Types of Hammers

By: Fix-It Club  | 
A common claw hammer. 
When someone says they're bringing in the hammer, they're talking about something with a lot of power behind it. See more pictures of hand tools.

Most home toolboxes should have a hammer or two for pounding fasteners into wood. But before you start spending money, it's important that you take the time to familiarize yourself with the many types of hammers available.


What Is a Hammer?

A hammer is a simple tool designed to manually drive nails, brads, and other fasteners into softer materials, such as wood or drywall. A hammer has a head and a handle, or shaft. The components of the head depend on the type and use of the hammer, but most have a face that strikes the fastener behind the bell and neck, which holds the handle.

The opposite end of the head may have a forked nail-puller (called a claw hammer) or a peen (small face for driving pins or tacks). Most construction and household hammers are claw hammers with heads weighing 7, 10, 13, 16, or 20 ounces.


Types of Hammers

Hammers don't enjoy as much variety as screwdrivers, but there are still a variety of hammer types designed to suit very specific jobs. These durable tools do indeed come in a variety of sizes, and are made out of all sorts of materials, depending on the job.

From the standard claw hammer to more specialized brick hammer, there really is a lot of variety in this space. Below, we'll take a brief look at the most common hammer types available today.


Claw Hammer

Claw hammers are as common as tools come. Named after the two-pronged claw dominating one side of the hammer head, claw hammers (also known as framing hammers), are just as good at driving nails into wood as it is at pulling nails loose.

Most are made of forged steel, and double as pry bars for pulling out nails and breaking down wooden crates and boxes.


Ball Peen Hammer

Often called a machinist's hammer, ball peen hammers have two distinct hammer heads, both designed for striking. The first is a traditional flat face, while the other is rounded.

The ball peen hammer is used to peen metal, which is when a metalworker repeatedly strikes a section of welded metal to improve the strength of the joint. You can also use a ball peen hammer to round off the edges of metal surfaces [source: Abasco Tools].


Cross Peen Hammer

A cross peen hammer is another construction site staple, except this one features a "blade" instead of a rounded head.

The horizontal blade, or cross peen, can be sharp or rounded, and is used in all sorts of practical applications including woodworking, masonry, and metalworking.


Tack Hammer

Tack hammers are for jobs that require delicacy and precision. Often called a Swiss style mini hammer, the tack hammer features a small, flat head and a narrow pointed end.

These small tools are most often used in the fields of cabinetry and upholstery, which use small nails and tacks, and require much less force.


Sledge Hammer

A sledge hammer is hard to hide. They are easily the largest and heaviest of the entire hammer family. Designed to maximize the amount of force, sledge hammers feature a heavy double-sided steel head that's attached to a handle that can get as long as 3 feet in length.


Club Hammer

Club hammers are essentially just smaller sledge hammers. Most of them are made up of wooden handles and heavy, double-sided steel hammer heads designed to destroy objects or drive in large stakes or cold chisels. They are much easier to handle than their larger brothers, but are better suited for smaller scale projects.


Dead Blow Hammer

if you've ever spent any time around an automotive garage then you've likely encountered dead blow hammers, which is really just a type of rubber mallet [source: Hearst Autos Gear Team].

These rubber mallets are predominantly used to install hubcaps, complete body work, and dislodge hard-to-release parts.


Drywall Hammer

You've likely never encountered a drywall hammer, unless of course you've spent a lot of time installing and tearing down drywall.

These specialized tools include a specialized hammer head for nails, and a hatchet-like face for making rough cuts to pieces of drywall.

Brick Hammer

Brick hammers, often called stonemason's hammers, feature a two-sided head with a traditional flat face on one side and a chisel on the other.

These precision masonry tools are used shape stone and cut brick without the need for a stand alone chisel. Geologists also use a brick hammer to gather rock and mineral samples.

How to Safely Use a Hammer

To safely use a claw hammer, select the weight appropriate to the fastener to be struck. A 7-, 10-, or 13-ounce hammer is adequate for tacks, brads, and small finish nails; 16- and 20-ounce hammers are used for framing and roofing with 8-d (eight penny) nails or larger [source: Center for Protection of Worker's Rights].

Firmly grasp the lower half of the handle, slowly swing the head face, and touch the fastener head squarely to determine trajectory. Make sure your hand will not be struck by the hammer head or handle. Then swing the hammer with more force to drive the head into the wood. Continue striking the fastener head squarely to drive it into the material.

How to Maintain a Hammer

No maintenance is required for hammers. The head of a wood-handled hammer can be replaced; replacement handles and installation wedges are available at larger hardware stores.

Tools Related to the Hammer

Other useful tools for attaching fasteners include pneumatic nailers, staple guns, and screwdrivers.

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