Choosing the Right Hammer

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Hundreds of thousands of years ago, our ancestors used rocks to bash things. But come on; you’re more evolved than a caveman, right? (Your Mother-in-Law’s opinion does not count here.) Instead of rocks, we now have hammers we can use to hit things with. The trick to showing that you’re smarter than the average caveman is to pick the right hammer for the job. Easy, right? Pretty much, as long as you use this guideline to help you make the right decision.

Claw Hammer

Pretty much the go-to hammer of choice, a claw hammer is used for pounding nails into, or pulling them out of, wood. Available in a variety of weights and designs – a two-piece hammer with a steel head and hickory handle is the most common, followed by one-piece types where the head and handle are forged from the same length of steel – they’re the perfect general-purpose hammer.

Framing Hammer

Think of this as the claw hammer’s brutish big brother. These are long-handled, heavy hammers weighing between 20 and 32 ounces for steel variants and 12 to 16 ounces for ones with titanium heads, and are used for construction and demolition – their extra weight and length give you more power to drive large nails fast. Most are made with a waffled, textured head that prevents the hammer from sliding off the nail at impact, although smooth-faced types (called a finishing hammer) are a better choice if you want to keep from marring the wood surface. And while their claws are not as curved as those on a claw hammer, you can get even more leverage when removing nails by pulling the handle to the side.

Ball Peen Hammer

Also known as a machinist’s hammer, this tool is primarily used in metalworking and was originally designed to be used during the riveting process to make the rivet heads flexible. Still a valuable tool, they’re great to use for striking chisels and punches. Many variants of the ball peen hammer, such as the straight peen, cross peen and diagonal peen hammer, are made for very specific metalworking or blacksmithing tasks, but the basic ball peen should be a must-have for any competent woodworker or do-it-your enthusiast.

Tack Hammer

Perfect for delicate work, this diminutive hammer was originally designed to be used for securing upholstery fabric to furniture frames. Built with a magnetic end to hold small nails or tacks, this hammer is a must-have if you’re driving very small brads or other tiny fasteners.

There are even more variants of hammers that are deliberately made for very specific tasks, but for the average caveman, one of these four will generally accomplish whatever bashing you have in mind.