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You'd think one hammer would be enough.
However, there are different types of hammers available because carpentry & DIY work doesn't just involve banging in nails, or pulling them out when you need to.
The hammer is one of the oldest tools humans have ever used, with evidence having been found of stone hammers for striking everything from wood, bone and even other stones dating back over 2.5 million years!
Luckily, they have advanced and improved a fair amount since then and are now made from many different materials, from wood to titanium.
The best, specific type of hammer for you will depend on the material you want to strike with it, for how long and with what force.
Some of the different types of hammers available include Sledge Hammer, Club Hammer, Claw Hammer, Drywall Hammers, Ball Pein and Cross Pein Hammers, and even each of them have several variations on their own!
Just take the claw hammer for example, do you want a straight or curved claw with that? Fibreglass, steel, weight forward or one piece design!? And once you've answered that - try and choose the weight.
Confused? Me too!!
Don't panic. There are pro's and con's for each and of course you could spend a fortune on one.
But a lot of the different options (hickory/nylon or leather handle for example) are simply personal preferences and you don't need to spend heaps - I never have.
Whichever hammer 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 well out the way until you're fully acquainted!
In short, Estwing would be the first brand I would recommend to anyone looking to purchase a nice new hammer and they make most of the types you'd need.
For a new carpentry apprentice, a 16oz Estwing straight claw hammer would be perfect for getting started at first, for banging in nails without bending them.
In fact, this is the exact type of hammer I first bought during my Carpentry apprenticeship all those years ago and it was great.
After a couple of years when my arms had gotten a little stronger and I felt I could do with something a bit more substantial, I bought a larger 24oz Estwing hammer also with a straight claw for ripping.
If you will only use a hammer for the occassional DIY project and odd job around the home for which an Estwing could be too expensive, a mid-range Stanley hammer would be more than suitable and used properly, last you a lifetime as well.
The claw hammer is by far the most common and best type of hammer for most carpentry jobs, especially hammering in nails.
The claw hammer generally has a round face for striking a nail squarely, and a V shaped hook or claw on the reverse for pulling at the heads of nails and removing them.
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 straight claw. They are well balanced & good quality hammers that are not too expensive.
Some of the features and benefits of different types of claw hammer to look out for include;
My pick of the best claw hammers for most carpentry work:
Another more specialist version of the claw hammer is a 1st fix framing hammer.
These types of hammers are much better for heavy framing/carcassing work such as joisting, building studwork walls, roofing and timber framed house building and they are purpose designed for driving large 75-150mm nails into thick timber all day long.
The hammers heads are typically constructed of either steel or titanium and have milled faces that grip the nail head better, they 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 does have less shock absorption as a result, with a rubber grip that provides better control and will absorb a little more shock.
If I need to replace my current Estwing framing hammer at any point, I'll be giving a titanium framing hammer a go. They'll never rust, look great, are lighter/easier to swing all day & vibrate less.
Claw hammers are great for a lot of things but limited when work gets a bit more heavy duty.
The best types of hammers for light demolition work such as using a bolster or cold chisel (a metal chisel used for chipping into masonry) and even for knocking holes in brick or block walls is a club hammer.
Club hammers have a heavy 'club' shaped head and short stout handle. They generally weigh around 1.5kgs.
A cheap club hammer with a sturdy wooden handle is fine for most DIY and hobby carpenters, just be really careful not to accidentally hit the handle against anything when you swing it - always the head.
If you are likely to be swinging your club hammer quite often and for any length of time and can afford one, it may be worth spending a bit more and buying a better club hammer with features like an anti-vibe handle that won't stress your wrists so much after prolonged use.
I use a mid-range Stanley anti-vibe club hammer that is well balanced and doesn't kill your wrists or forearms
These types of hammers are specifically designed for nailing sheets of drywall/plasterboard to timber studs and ceiling joists.
They are less common these days because screws are now the preferred fixing for drywall and the introduction of auto-feed screwdrivers has made fixing sheets of plasterboard much quicker, with less likelihood the screw heads will 'pop' off (you can also reduce that risk by gluing the Gyproc to the studs when nailing it on).
If you are nailing a lot of plasterboard in place then a drywall hammer is far more efficient for the job.
They are much lighter in weight because the Gyproc nails are a lot smaller and when fixing plasterboard to ceilings a heavy hammer would be extremely laborious, your shoulders would be on fire after a couple of hours.
My Estwing drywall hammer has 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, good for rough cutting holes in drywall for cables etc. This side also has a slot or groove that is better designed for pulling out drywall nails that have either missed the stud or bent over as well.
Available in materials such as Hardwood, Rubber and Fibreglass, mallets are used by carpenters & woodworking 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 or working with hardwood windows on site.
It helps to place a scrap piece of timber on the work-piece before striking it to prevent damaging it, not always necessary with a mallet.
I use really strong shatter proof chisels that I keep really sharp, which means I can get away with using my hammer with them over a mallet.
If you have cheaper chisels you might be better off buying a wooden mallet to hit them with over your hammer though so they last longer (and don't shatter).
Back when I first started using a hammer I was much better at hitting everything other than the actual nail itself!
The temptation is always there (OK, for men - maybe not so much for female woodworkers..) to swing as hard and fast as you can and smash the nail home as quickly and impressively as possible.
It also looks pretty cool when somebody is really proficient with a hammer and seems to effortlessly knock in nail after nail with only a couple of hits, never missing and making it look really easy.
Writing this, I can actually remember my dad proudly showing off how he could hit a nail home even though it had bent - feeling very manly with his bent nail hitting hammer skills! As weird as that sounds..
For all types of hammers, if I could offer any advice on hitting a nail with a hammer without smashing all of your fingers up in the process, this would be it;
Other carpentry hand tool pages you might find useful;
Click here to learn about the different types of hand saws and which you should choose
Click here for help using a hand plane
Or click here to go back to the main hand tools page
Which are your favourite types of hammer? Use the comments section below;