Hammers have been with us since the beginning of recorded history. Our earliest ancestors used stones for countless millennium (which some believe may have lead to the creation of some of today’s colorful language as the bashing of fingers was a real hazard) as a tool. Sometime around the 4th century B.C. some intrepid individual (likely fed up with the constant throbbing of mashed fingers) figured out a way to attach the stone to a piece of wood. The hammer as we know it was born.
In this article I intend to cover some of the types of hammers in use today as well their care and storage.
Probably the most familiar hammer is the curved claw. It is the preferred tool to use for nailing and nail-pulling. Its bell-faced striking surface minimizes marring when nails are driven flush, and reduces nail deflection from off-angle blows.
Other type hammers are ripping, tacking, ball peen, mallet, and sledge. The ripping hammer, with straight claws, is designed for rough work like opening crates. Tacking hammers are designed expressly for small finishing type jobs. The ball peen is suited for metalwork; mallet for shaping metal without marring; the sledge for heavy-duty work such as demolition.
Hammer weights, based on head weight, are commonly 7 ounces for light work up to 20 ounces for general carpentry. One fairly recent breakthrough in hammer technology is the use of titanium in the manufacturing process. This extremely strong, durable, and lightweight material allows the user to perform tasks originally suited for a heavier hammer. An added benefit of the lighter weight is the ability of the user to employ the tool for longer periods of time without the added strain.
A quality hammer can last a lifetime if used and stored properly. Probably the most important thing to remember is to use the one best suited for the work it is intended to do. Strike only with the face of the hammer and don’t use it to hit anything harder then its striking face. Not only can you damage the tool, the possibility of having it bounce back and strike you is a very real.
If you own a wood-handled hammer, keep it in the living area of the home, since high humidity can swell the wood fibers inside the head. Leaving it in a too dry environment can shrink the handle, causing looseness as well as raising the danger of having the head fly off during use. A dry-shrunk handle can usually be restored by soaking the head end of the hammer.
Storing a hammer in an area prone to the formation of condensation will produce rusting unless the metal is protected by a light film of oil.
Hammers, like any other tool, only function properly when used for their intended purpose. Although not the ‘sexiest” tool you might own there is little doubt that most jobs around the house, or on the jobsite, couldn’t be completed without this most common and useful tool.