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January 2009
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Demo Tools – Hammers Hammers Hammers

Carpenter hammers come in a huge variety of sizes, shapes, handles, and weights. Back in the day wood handles were your only choice. Today they come in all sorts of varieties.
Wooden handles have a certain romanticism about them, but you should get over it.

Here in the Southwest wood handled tools are a bad choice due to the climate. They dryout with the  desert heat sucking the moisture out of the handles, causing them to crack and the heads to loosen.

The Worst choice are cheap hammers that have hollow tubular handles. You miss the target once, kink the tube and your hammer is scrap.

Note: Wear safety glasses when hammering.

Carpenter hammers

Here are my current carpenter hammers. They are 20oz hammers which are probably the best all around hammer for the home remodeler. They are ‘straight’ claw hammers. They also have smooth faces. Hammers in this category are usually around 13” tall. They all have bulges along the handle that the manufacturer considers the balance ‘sweet spot’ for holding them. Trust me your mileage and grip will vary.
The one on the left has a fiberglass handle I have had around 15 years and it shows with the feathering on the handle just below the head where I have occasionally missed the nail.

The hammer on the right is a solid steel hammer. Both of them have rubber grips and are comfortable to hold and use. The down side to an all steel hammer in the southwest is it gets hot.

Using any hammer is easy, Grip it firmly,(Not the Vulcan Death Grip),Do not choke up on the handle thinking that you will get more precision,(you won’t, and your arm and hand will get tired real fast and it won’t be any fun.) Swing easily and let the weight of the hammer do the work.

Framing Hammer
Next up in my hammer selection is my 28oz framer. Unless you are doing a lot of framing, you probably will not need one of these. This is 16” long to provide you with a larger more powerful swing to help you drive a 16d nail in two or three strokes.
FramerThis has a straight claw and a checkered face. The checkered face helps
hold the face from slipping on the framing nails, and waffles the
surface of your lumber as you drive the nail just below the surface.

Drywall Hammers
If you are going to do a bunch of drywall, a drywall hammer is probably a good investment.
They are different than carpenter hammers, having larger faces with waffling, and a straight axe blade on the back end.
The hammer on the left is a Stanley drywall hammer and is one of the few tools of theirs that I own. When I was growing up learning my trade from my grandfather, Stanley was a gold standard. Not any more.  However …

Notice that the face is taller than the top of the axe. This allows nailing in corners without tearing up the sheet next to it. This shape also produces the dimple putting the top of the nail below the surface so, drywall mud covers it, and your walls are smooth. The axe head is useful for trimming off crap left from bad cuts on drywall as well as acting as a prybar if you need to move a sheet over a little bit.

The hammer on the right is one I have had for around 30 years, and is on its (hell i don’t remember how many handles). It has a 16” long handle as i am 5’8” and a standard handle had me on my tiptoes nailing off the top sheets. This head has a clip front, to be able to get into the corners. The problem with this, is chewing up the sheet on the other wall if you miss your swing.

Unique Hammers

My favorite demo hammers are left over from my days as a dismantler in auto wrecking yards. This is my junkyard ball peen. Made from a 4 pound ball peen head welded on a volkswagen torsion bar.

The Ford Hammer

This is a 10 pound sledge head on a 12” handle. I used use this to loosen the king pins on ford pickups with I beam suspensions to get the I beams out. Nothing else comes close to delivering the force needed to get these apart. Needless to day, there is nothing in a house than can withstand this hammer.

The Utility Knife

The utility knife is a very important tool for the home remodeler. There are two types.
Fixed Blade and Adjustable.
The knife on top is an adjustable. I don’t recommend an adjustable at all. What happens is when you are
scoring sheetrock or other material the blade will get caught in your
material and jerk itself out to its full length with unpredictable
The top knife has one of the few remaining slotted screws used on anything left. This has presented problems for years, as the screw slot is dime thick, but too deep to get a dime in it. So you need to carry a reasonably large flat screwdriver in your kit for feeding this.  It is a PITA, and I am all about easy.

The bottom knife is a fixed blade. Notice the large thumbscrew for opening and closing? One of the design triumphs of the 20th century!

This is a Grabber, made by the folks who make a large percentage of drywall screws on the planet. Found in Drywall Speciality stores. It has checkering(that diamond pattern on the handle),so that it does not slip easily,  is hinged on the backside with a spring inside to pop the case open, and not fly apart like other knives.
It uses standard utility blades. You can extend the life of the blade with a small sharpening stone.  It also sharpens carpenter pencils quite nicely.

Note: Always try to cut away from your body, as utility blades are quite sharp and can cut quite fast and deep. If you can’t take your time and be careful.

Marking your Measurements Pencils and Markers

Now that you have your tape measure decoded, you may want to look at some marking tools. These are my recommended marking tools.


First up: Fine Point Sharpie
I use this for marking steel studs, face marking studs for electric box
locations, plumbing stubs, and anywhere I need a durable marker.

Note: Do not use this to mark anything
that you might want to paint. Do not use this on drywall unless you
want to spend a lot of money on KILZ to try to cover it up. This is a Permanent Marker

Next up: Carpenter Pencil.

This is the preferred tool for marking materials, as it has a strong lead, its shape is unique meaning you can find it in your tool pouch, and won't roll around. p.s. if you do a lot of business with specialty yards, they usually will give you a few. Even if you have to buy them, they are a good deal. Sharpen them with your utility knife.

Last up #2 Pencil

Everybody has them and they work. They do break easy, roll a lot and get lost.

Pens are not recommended as they run out of ink, roll farther and faster than #2 pencils.