These are the 5 Types of Hammers I use for different areas of Carpentry work

See my pick for the best hammer to use for a given situation and tips for hitting a nail properly - without bending it! 

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!

Which brands make the best types of hammers for carpentry work?

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.

Which is the best type of claw hammer for Carpentry work?

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;

  • Straight claw - May have slightly less leverage when pulling nails out but the benefit of a straight claw hammer is that it can be used like an axe to rip timbers apart or split wood as well. It is even useful like a rock climbers hammer to grip or pull yourself up, and stop yourself sliding down a roof..
  • Curved claw - The most common DIY hammer, the curved claw provides more leverage and causes less damage when extracting nails from timber as it rolls more on the surface of the timber. Good for DIY/beginner use but you probably wouldn't see many new carpenters below the age of 50 with one on a building site.  
  • One piece design - The benefit of a single piece construction is it can be a stronger, more durable hammer. The drawback of this is there can be more vibration felt through the hammer when striking nails and therefore is less forgiving when used for long periods. If opting for a single piece hammer aim for one that has some kind of anti-vibe feature/allowance, or titanium.
  • Wooden handle - One of the most comfortable types of hammer handle, though not always the most durable or hard wearing and is very 'slippery when wet'! Prone to split if not looked after or you miss and hit the handle instead of the head on something. My third hammer is the one pictured with a wooden handle that isn't available any more and I love it. 
  • Vinyl handle - Vinyl handles are there for much better grip and comfort - by reducing the amount of vibration transferred to your wrist through each hit. 
  • Fibreglass handle - Can also help by transferring less vibration through the handle than steel. Probably not the case but fibreglass has felt more plasticy & fragile to me and I have avoided them for that reason.
  • Titanium hammer - Titanium hammers are very efficient for framing work as more of the force is driven through the head of the nail. The benefit of titanium over steel is that it transfers 30% less vibration through the hand as well. This can make it much more comfortable for extended use.

My pick of the best claw hammers for most carpentry work:

What is the best type of hammer to use for 1st fix Framing Carpentry?

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. 

Club hammers are best to use for light demolition work & framing carpentry jobs

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  

The best types of hammers for Gyproc plasterboarding - Drywall hammers

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.

When do you use a wooden mallet for carpentry work?

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).

How do you use a hammer safely to bang in nails without bending them?

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;

  • Don't strangle or choke your tool hammer. Grip it at the end, as far away from the hammers head as possible without losing your grip on it and throwing it away behind you
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition! Practice makes perfect, don't expect to be great straight away, so.. 
  • Start soft & slowly, with small 'swings' at first, getting longer/stronger as you build up confidence and ability
  • Start the nail off well with small strong hits first 
  • Make sure that the pointy end of the nail is into the timber enough that it won't ping off and take someone's eye out before you go taking your hand away and hitting it harder
  • Extend your thumb or index finger up the shaft handle as well. This will help you control the hammers head and increase your consistency whilst you get used to the weight & swinging it more accurately. 
  • I still to this day extend my index finger up the hammers handle for 2nd fix carpentry work, I find it much better for more accuracy with delicate, small nails in often expensive/finishing timber I don't want to make any mistakes with

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;