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Old 02-21-2006, 07:10 PM   #1
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Choosing the right hammer.

Choosing the right hammer.

This article comes after seeing countless number of people use the wrong hammer for various things around the shop. Mostly in the order of using wood working hammers for use on metal. This is very dangerous as carpentry hammers are very brittle and break and chip very easy. In this article Iím going to break down the basic types of hammers and theyíre uses, as well as some information on buying the right hammers and hammer care.

First on the list is the ball pein hammer.

If you had to choose one hammer to be in your shop (non wood working shop) it would be the ball pein. Itís the most commonly used for metal work and general automotive use. Ball pein hammers have one regular crowned face and one rounded face. Comes in various sizes from 4oz up to 32oz, most common being 24oz. This hammer can be used for striking chisels and other metal tools, and shaping metal.

Cross Pein (also commonly called a blacksmith hammer).

Cross pein hammers have all the qualities of ball pein except instead of having a rounded end they have a flat end that is either parallel to the handle or perpendicular to the handle. Cross pein hammers come in heavier weights than ball pein and are usually used for shaping metal, and beating the shit out of anything.

Body hammers.

Body hammers are used for shaping of metal and repairing body panels on cars. There are many various sizes and shapes.

Sledgehammer (steel).

Sledgehammers are used mainly for driving stakes, and demolition work. Generally they are softer than ball and cross pein hammers. Comes in weights between 2 and 20 pounds. Rarely used around the shop, but are worth there weight in gold when you need them. General they have long handles, but shorter ones are also available and generally referred to as engineer or drilling hammers.

Sledgehammer (dead blow)

Dead blow hammers are kind of a cross breed between a sledgehammer and a soft faced hammer. Usually have a hard plastic body that is suitable for striking metal for alignment and removal of stubborn parts. The unique thing about dead blow hammers if they do not bounce or rebound from the strike. They are filled with a material such as sand or lead shot that counteracts the bounce when the face strikes the object.

Soft faced hammers.

Rubber mallet.

Rubber mallets are good for aligning parts. Come in various weights.

Plastic hammers.

Plastic hammers I would classify as probably the second most commonly used (or useful) hammers in a shop. They are great for aligning parts and shaping metal. They come in various weights and different tip harnesses. Some of the more common ones feature two different faces, a softer one and a harder one for use on different materials and generally are replaceable.

Lead hammers.

Much like sledge hammers; they are rarely used, but are useful. The head of the hammer is made of lead, which is very soft, so it can be used for striking objects that you do not want to mar. They are so soft that they often need to be reshaped. You can buy a die that the hammer goes into that represses the lead back into shape. Most commonly used when installing center caps and wire wheels.

Brass hammers.

Again, not used commonly. Brass hammers are useful when working around flammable chemicals and gases. The brass will not spark like a normal hammer will. Also used some in metal shaping.

The handle is the second most important part of the hammer. They come in wood (hickory or ash), fiberglass, and steel. The key to a good hammer is balance, a hammer with good balance is easier to use and less stressful on your joints and muscles. I myself prefer wood handles. I do not like fiberglass handles, and I hate steel handles. Wood handles provide great balance and are easy to customize to your grip if you desire to. Fiberglass handles are lightweight and strong, but do not offer the balance of a wood handle and are a pain to replace most of the time. Steel handles are usually made as part of the head itself, are not replaceable, and will vibrate like hell. But to each his own, try different ones and see which one you prefer. It is also a good idea to protect the top of the handle where it goes into the head. Without a doubt at some point you are going to miss what you are swinging at and smack the handle. I use a rubberized tape to wrap around the top two inches or so of my handles. The kind I use is sold in the plumbing section of hardware stores and only sticks to itself. Some people use electrical tape but I find it doesnít offer as much protection and usually ends up sticky as the vinyl shrinks over time.

Hammer care.
I hate to see a rusty hammer. I just donít like it. I always keep the heads of my handles coated in a light layer of oil to keep them from rusting- just dab a bit of oil on a rag and wipe it over the hammer. While the rust may not truly affect the performance of the hammer, it looks bad. It is important to keep the face of the hammer in good condition. If it starts to mushroom or distort you run the risk of pieces chipping off. This is not a tutorial on how to reshape a crown on the face of a hammer, so read up on it before attempting to do it. Handle care is also important, if the handle is wood donít leave it out in the rain or let it absorb water, likewise do not leave it out in the sun all the time as it will dry up and be prone to cracking. Fiberglass handles can be repaired, and most hardware stores will sell a repair kit that comes with instructions. If a handle is cracked it should be replaced.

This is just a general outline of the types of common hammers and their uses. Be sure to use the right hammer for the job, so think twice about using that claw hammer to beat away on that chisel.

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Old 02-21-2006, 07:29 PM   #2
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Re: Choosing the right hammer.

^ good info. thanks.
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Old 02-25-2006, 10:20 PM   #3
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Re: Choosing the right hammer.

rofl loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool great
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Old 01-21-2007, 04:57 PM   #4
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Re: Choosing the right hammer.

great post. i am looking to buy some tools and that helped me immensly.
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Old 09-16-2008, 07:35 AM   #5
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Re: Choosing the right hammer.


I love learning more in 5 minutes than I usually learn in 30 years.

Here's what I picked up:

Ball peen hammers are actually meant for hitting steel, and ordinary hammers aren't. (wish I knew that before)

Non-bouncing deadblow hammers (what situations are they designed for?)

Body Hammers: I recently picked one up in my hand in CanTire and was shocked at how LIGHT it was. Can you comment on why that is?

Brass hammers don't spark! Wow! what an important property for not blowing yourself up in certain situations.

It would be great if you could follow up with a list of what each hammer SHOULDN'T be used for!

And perhaps a little more on what jobs/fields certain hammers are used/needed.

Also, I am confused about roofing hammers (the two most common hammers I have seen/used are roofing and carpenter's). I found that some hammers are shitty for hammering nails but don't understand the treatments on the flat end.

Also (recent?) the newer hammers are not only shock resistant (for the comfort of user) but newer shock resistant hammers aren't even as bulky now (mine have plastic sheaths that absorb the shock).

Why don't blacksmith's hammers have shock absorbing handles? It would seem like a no-brainer to me.
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