What’s the Difference Between Hammers?

July 15, 2013 at 8:22 pm
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To many, a hammer is just a hammer. However, choosing the correct hammer for the job that you’re tackling can not only make life considerably easier, but will contribute to an excellent finish to your work. The variety of hammers available to use can be baffling, but with our guide to the most commonly used, you should be able to pick the most suitable hammer for your project.

Once you’ve established the type of hammer that you need, make sure that you pick a head weight that you feel comfortable wielding and a handle that is comfortable in your hand. Whilst the general rule is that a heavier head is more efficient because you can deliver more force to the head of the nail (or other object) that you’re striking, if you can barely lift the hammer to swing it, you’ll compromise accuracy and damage the surface(s) around the nail as well as tire yourself out struggling with a hammer which is too heavy for you.

You can read more about how to swing a hammer here.

Claw hammer – this hammer is used in the main for driving nails into objects, and the claw used for removing them. As such, a claw hammer is traditionally used for woodworking. The head of a claw hammer is typically not up to the task of heavy hammering during metalwork. The curved edge of the claw is designed to allow the hammer head to pivot, so extracting nails as the trapped nail is pulled straight up and out of the object.

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Club hammer – also known as a lump hammer, these hammers are typically much heavier than other hammers so that although they are designed to be used by one hand, their weight makes them suitable for light demolition work. Chisels, such as bolster or cold chisels are used with a club hammer because the extra weight of the head makes it easier to drive the chisel into the object being cut.

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Sledgehammer – much bigger than other hammers, a full size sledgehammer will require two hands to wield, with typical head weights between 4.5kg and 9kg. Sledgehammers are usually used for heavyweight jobs, such as driving posts or stakes into the ground. Unlike most hammers which concentrate their force into a relatively small area., the sledgehammer is designed to distribute its force over a much greater area.

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Framing hammer – sometimes mistaken for a picture framer’s tool, a framing hammer is much the same as a claw hammer, except that it’s usually longer, heavier and the claw isn’t quite as curved. These hammers are designed for wooden framed houses, the heavier head, longer handle and sometimes ridged faces helping to deliver more force and less slippage, thus driving the nail in quicker. The trade off is of course that to swing a longer heavier hammer, you will need greater arm and wrist strength to wield it effectively.

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Cross pein hammer – similar in application to the ball pein hammer, a cross pein hammer allows the metalworker to strike a wedge shape into soft, or softened metals.

Small, light cross pein hammers are commonly used for panel pins on architrave or similar.

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Ball pein hammer – used in metalwork (both hot and cold), the ball peen hammer is designed for striking and shaping metal, such as closing the end of rivets or adding texture to metal as it’s worked. Ball pein hammers are available in a variety of different head weights and materials, from heat treated high carbon steel, through to rawhide or plastic, which are intended to prevent damage to the surface being struck.

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Brick hammer – sometimes known as a mason’s hammer, this is a tool used most commonly for stone work and by some bricklayers. The flat square end can be used in the same way as you might use an ordinary hammer for hammering nails, but can also be used with care to tap and adjust bricks whilst laying. The chisel end is designed to cut bricks and blocks using light taps all the way around the brick or block, followed by a sharp strike to split around the ‘fault’ line. The chisel end is then further used to remove the rough edges so that the brick can be laid.

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Drywall hammer – specifically designed for the installation of sheets of plasterboard, this hammer has several features to make that a little easier. The head of the hammer is often convex and serrated to ensure a good grip on the nail, so that it only needs to be struck once, preventing damage to the fragile plasterboard. The ‘axe’ end of the hammer is used to cut openings where they are needed and don’t require an exact finish.

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Rubber mallet – when a soft, non-marking blow is required, a rubber mallet is the best choice. The 'soft' impact is therefore ideal for vehicular metalworking, or moving things that mustn't be marked (door and window frames, slabs etc) into place.

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Wooden mallet – wooden mallets are commonly seen in camping for knocking in wooden pegs, but in a DIY context they're more suited to woodwork and are used to knock pieces of wood together where a metal hammer wood mark or simply split the wood. Knocking dowels into oak beams is a traditional use for a wooden mallet.

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