The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Hammer for Any Kind of Construction Work
Oct 13, 2020
So many hand tools have been replaced by power tools in the construction industry, but hammers have remained an essential hand tool in every builder’s toolbelt. There is a vast range of hammer types specific to different types of work like framing, masonry, finish carpentry, electrical, and demo work.
Often, the type of materials that you will be working with will dictate what type of hammer you should buy, but everyone who works in construction should also own a classic claw hammer—simple, multipurpose, and handy for a variety of different building and demolition tasks.
“Anything in the construction industry is going to be powered, right? We just don’t have time to be making saw cuts with [a hand saw]. This has definitely been replaced by power tools. However, the hammer hasn’t—we still use hammers every single day. It’s probably the most reached-for tool in your tool belt.” -Jordan Smith
How to Choose a Hammer
“Don’t get the cheapest thing you can find because it’s just not going to last, but also, don’t go crazy and get the most expensive thing you can find, just because it’s expensive. Look at getting honest, good tools.” – Jordan Smith
When you’re shopping for a hammer, you’re looking for value and the best type of hammer for your work. Especially while you are beginning to figure out the best type of hammer for you, get a solid, reliable tool in the medium spending range. That way you aren’t overspending on a high end hammer that, after you’ve used it for a while, may not have the feel that you prefer. Try working with a midrange tool for a few months and take note of what features do and don’t work for you so that you know what to purchase next time.
Anatomy of a Hammer
The head type, handle type, and head weight will vary depending on the job and materials that the hammer was designed for, but the general anatomy of a hammer is pretty universal.
Parts of a hammer:
- Handle: Can be wood, metal, or fiberglass and is the part you grip to swing the hammer.
- Eye: The handle affixes to the hammerhead at the eye. If the head becomes loosened over time, this is where you will attach a new handle. Note: Forged metal hammers will not have an eye because the hammer is all one piece.
- Head: The head is what strikes the object and its weight will vary depending on the type of work being done. Heavier heads tend to be for more heavy duty jobs like framing, while lighter heads help with detailed finish work where precise control is necessary.
- Face: The face is the front of the head that makes contact with the nail or surface you are striking. It can be smooth to minimize any marring of a wood surface, or milled to help the face grab onto nailheads.
- Neck: The part of the hammer head that attaches to the handle.
- Cheek: The side of the hammer head.
- Throat: Connects the neck to the face.
- Claw: Also called the nail puller or pry bar – intentionally sharp to help you dig into the wood if needed for a stubborn nail. Note: Only claw hammers will have a claw.
A hammer is one of the most essential tools you’ll need on a construction site. Learn more about this and other important construction tools—and how to use them safely—in MT Copeland’s online class, taught by professional builder and craftsman Jordan Smith.
3 Types of Hammer Handles
The materials of hammer handles vary to adapt to the type of building job, amount of use, and the purchaser’s budget. In general, wood handles will be more affordable but won’t last as long, while metal will be more expensive but last indefinitely. The handle length will vary too—longer will give you more swing and therefore more power, while shorter will give you more control over smaller movements and detail work.
1. Wooden handle
Wood handled hammers tend to be more affordable than metal handles, but eventually the head will loosen from the handle and you’ll need to replace it. Luckily, they are easy to replace and most manufacturers sell replacement handles. If the manufacturer does not sell replacement handles, do not buy that hammer.
2. Metal handle
A metal handle, like steel or titanium, is a buy-it-once type of hammer that won’t need replacing but they are more expensive than hammers with wooden handles. Many will come with a rubber or leather wrap for grip and to absorb shock. Some metal hammers are forged in one piece so you will never replace the handle. Others have removable heads so that you can change out the head for different jobs.
3. Fiberglass handle
Fiberglass handles are lightweight and less expensive than metal, but won’t last as long and tend to splinter. While fine for DIY at home, Jordan doesn’t recommend this handle type for professional builders because it can’t withstand heavy use as well as wood or metal handles.