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Most common home-use hammers are nail, ball peen, tack, mallet, hand drilling, sledge and soft face. Quality features include:

Forged steel heads for strength, durability.

  • Heat-treated heads for strength, toughness, wear resistance. Should be heat treated differently on face (striking area), at eye (where handle is inserted) and on claws.
  • Finish-ground face with a crowned surface that is canted slightly toward the handle to center hammer blows.
  • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommends that the chamfer or bevel on the striking face be approximately 10 percent of the diameter of the poll to reduce chipping.
  • Double-beveled nail slot to resist chip-out when pulling large nails.
  • Claw slot that narrows close to head to grip and pull small nails.
  • Well-formed claw points capable of getting under embedded nail heads.
  • Hickory, solid or tubular steel or fiberglass handle firmly attached to head.
  • Handle should be ergonomically shaped and cushioned for secure grip and comfort.
  • Fiberglass, graphite and steel I beam hammers should have a jacket of materials such as polycarbonate to provide overstrike protection.
  • Warning and use message affixed to the hammer.

Safety Tips:

  • Eye protection should be worn at all times when working with striking tools.
  • Use the correct tool for the job. Injuries can be caused by trying to strike too heavy a blow with a lightweight hammer or by using the wrong style of hammer for the task.
  • Always strike the surface squarely-avoid glancing blows.
  • Never use a hammer with a chipped, battered or mushroomed face, a cracked claw or eye section or a loose or cracked handle.


Ball peen hammers are used with small shank, cold chisels for cutting and chipping work, rounding over rivet ends, forming unhardened metal work and similar jobs not involving nails.

The striking face diameter should be approximately 3/8″ larger than the diameter of the head of the object being struck.

The hammer is designed with a regular striking face on one end and a rounded or half ball or peen on the other end taking the place of a claw. The hammer face is heavier than the peen end. Hammer sizes range from 2 to 48 oz. Twelve and 16 oz. are most popular.


Mallets have rubber, plastic, wooden or rawhide heads and are used to drive chisels or hammer joints together. They are used in jewelry, brass and automobile work where the blow of a metal hammer could mar the finish. They also are used in applications where it is necessary to avoid sparks. With the exception of wooden mallets, sizes are specified in either head weight or diameter, such as 2-1/4″ Wooden mallets are specified by head diameter only.

There are a variety of mallet shapes and sizes for specific tasks. A carpenter’s mallet with an angled head provides a natural strike resulting in less wrist and arm fatigue. A shop mallet with an octagonal head is used for flat strikes and is constructed for balance by mating the head and handle weight, while a pestle-shaped mallet with a round horizontal strike is generally used with a chisel or other carving tools.


The two basic nail hammers are curved claw and straight claw. Curved claw is used most often in a home, while straight claw (ripping hammer) is more likely to be used by professionals to rip apart nailed wooden components.

Common head weights are 7 oz. for light-duty driving; 10 oz. and 13 oz. for cabinetmakers and householders; 16 oz. for general usage; 20 oz. for heavy crating, framing, etc. All sizes are available with curved claw, while the straight claw comes in 10-, 16-, 20-, 24-, 28 and 32-oz. weights.

Straight claw hammers are now available with milled or checkered faces to grip the nail head and reduce the effect of glancing blows and flying nails.

Nail hammers may have handles made of a number of materials-wood, jacketed fiberglass, jacketed graphite, tubular steel or jacketed steel I-beam Each offers a different combination of stiffness for efficiency delivering the force of the blow to the target, and shock absorption to reduce shock and stress on the user’s hand, wrist and arm. Wood flexes and offers some degree of shock absorption. Stiffer materials such as graphite or steel I-beam deliver the full force of the blow but require cushioning in the jacketing and grip to provide long-term user comfort.

Nail hammer handles are available in a variety of lengths from 13″ to 18″.


Hand drilling hammers, weighing 2 to 4 lbs., are used with star drills or cold chisels on heavy duty work. They have short handles and are recommended for pounding hardened nails into concrete or for using with tools that drive nails and pins into concrete, brick, etc. Larger striking surface, generous bevel and special heat treating minimize chance of chipping the striking face.


Sledge hammers are used for extremely heavy jobs, wherever great force is required. They have long handles that range from 14″ to 36″ and heads that weigh from two to 20 lbs.


Specialty hammers include riveting hammers to set rivets; setting hammers to close and open seams and dress edges in tin work; straight and cross peen hammers for riveting, stretching and bending metal; scaling and chipping hammers for general chipping in welding and cleaning torch cuts; bricklayer hammers for cutting and setting brick and tile hammers to set tile.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.