Selecting the Right Hammer for the Job

hammer against white background

Hammer Safety Tips:

  • Do not strike a hardened steel surface, concrete or stone with a steel claw hammer. Metal chips can result in injury to the user or any bystanders.
  • Never use a hammer with a loose, cracked or broken handle—replace the handle.
  • Never use a hammer with a chipped, cracked or mushroomed face.
  • Discard hammers with cracked claws or eye sections.
  • Do not use the hammer handle for striking, and never use it as a pry bar—this could cause the handle to split.
  • Always strike the surface squarely—avoid making glancing blows.
  • Always wear safety goggles when hammering any object.
  • Never strike a hammer with or against another hammer.
  • Always use a hammer of the right size and weight for the job.

Nail Hammer

  • Used for general carpentry, household chores and nail pulling.
  • Should be used only with non-hardened, common or finishing nails.
  • Curved claw offers leverage in removing nails and can also cradle a 2x4.
  • Choose 16 or 20 oz. weights for general carpentry; choose 7, 10 and 13 oz. weights for fine cabinetry or light-duty driving.
  • Available with smooth or waffled (serrated) faces. Milled face is for finishing jobs while waffled face provides more control when hammering large nails into lumber. Some claw hammers feature a side notch on the head for easier pulling of small nails and fasteners.

close up of framing hammer

Framing Hammer

  • Also known as a Rip Hammer
  • Used mainly by professionals for ripping apart wooden components and demolition work.
  • Should be used only with non-hardened, common or finishing nails.
  • Choose weights from 20 to 32 oz. for framing and ripping.
  • Available with milled or waffled faces to grip the nail head and reduce the effect of glancing blows and flying nails.

close up of finishing hammer

Finishing Hammer

  • Used for general carpentry, finishing and cabinet making.
  • Head size generally between 7 oz. and 16 oz.
  • Smooth striking face so errant strikes don’t leave marks on the wood.

Tack Hammer

close up of tack hammer

  • Used for furniture upholstery and to drive small nails and tacks.
  • Round face on one end is designed to pick up nails and tacks, while a narrow, square head on the other end is used to drive them.
  • Features a magnetic face opposite either a driving face or a claw.

Sledgehammerclose up of sledgehammer

  • Used for jobs where great force is required such as breaking up concrete or driving heavy spikes.
  • Feature long handles from 14” to 36” and heavy heads weighing from 2 lbs. to 20 lbs.
  • Double-face sledgehammers feature two identical faces.
  • Single-face sledgehammers have one flat face for striking and one wedge-shaped face for splitting wood.

Ball Peen (Ball Pein) Hammerclose up of ball peen hammer

  • Used with cold chisels for riveting, center punching and forming unhardened metal work.
  • Striking face diameter should be about 3/8” larger than the diameter of the head of the object being struck.
  • Designed with a regular striking face on one end and a rounded or half ball on the other end instead of a claw.
  • Sizes range from 2 oz. to 48 oz. with 12 and 16 oz. the most popular.
  • Variations include a cross-peen hammer (with horizontal wedge-shaped face) and a straight-peen hammer (with vertical wedge-shaped face).

close up of hand drilling hammer

Hand Drilling Hammer

  • Has short handles and is used for pounding hardened nails into concrete or for using with tools that drive nails and pins into concrete or brick.
  • Only hammer to use with star drills, masonry nails, steel chisels and nail pullers.
  • Weighs between 2 lbs. and 4 lbs.
  • Larger striking surface, generous bevel and special heat-treating minimize chance of chipping the striking face

Soft-Face Hammerclose up of soft-face hammer

  • Used for assembling furniture, setting dowels and wood projects that requires non-marring blows.
  • Available in weights ranging from 4 oz. to 22 oz.
  • Feature replaceable heads, typically one soft and one hard

Bricklayer's Hammerclose up of bricklayer's hammer

  • Used for setting or splitting bricks, and chipping mortar from bricks.
  • Features a curved, chisel-like pick and a small, square striking surface.

close up of shingler's hammer

Shingler's Hammer

  • Drives roofing nails, assures proper shingle spacing, trims composition and fiberglass shingles.
  • Typically includes slotted, retractable cutting blade

close up of drywall hammer

Drywall Hammer

  • Used to score, sheet and set nails for drywall work.
  • Features a scored head and a notched blade instead of a claw.
  • Notch in the blade is used to remove exposed nails.

close up of mallet


  • Has rubber, plastic, wooden or rawhide head.
  • Used to drive chisels or hammer joints together.
  • Sizes are specified in head weight or diameter with the exception of wooden mallets, which are specified by head diameter only.
  • Comes in variety of shapes and sizes for specific tasks.
  • Carpentry mallet features angled head to reduce fatigue; shop mallet with octagonal head is used for flat strikes; rawhide mallet is used in furniture assembly.

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