Basic Hand Tools - Hammers

My woodwork teacher always told me to use the right tool for the job.

If ever a tool has been the most misused then the humble hammer is a prime candidate for the first prize.

The hammer was almost certainly mans first tool. You can imagine early man picking up a rock and using it to smash open a nut, and the hammer is born!

Specialist hammers of all types have been conceived and made to suit very specific jobs, from the smallest pin hammer to the heaviest sledge hammer.

The two most important design features of a hammer are the head and the handle… in fact a hammer only really has those two components… but it gets more complicated than that as hammers get more specialised.

The hammer head may be constructed from steel, wood, rubber or plastic. The shape of the head can be
significantly different depending upon the intended purpose of the hammer which also has a bearing on the weight of the head too. There’s not much point trying to break concrete with a 16oz rubber mallet is there? You need a good heavy 14lb sledge hammer for a job like that!

The hammer handle is usually constructed from one of these materials: hickory, fibreglass, tubular steel or forged steel. Hammer handles perform three tasks in one, it’s hard to believe that something so simple could incorporate all these design features engineered to benefit you as the user:

Handle length: The heavier the hammer and the faster you want to swing it the longer handle you need.

Anti-shock: When a heavy ball-pein hammer strikes an unwielding piece of steel you can really do without the shock waves travelling right up your arm! Wooden handles provide natural shock absorption, rubber grips on steel handles provide adequate shock protection too but there are even hammers with specially designed systems to reduce shock transmission even further.

Grip: A hammer is of little use if it slips out of your hand, in fact that just makes it a potentially lethal projectile, so a good grip is absolutely essential. Again wooden handles provide a natural grip with texture and shape and rubber handles do the same job on steel hammers. Most hammer handles are also tapered to reduce slipping and enhance grip.

Types of hammer:

  • Ball Pein hammer – Engineering.
  • Brick hammer – Construction, particularly masonery work.
  • Claw hammer – Construction, particularly timber work.
  • Cross Pein hammer – Engineering.
  • Drywall Hammers – Internal construction
  • Mallets – Woodwork, soft metalwork.
  • Sledge hammers – Demolition.
  • Body Work hammers – Auto industry, panel beating.
  • Jewellery hammers – Jewellery, obviously!