A hammer may seem like a basic tool and, essentially, that’s what it is. After all, a hammer has been in existence for hundreds of years.
But hammers come in all sorts of designs and sizes. Different jobs require different hammers. For example, even though you could use a tiny paintbrush to paint your wall, it wouldn’t do the job well. You’d need a more effective tool like a paint roller.
Likewise, while you can try, you’d not use a ball pein hammer (aka ball-peen) to bring down a wall for remodeling purposes. You’d use a good claw hammer, which is much more effective.
If you just want one hammer at hand in your home, the most obvious choice would be a curved claw hammer. It’s the most versatile of hammers. As your home improvement requirements and skills increase, you’ll need other kinds of hammers to carry out certain tasks more effectively.
In the hammer-buying guide below, we take a look at the parts of a hammer and go over all the factors you need to take into account when shopping for a hammer and five of the best hammers to consider buying.
The Make-up of a Hammer
While the type of head, type of handle, and type head weight all vary depending on the materials and the job for which the hammer was made, the general structure of hammers is quite universal.
Head: This is the part that strikes the object. Its weight varies depending on the kind of job being done. For heavier tasks like framing, heavier heads are more suitable, while lighter heads are more suitable for detailed finish tasks which require precise control.
Handle: The handle can be made of wood, fiberglass, or metal and it’s where you grip the hammer to swing it.
Face: This is the front part of the hammer’s head that strikes the surface or nail. It can be milled so that the face can clutch onto nailheads or smooth to reduce damage to a wood surface.
Eye: This is where the handle attaches to the hammerhead. If the head loosens over time, you’ll affix a new handle here. However, forged metal hammers don’t have an eye since the hammer is one piece.
Neck: This is the part of the head that connects to the handle.
Throat: This is the part that connects the neck of the hammer to the face.
Claw: Also known as the pry bar or nail puller. It’s intentionally sharp to allow you to dig deep into the wood if necessary to remove a stubborn nail. Only claw hammers have a claw.
Cheek: This is the side of the head.
Hammer Buying Guide
Before buying a hammer, you’ll need to consider certain important factors, including handle material, claw style, and weight.
Types of Hammer Handles
The materials used to make hammer handles vary based on the type of task at hand, the buyer’s budget, and the frequency of use. For the most part, wood handles are more affordable but don’t last that long, while metal handles are pricier but last forever.
The length of the handle will also vary—longer handles offer more swing and hence increased power, while shorter handles offer more control over minor movements involved in detailed work.
Metal handle: A hammer with a metal handle, such as titanium or steel, is a one-time purchase that’d last indefinitely but is more expensive than a hammer with a wood handle. Metal handles generally come with a leather or rubber wrap that’s used for grip and absorbing shock.
Some hammers come forged as one piece, so the handle will never need replacing. Others come with removable handles so you can swap out the head if necessary.
Wooden handle: Hammers with wooden handles are more affordable than those with metal handles, but the head will eventually loosen and will need replacing. Fortunately, most handle makers sell replacement handles and they’re easy to replace. If the manufacturer doesn’t sell replacement handles, don’t purchase that hammer.
Fiberglass handle: Handles made of fiberglass are lightweight and cheaper than metal handles, but tend to splinter and don’t last as long. While good for DIY projects at home, this handle isn’t recommended for professional builders since it can’t weather heavy use as effectively as metal or wood handles.
Milled vs Smooth Hammer Face
While the facial shape of each kind of hammer varies according to the job at hand, it’s vital to differentiate between a smooth hammer face and a milled hammer face, particularly if you’re doing some carpentry work.
A smooth hammer face is essential for finish work like in any carpentry that’ll have the wood showing (think flooring, trim, and cabinetry). When you strike the wood, the face won’t leave any marks on the wood. While it won’t grip as strongly to the head of the nail, it’s easier to use for hammering as well as smaller and lighter movements.
On the other hand, a milled face (waffle-head) comes with a pattern ground into the face for biting into nails and holding a metal-on-metal grasp without slipping. It’s perfect for driving nails in, framing, as well as nailing in overhead, in which added grip on the nail head makes work safe. But the milled face leaves a pattern on wooden surfaces, so it’s unsuitable for finish work.
Types of Hammers
The different types of hammers out there allow you to select one that’s best for your job. There are various hammer designs out there, including:
Claw hammer: The claw hammer is the most common hammer on the market. The head features a forked, slightly curved claw that helps pull nails from wood or other surfaces, as well as a smooth face that won’t damage the surface when driving the nail home.
Finish hammer: This type of hammer is usually lightweight and has a smooth face that minimizes damage to the surface being worked on. It’s built to drive small finish nails only and tacks into small wood jobs and trim. Its hammerhead normally weighs 10 to 14 oz.
Framing Hammer: This hammer is built with a long handle and heavy head to maximize the power to drive the nail. Its face is usually waffled or textured to provide a more effective contact between the face of the hammer and the nail head. The head of the framing hammer usually weighs anywhere between 18 and 28 oz.
Tack hammer: This hammer is lightweight and one side of the face is magnetized to help start smaller nails and tacks without having to clutch onto them. The tack hammer is normally used for connecting upholstery furniture to the frames of furniture.
Ball pein hammer: This hammer is designed for heavy-duty tasks that are unsuitable for regular nail hammers or mechanic jobs that involve setting rivets or driving out pins. The ball pein hammer has a round ball at one end which helps with shaping. The other end has a flat peen that’s useful for pounding. The weight of the head on this hammer may vary anywhere from 6 to at least 30 oz., depending on the job to be done.
Dead blow hammer: This is a special form of mallet that helps minimize damage to the pounded surface and helps control the power of the strike on the struck surface. The head of a dead blow hammer is normally hollow and full of heavy metal shot or sand to help absorb a blow’s impact and lower the bounce-back.
Mallet: Also called a soft-face hammer, a mallet features rubber, wood, plastic, or soft metal striking faces that may be used for applying force to fine surfaces or driving chisels. The appearance of a mallet can vary widely depending on the use and manufacturer.
Sledgehammer: This is a two-handed, heavy-duty hammer that’s mostly used for driving stakes and demolition jobs. It usually features a big, heavy metal head and a long handle. Due to its huge size, a sledgehammer generally applies more strike power than any other hammer.
Club hammer: This is a bulky-looking hammer that stands out for its heavy, double flat head, making it perfect for masonry work like driving a chisel into stone. The club hammer is also ideal for DIY jobs that require light-duty demolition.
Tinner’s hammer: This hammer has a sharp claw with no fork and a square face. It’s most useful in metalwork projects, including automotive repairs and hammering sheet metal.
Length and Weight
A longer hammer isn’t always the better option. While a long hammer will let you build up added momentum for a stronger blow, such a hammer is heavier than its shorter equivalents and is usually not useful to the average DIY enthusiast. As a rule of thumb, pick a claw hammer that is 12 to 16 inches long for typical tasks and repairs around the house.
A very heavy hammer will wear you down, but going too light will sacrifice strike power. Keep in mind here that the weight of a hammer refers to the head’s weight only, not the total weight of the tool.
Some claw hammers weigh as little as 8 oz., while giant claw hammers weigh up to 32 oz. For the average DIY enthusiast, the best option is a hammer that weighs 16 to 20 oz.
Go towards the bottom of this range if you’ll generally use the tool for light tasks, including hanging pictures. If you’ll mostly be framing or doing similar heavy-duty tasks, go towards the top end of the range.
Most good hammers can be bought for less than $25. While a hammer costs this much on average, many factors can drive the cost of this tool up, including its type of handle. The weight of a hammer also affects its price, with lighter hammers generally costing less.
Some hammers come equipped with special features that help you drive in or pull out nails. For instance, some models feature a magnetic starter that helps you avoid holding nails with your free hands, thus minimizing your injury risk. Other hammers have claws with a blown-up head to provide more control when pulling nails.
Our Top 5 Picks
Best Overall: Stanley FatMax Xtreme 16-Ounce Rip Claw Nail Hammer
The 16-Ounce FatMax Xtreme is one of the best hammers to buy from one of the big-name tool manufacturers Stanley. This hammer goes above and beyond what most offer in terms of design and construction. While its 16-ounce, all-steel build helps it easily drive nails into thick, hardwoods, it does that in a manner that protects the user.
Hammering continually can cause your hands and wrists many problems over time. If you’ll be hammering quite a lot, this hammer minimizes the risk of injury by absorbing the impact of strikes. Also, the handle is designed to lower the torque put on the elbows and wrists as you swing.
Best for Metal: Estwing T3-18 Tinner’s Hammer
While a tinner’s hammer is mostly used for shaping metal sheets and other metal-related jobs, it’s also used to drive nails through metal or wood. The Estwing T3-18 gives you 18 ounces of power and durability behind each swing.
Despite its weight and size, this hammer boasts a shock reduction grip that minimizes the amount of vibration and shocks your wrists take with each strike. The hammer is correctly weighted between its head and claw and forged as one piece with the handle for a well-balanced grip.
Best Framing Hammer: Estwing Big Blue 25-Ounce Framing Hammer
The most important thing in hammers is power, whether it’s the power to effortlessly drive nails into hardwood, or even bring down a wall while undertaking a home remodeling project.
The Estwing Big Blue 25-Ounce Framing Hammer is an ultra-powerful hammer. Measuring 18 inches long and weighing over 1.5 pounds, this hammer is massive. If you’re able to control this tool, you’ll enjoy its ability to hit nails quickly or break walls apart.
It offers great balance even though it’s much longer and heavier than standard hammers. But this hammer may not be suitable for certain jobs due to its size. This hammer features a molded grip that helps reduce vibration. It’s a one-piece design and comes with a milled or smooth face on the head.
Best Ball Pein Hammer: Tekton Jacketed Ball Pein Hammer
Ball-peens are mainly used in metalwork projects, getting rid of dents in metal, and setting rivets manually. As it’s not built to drive nails, this hammer isn’t used regularly at home. But having this special hammer at hand won’t hurt because your children are bound to cause a dent somewhere at some point.
No matter why you need or want a ball-peen, Tekton Fiberglass Jacketed Ball Pein Hammer is available in a range of sizes and weights, so you’re sure to find the right model for your needs.
Tekton’s build quality ensures that it’ll work well for years, despite the fact that the head is attached to the handle for a two-piece construction. Made of fiberglass, the handle is tough but lightweight, leaving most of the tool’s weight in the head. But the finish may cause a rust problem a few years down the line.
Best Mallet: TEKTON 35mm Double-Faced Soft Mallet
Some projects don’t require the toughest hammer. If you’re looking for a multipurpose hammer for more delicate jobs, go for the Tekton 35mm Double-Faced Soft Mallet. The double soft faces—made with red plastic and black rubber—are perfect for hitting delicate surfaces. This hammer is ideal for protecting delicate surfaces or done finishes as you hammer.
The hammer’s body is designed to keep the entire tool light if you’re looking for something you can easily carry and hammer for long stretches of time. The hammer features a tubular steel shaft and handles, reducing its overall weight. What’s more, the comfortable rubber grip will keep you swinging and striking for a long time.
Answer: The best hammers to buy include the best overall hammer Stanley FatMax Xtreme 16-Ounce claw hammer, the best soft-faced hammer Vaughan & Bushnell Soft-Face 12-Ounce hammer, the best titanium hammer Stiletto TiBone Titanium Milled-Face 15-Ounce hammer, the best ball pein hammer Tekton Fiberglass Jacketed Ball Pein hammer, and the best framing hammer Estwing Big Blue 25-Ounce framing hammer.
Answer: The most world’s powerful hammer is the Creusot hammer. With the capacity to deliver up to a 100-ton blow, this hammer was the strongest on earth until 1891, when Schneider sold patent rights to the United States’ Bethlehem Iron Company. The new firm built an almost identical steam hammer that was able to deliver a 125-ton blow.
Answer: The claw hammer is unsurprisingly the most versatile, but it’s mainly used for light-duty demolition and driving nails. Its small flat head places all of the swing’s force into a little area, making it perfect for driving nails.
Answer: In the action role-playing game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, you find a hammer at Marauder’s Den, Rygjafylke, Norway. This is in the southwest part of the map.
Answer: The world’s priciest hammer is probably the Stiletto TB15SS TiBone Straight/Smooth framing hammer. It comes with a replaceable steel face and costs $230.
Find the Best Hammer Today!
Buying a quality hammer is one of the things you should do when shopping for home tools. But most people simply assume that the claw hammer is either the only type of hammer available or the best option for any task from demolition to auto bodywork.
However, there are many other different hammer designs that have a little more specialized use, including the Tekton Fiberglass Jacketed Ball Pein Hammer. As with any other home tool, there’s a wide range of hammers on the market, each used for a specific purpose and perfect for a particular job.
We hope that our hammer buying guide has provided you with all the information you need if you’re shopping for this essential hand tool.