under a nail head, and providing added leverage to help pry the nail out. Most household tool sets include a claw hammer. Head weights range from 8 ounces to 24 ounces. The heavier the head, the more punch a hammer packs, but the added weight can also increase user fatigue and reduce control. For general household use, we recommend a 12 or 16 ounce hammer with a hardwood or fiberglass handle.
The Ripping Hammer
A ripping hammer looks nearly identical to a claw hammer. The only major design difference is the claw – it is much flatter on a ripping hammer. Brutally effective at prying apart or “ripping” out boards, lath, and sheet materials; not quite as adept at nail pulling. Head weights range from 16 to 28 ounces. Heavier ripping hammers often feature a crosshatched striking face that aids in driving nails without glancing off nail heads. These are generally referred to as “framing nailers”. Handles are typically longer for more leverage and often feature ergonomic designs for more comfort. We recommend a ripping hammer in the 20 ounce range for the typical user.
A tack hammer is a pretty versatile household tool that’s easy to handle and control. It features a small square striking face that will drive tacks as well as small finishing and common nails. Generally used for upholstery, molding, trim and cabinet work, they’ll work on almost anything in a pinch. One nifty feature is the slotted tack holder opposite the striking face – load a tack into the slot, then set the tack into the wood with one blow. Helps reduce bruised fingers. Head weights range from 5 to 8 ounces.
Sometimes you need to “persuade” something (or someone?) to move, without leaving any marks. Stubborn objects like furniture panels, frozen window sashes, hubcaps, etc sometimes need a little help to get moving or snap into place. Here’s where a rubber mallet is indispensable. It can apply a lot of force without marring soft surfaces like wood, plastic or sheet metal. Head weights range from 8 to 32 ounces, with 16 ounce being a nice sweet spot.
Ball Pein Hammer
Some spell it “Peen”, so this metalworking hammer has two spellings and two faces. One face is flat and is used for striking cold chisels and punches. The other “pein” face is rounded or ball-shaped, and is used for bending and shaping soft metals and rivets. This is the preferred hammer for mechanics and machinists. Head weights range from 2 to 48 ounces. We recommend a 20 ounce weight for all-around use.