I’d hammer in the mornin’. But not too early because my neighbor works 60 hours a week and he doesn’t want me pounding nails when he’s trying to sleep on the weekend.
Every man needs a hammer. (Really, you don’t want to have to borrow one from your neighbor.) And since you need one, why not get one of the best for a good price?
Whether for hanging pictures or framing a house, when it’s time to hit something with a point on one end (tack, nail, brad, your brother’s head (no, just kidding)), a hammer is the tool of choice (and one that’s been around for over 2 million years). Do not try to put up a towel rack using the flat side of a stapler to hit the nails. Keep a decent hammer around your place, for Pete’s sake.
So, who makes the best hammers and where can you get them? And what kind should you get? (Wait — you mean there are different kinds of hammers?) Most people think of a hammer as having a flat face for striking and a two-pronged thingy on the other side… That’s a claw hammer (as opposed to formerly-popular hip hop musician MC Hammer).
A claw hammer is fine for most jobs. If you need a special hammer — a ball-peen, say, or a soft-faced mallet — then you probably already know that’s what you need. If you don’t know what a ball-peen hammer is, you don’t need one (it’s a hammer with a flat face on one side of the head and a ball on the other, usually used for metal work).
Most household uses for hammers involve working with wood or drywall. So start with a claw hammer, preferably with a smooth face for striking, since if you miss the nail it won’t leave a “waffle” indentation in the wood from a milled face. Of course, if you never miss the nail, that won’t be a problem. There are many different designs, sizes, and models of claw hammers. For everyday projects — household tasks, occasional carpentry, building a birdhouse, DIY, etc. — you want one that’s not too heavy (probably not over 20 oz.), with a handle that’s not too long.
Here are a couple of versatile hammers that will meet your needs for a reasonable price…
This is the Estwing E16S 16-ounce Straight Claw Leather Handle Hammer. In business since 1923, Estwing is an esteemed American manufacturer of hammers. When it comes to quality and utility, Estwing’s reputation is second to none. And their prices are very reasonable. The head and handle are one piece of forged steel, with a comfortable leather grip. It’s well-balanced, and a little over 12 inches in length. The head is more of a rip claw design, as opposed to the more classic, sharply curved claw head. The rip design is more versatile; it lets you pull nails in more cramped quarters. You can get this hammer, use it a lot, and expect to leave it to your descendants. I use an Estwing steel hammer (with a rubber grip) and have no complaints. Here are some of the online customer comments about this hammer:
“My framing hammer is an Estwing… my general shop hammer is an Estwing… and now my furniture hammer is an Estwing. These hammers don’t break or EVER fail. You lose them or your friends ‘borrow’ them and you have to get new ones.”
“I have and have used a wide variety of hand tools. I can tell you that this product is made of the highest quality, and will give you a lifetime of good service with minimal maintenance.”
“Estwing’s leather grip is excellent and the one-piece construction helps minimize bounce and shock. The hammers have a good heft AND balance in the hand…”
The Estwing is an inexpensive hammer that you will find a pleasure to own and use.
If you’d like a lighter-weight hammer around the house for those finicky jobs in tight spaces, or when you want to drive something like a brad or tack, this hammer should fit the bill: the Robert Larson 10-ounce Warrington Hammer. “Warrington” is actually a style of hammer that originated in Warrington, England and is often used for cabinet work or joinery. It has a flat, narrow “pin” on one side (instead of a claw) that allows you to start brads and nails that are smaller than the width of your thumb — that is, it will get down there between your fingers so you can start the nail, then flip the hammer around to finish driving it. (If you try to start a tiny nail that’s less long than the width of your thumb with a conventional hammer — well, try it and see what happens.) This hammer would also be a good one to give to your kids to let them learn how to nail. It’s light weight and easily handled. And at about $20, it’s not expensive.
And when your construction jobs become a little bigger…
This is a relatively new hammer from Vaughan — an American company that’s been in business since 1869. (They know a thing or two about hammers.) The patented “V5” design helps reduce shock and vibration when using this all-steel framing hammer. The Vaughan V5 has a “Double D” magnetic nail holder for one-handed starting of nails and a “Sidewinder” nail puller (located on the side of the head), which provides extra leverage for removing nails. When it’s time to tear something down, the short claws are reinforced to provide extra strength for prying. Vaughan touts this hammer as suitable for “construction to destruction.” The head weighs 19 ounces, with a milled face (it’s also available in smooth face here), and the handle is 17 inches long. Click here to see a description from Vaughan, including a video. Or watch the video below, which is from the 2009 National Hardware Show and describes the V4, which is the generation before the V5. (And here’s that Vaughan hook bar, in case you’ve got a lot of nail-pulling to do.)
Gerald Dalluge (pronounced duh-LOO-gee) was a carpenter who started designing hammers after an injury on a job site. His hammers became known for their balance, striking power, and a head-to-handle weight ratio so precise that it feels like you’re swinging a lighter hammer. He eventually sold his company to Vaughan Manufacturing. If you’re a tradesman — or you know a tradesman you’re shopping for — you cannot get a better hammer than the Dalluge DDT16P 16-ounce Titanium Hammer. As I noted in my post on kitchen knives, anything made with titanium is cool. In a hammer, it is 40% lighter than steel and causes less recoil when striking, though it strikes just as hard, and will not corrode. The Dalluge DDT16P 16-ounce Titanium Hammer has a one-piece, precision-cast titanium head and a straight hickory handle with an overstrike guard for increased durability. It has a side nail puller and a magnetic nail holder for starting nails (you’ll note a similarity in design to the Vaughan design above). The handle is 17 inches. The DDT16P has a smooth face and you can get it with a serrated face, too. Customers who reviewed this hammer have been enthusiastic:
“I have been a framing contractor for 19 years, always in search of the ‘perfect hammer.’ This Dalluge titanium hammer is currently the best one on the market. With this hammer you get the best of everything at a great price. I don’t care what people say, wood handles are still the best, they are light, strong, easily replaceable and about as anti-vibration as you can get…”
“This hammer works great! It feels lighter than a Stiletto hammer and swings with more ease. The handle and head design are second to none as far as I am concerned.”
“OK so I am a DIY’er, but I have a few friends that are professional carpenters. After using a few of their titanium hammers, I decided I wanted one! The Stiletto’s were way too expensive for my use, but the Dalluge was a good price for a well-reviewed product. Now that I have it, I love it. Light, feels good in your hand and very sure and solid. Worth the extra few bucks over a steel hammer. Hopefully, I will never need to buy another hammer!”
“A great hammer for a pro carpenter.”
What if you want to hammer something without leaving a scratch?
Of course there are hammers made for that, as well. If you want to loosen frozen parts on your car, bang in a hub cap (or loosen the wheel knockoffs on a 1966 E-type Jaguar), or hit masonry or concrete and not get a lot of chips and extraneous cracking, then you’ll want to use a soft-face mallet, or what is known as a “dead-blow” hammer. Dead-blow hammers usually have something loose inside the head — such as lead or sand — to absorb the rebound so the hammer isn’t bouncing around and hitting things you don’t want it to hit, plus it concentrates the force of the blow straight downward. It’s very handy when you want to hit something that you don’t want to chip, scratch, or otherwise mar. Pictured at left is an inexpensive set of dead blow hammers — the Astro Pneumatic 3-piece Dead Blow Hammer Set. You get a ½-pound, 1-pound, and 2-pound hammer with this set, all for less than $25. The soft faces of the hammers do not mar work surfaces, the heads are filled with metal pellets to increase force and dampen rebound, and the handle is contoured for a non-slip grip. They are suitable for all types of assembly and repair work. Astro is a well-known name in automotive repair circles. One auto mechanic who reviewed these hammers said: “I’m a mechanic and go through mallets pretty fast, these are lasting nicely, worth the money.” Another DIYer said: “This is a great set of dead-blows — I was surprised at how much I actually use each different size.” When you need them, they’re indispensable.
When you really need to pound on something, a sledge hammer fits the bill…
Okay, not everyone needs a sledge hammer, but it’s reassuring to have one around, just in case you need to turn masonry into rubble, split wood with a wedge, drive in fence posts, or pound on a monster truck tire as part of your workout.
Here is the Union Tools Double-face 10-pound Sledge Hammer with a fiberglass handle. Union Tools has been making professional-grade tools since 1936. This Razor-Back sledge hammer is suitable for jobs requiring heavy pounding. The 10-pound forged steel head is light enough for accurate control but heavy enough to give a hard whack.
The fiberglass handle is super-tough, light in weight, and smooth. It will provide a secure connection to the head, unlike wood which can loosen over time. This top-quality sledge hammer has a limited lifetime warranty. Go ahead…make some gravel. (Just remember your eye protection.)