Seems like buying a hammer, whether as a gift for your favorite DIYer or for your own home improvement projects, should be easy.
And it is, sort of. If you’re hanging pictures or maybe whacking down a proud deck nail or two, almost anything blunt will do. But if you’re getting into some even basic DIY, like removing and replacing trim, there are a few hammer features that really matter. However, they may not be quite so obvious at first glance. So here’s a look at what blunt-force-awesome looks like for a hammer.
It needs to pack the right wallop. You’ll see a dizzying array of hammer sizes at the home center and bigger isn’t always better. For the remodeling work I do, something middle of the road works nicely, somewhere around 19-ounces. I’m using an Estwing Ultra Series (made in USA) these days and I really like it.
That’s enough umph to bash stuff, say doing some demolition, but also subtle enough to tap a few trim nails home, nudge pieces of flooring into place, pound a tomato stake into the garden or a heap of 3” deck nails.
The claw of a hammer is more important than you might think. First, I rarely use it to pry nails. For that, I use diagonal cutting pliers (‘dikes’) or nail nippers. I use a hammer more to pry things apart than hammer them together (nail guns do most of that). I love hammer claws that have a shallow ‘fetch.’ In other words, the claw is only slightly curved, like the above Estwing hammer I’ve been using. Oh my, is it ever excellent.
Until recently, hammers came in three flavors: steel with a rubber (or rubberized) handle, wood and steel and wood and titanium. Titanium hammers are great. And they are, like titanium anything, expensive. Steel is basic, brutal and heavy.
Then, there’s also light steel. It blends the benefits of titanium (light, but large enough to do big work) and steel (hard-hitting and less expensive). Light steel hacks the groups by being lighter than traditional steel and less expensive than titanium.
My wallet and my projects both like it.
There is more than meets the eye when it comes to picking your perfect hammer. Keep these tips in mind as you make the investment in a tool that is just right for your tool pouch.