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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.

5 comments to Demo Tools – Hammers Hammers Hammers

  • bgarrett

    That last hammer needs a longer handle

  • I thought I was the only one who remembered stanley as a decent brand. I’ve been really disappointed by their workmanship lately. I will say that there is one major exception in my book.

    My Stanley Fubar demo hammer is one of the most solid and versatile hammers I own. I took down a shed in a couple of hours with just the Fubar and flat bar.

  • Possum Jim

    I’ve been a remodel carpenter for 25 years in a different part of the country and have a number of differing opinions. First off, the steel shank hammers deliver a lot of punch, but they are the very worst for aggravating, if not causing, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Wood handled hammers may not hold up in the dessert climes, but are the best for minimizing trauma. Fiberglass is a close second.
    Thinking about a beefy framing hammer? Consider a “California Framer”…yes, occasionally a new idea IS better. I tend to favor the traditional, but almost everyone on my crew that has borrowed my hammer has gone out and bought one. Damn fine for demolition, too. A man with a good California framer, an Estwing Featherweight Ripping bar, and a good aim, don’t need salvation.

  • Possum Jim,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I agree with you if your day job is remodeling carpentry. The majority of visitors are just folks who want to do their own work, and do something else during the day. I hope to provide a guide on the best way to spend their money on tools and materials, especially considering that they will probably only need one hammer in their lives.

    I didn’t mention wood handles excepting in passing as rehandling a hammer is not what they should need to learn just to do a bit of remodeling.

  • James

    I just found a hammer from Demolition Tools its called the Demo Hammer. The hammer looks like it would be great for doing demo work or if you need some leverage. I agree with providing a guide on what materials and tools to buy would be a great help to the DIY person. Check out the demo hammer http://www.demolitiontools.net its worth the look i bought one and love it.