One of the oldest tools humans have ever used, with evidence having been found of stone hammers for striking wood, bone and other stones dating back over 2 1/2 million years!
Luckily, they have advanced and improved a fair amount since then and are now made from many different materials including Titanium. The best one for the job will depend on the material you want to strike with it, and with what force.
As well as being made with several materials there are also dozens of different types available for different trades, materials and uses. Sledge, club, claw, drywall, ball pein and cross pein are to name just a few! And even they have several variations on their own!
Just take the claw hammer for example, do you want a straight or curved claw? Fibreglass, steel, weight forward or one piece design!? And once you've decided on those you can try and choose the weight. Confused? Me too!!
Don't panic. Although they've come along way over the years and many now offer benefits like 'antivibe' and 'shock reducing handles', many of the options you can choose from (like whether you want a hickory, nylon or leather handle for example) are simply personal preferences. One piece construction are good for heavy/framing work because with no joint between the head and handle there's very little chance of that area malfunctioning, there's no joint between two materials that can work loose.
I've got a straight claw on my framer and a curved claw on my finish nailer. Both work fine when levering nails and timber etc., but the straight claw is a little better for levering joists/roofing timbers during heavy framing work.
Whichever ones you do buy, just like with any tool it will at first take a little while to get used to. Keep your fingers and thumbs out the way until you're fully acquainted!
How to remove awkward nails
There are a few different ways how to remove difficult nails, and several other nail pulling tools available to help. Firstly though make sure the nail definately needs pulling out, and you can't just punch it through the timber.
When trying to pull out a nail without damaging the workpiece put a piece of scrap timber in between the two to lever against and protect the timber from being marked or dented.
Some small nails where the head has snapped off, meaning your hammer won't grip can be removed by tightening the chuck of a drill around them and whilst spinning, slowly pull the nail out like a drill bit or screw.
'Normal' Claw Hammer for Woodwork
Estwing are hugely popular and well balanced options when it comes to choosing a hammer for carpentry work. The first one I bought during my Carpentry apprenticeship was a one piece 16oz curved claw Estwing (I went for a nylon handle, btw!) It was perfect for me when I started out but after a couple of years my arms had gotten a little bigger and I felt I could do with something more substantial. I bought a 21oz Estwing Weight Forward design next. This did take some getting used to! Its a completely different feel to a 'normal' claw because of the way the weight is focused at the front. However, once comfortable with it hitting home six inch nails became much easier, and loads quicker! I used it for a while but later swapped it with someone who really wanted it!
I've now got an 'Estwing E3/22S Long Handle with Straight Nylon Grip'. The longer handle means you're able to get a much more powerful swing and so this is my preferred choice for the large nails and leverage work involved with framing and roofing.
Because of its large size, I also wanted another that would be better suited for hammering the smaller pins and oval nails used in finish and trim carpentry work. I bought a 'Douglas Tool 18oz Finish Hammer' from rutlands.co.uk and I liked it so much I bought another one for my brother, who's a carpenter too!
If I was just buying one that would be good for first and second fix carpentry work i'd probably go with a 20oz Estwing, with a curved claw. I might even go for a leather handle if I was feeling adventurous! They are such well balanced, made and long lasting tools you can't really go wrong.
Used for heavy framing/carcassing work such as roofing and timber framed housing they are purpose designed for driving large nails into thick timber. The heads are typically constructed of either steel or titanium and have milled faces that grip the nail head better and are less prone to slipping.
The handles are generally constructed from wood (hickory), fibreglass, steel or titanium. A one piece construction is the longest lasting because it is the type least likely to break or split but has less shock absorbtion. Quite often they will have a rubber grip that provides better control and will absorb a little more shock.
Used for hitting bolsters, and light demolition work.
Specifically designed for nailing drywall/plasterboard. Less common these days because screws are now the preferred fixing for drywall and the introduction of autofeed screwdrivers has made fixing sheets of plasterboard much better, quicker and screws are much less likely to 'pop'.
If you are nailing plasterboard in place then a drywall hammer is far more efficient for the job and will save you time and energy. They are lighter in weight because the nails are small and when fixing plasterboard to ceilings a heavy hammer would be extremely laborious.
Drywall hammers have a milled face that grips the head of the ring shank nails much better than a smooth face. Opposite the head instead of a claw is an 'axe' style cutting blade for rough cutting out holes in drywall for cables etc. This often has a slot or groove useful for pulling out nails that have either missed the stud or bent over too.
Available in materials such as hardwood, rubber and fibreglass mallets are used by carpenters for striking chisels and other tools that a hammer would damage.
They are also particularly useful for assembling joinery work, especially tight fitting mortise and tenons. The most common work I use my mallet for is making, assembling and fitting staircases. When striking timber with a mallet it's almost always necessary to place a scrap piece of timber on the workpiece before striking it to prevent damaging it.
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