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Best Framing Hammers 2020 – Reviews & Buying Guide

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a framer with his favorite hammer

Framing hammers exist to make framing easier. Likewise, the internet exists to make our lives easier, but we know that’s not always what it does. Shopping online for tools can be hard. Between misleading product descriptions written by advertising executives looking to drive sales and the relative difficulty of telling if you’ll even like a product before you buy it, the experience leaves a lot to be desired.

We believe that it doesn’t have to be that way and that well-informed customers can find the tool that’s right for them at a great price, too. Our reviews of the best framing hammers of 2020 are designed to show you everything you need to know about each model. We show you the good and the bad so you can decide which features you need and which flaws you want to avoid.

We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, so if you’re not a hammer connoisseur or are looking to evaluate these tools like a pro would, make sure you check out that guide.

Our Comparison (updated in 2020):

ModelPriceMaterialEditor Rating
Estwing E3-22SM
Estwing Framing Hammer 22 oz E3-22SMBest Overall

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Stanley 51-167 FatMax
Stanley 51-167 FatMax Framing Hammer

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TEKTON 30325
TEKTON 30325 Carpenter HammerBest Value

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Vaughan CF2HC
Vaughan CF2HC 19-Ounce California Framer

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Steel head with hickory handle
Real Steel 0517
Real Steel 0517 Ultra Framing Hammer

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Steel, Rubber

The 5 Best Framing Hammers:

1. Estwing 22 oz Framing Hammer – Best Overall

Estwing Framing Hammer 22 oz E3-22SM

The Estwing Framing Hammer 22 oz E3-22SM is the best carpenter hammer on the market today. The only difference between the two models comes down to the face. This model features a textured, or milled, face, which gives you extra grip and is good for driving nails in areas that won’t be seen, as an errant strike will leave an ugly mark. It means you don’t have to be terribly accurate but can still get good power transfer to the nail. This model comes with a shock-reducing grip, which makes it a pleasant tool to use. It’s also forged in one piece, so you won’t have to worry about it breaking.

In fact, this model is so well-made that users report that their hammers last for decades. That’s an impressive lifespan for a model at this price point. While this model is made in the US, it does suffer from the occasional quality control problem, usually related to a sharp edge that hasn’t been ground down. However, this is a rare occurrence. This model represents just about everything we want to see in a hammer and is sure to make users very happy.

  • Forged in one piece
  • Shock-reducing grip
  • Milled face
  • Durable
  • Infrequent quality control problems

2. Stanley 51-167 FatMax Framing Hammer

Stanley 51-167 FatMax Framing Hammer

The Stanley 51-167 FatMax Framing Hammer is another great choice for those looking for a good finishing hammer. This model comes with a smooth face, so you won’t have to worry about damaging the surfaces on which you’re working. It has a torsion-control grip, which is curved and does a good job of reducing the force on your wrists. It also comes with anti-vibration materials on the grip, which help not only your wrist but your whole arm as well. That makes this model a good choice for people with carpal tunnel or other wrist problems, as it is one of the most comfortable to use.

It’s also well balanced and a pleasure to use. Plus, it comes with a magnetized head. It’s strong enough to hold a nail in place and allows you to drive nails with only one hand, and without putting your fingers at risk. You can also use this hammer to pick up dropped nails. What keeps this great model out of first place is its high price. It costs around fifty percent more than our top model, which is a hefty premium, making it not the right choice for everyone.

  • Torsion-control grip
  • Anti-vibration grip
  • Magnetic nail start
  • Good balance
  • High price

3. TEKTON 30325 Framing Hammer – Best Value

TEKTON 30325 Carpenter Hammer

The TEKTON 30325 Carpenter Hammer is another model that goes beyond what you typically expect from a hammer. The most unique feature on this hammer is the magnetized slot that runs down the top. You can easily use it to start nailing with just one hand, and since it comes with a slot, there’s no chance to accidentally drop the nail. The sharpened claw makes this one of the best models for removing tight nails. The face is also cross-milled, so you’ll have a great grip on each stroke.

You can get this model for about a third less than you’d pay for the top model on our list. That low price makes it the best overall value for the money. What keeps this model out of the top two is its fiberglass body, which doesn’t always hold the head well. The bond between the metal head and fiberglass won’t be as strong as the all-metal hammers on this list, though it’s still a good deal for the price.

  • Cross-milled face
  • Sharpened claw
  • Magnetic nail slot
  • Low price
  • Questionable head mounting

4. Vaughan California Framing-Hammer

Vaughan CF2HC 19-Ounce California Framer

The Vaughan CF2HC 19-Ounce California Framer has one of the best faces on the market today. It’s milled, so you’ll get a great grip as long as you’re not wildly inaccurate. It’s also oversized, so you have a much larger striking space than you’d get with most hammers. It also comes with a great claw, which is well-known for its ease of removing nails. However, all that focus on the face and claw means that the rest of this model suffers.

It has a hickory handle, which some people will like because of its retro look. However, we’re not big on it because it’s not going to be as durable as other hammers you could get for the same price. It also comes with a slot to allow one-handed starting, but it’s not magnetized, so it’s not as useful as the ones on other hammers. Overall, this isn’t a terrible deal, but you could spend about the same amount and get a better hammer for the same price.  This model has decent value, but most people will be happier with a higher-quality hammer.

  • Milled face
  • Extra-large face
  • Great claw
  • Not magnetic
  • Wooden handle

5. Real Steel 0517 Ultra Framing Hammer

Real Steel 0517 Ultra Framing Hammer

The Real Steel 0517 Ultra Framing Hammer is a model that some people will be interested in. It does come with some of the features that make other models on this list attractive, including a milled face. It’s not quite as large as some of the other faces on our list, but it’s not too small to be useful. It also has a magnetic nail starter, allowing you to start nails with just one hand on the hammer, which is an invaluable feature. However, this model is about an ounce lighter than others on our list. That’s a good thing if you want to be easier on your hands and wrists.

Since this model is slightly lighter, it’s not going to be as effective at driving nails as other models would be. The weight chance is slight, so you shouldn’t notice a huge change, but it’s one that physics dictates is there. The grip is not as comfortable as other ones on our list, though it’s still an improvement over holding a bare hammer. Overall, this model is okay value for the price, but if you’re looking for the best framing hammer, you have better options.

  • Milled face
  • Magnetic nail starter
  • Slightly lighter
  • Underwhelming grip
  • Lighter weight not as effective for nail driving

Buyer’s Guide

We hope that our reviews have already led you to the right framing hammer for you. If you’re not sure which one that is yet, this buyer’s guide will walk you through the ins and outs of buying a framing hammer. That way, you’ll know what to look for while you’re shopping, and you can decide what you need for yourself. We’ve also included some tips on getting a great deal, so if you’re looking to maximize your value, check out this guide.


The face is easily the most important part of the hammer. It’s the part with which you’re going to be hitting nails, and while not everyone realizes that this is the case, not all hammer faces are made the same. For doing framing, you’ll want a hammer with a milled face. These feature a cross-cut pattern which increases the hammer’s grip. That way, you get a solid hit on the nail as long as you make some contact with it.

Hammers with a smooth face may slip off the nail if you don’t hit it dead-on, which wastes time, and increases the odds that you accidentally hit the frame instead of the nail. A milled face is far less likely to slip, so it’s a more efficient tool, which is important when you’re working long hours with your hammer. The one downside is that if it slips, or if you miss the nail altogether, you’re going to leave a nasty mark. That makes hammers with milled faces a better choice for areas that won’t be seen when the final project is done.


If you’ve heard of tang before, you’ve probably heard it in context of knives. A full-tang knife features metal that runs the full length of the knife, and the handle wraps around the tang so that there are no weak spots in the blade. A partial-tang knife features a blade with a short metal extension that is inserted into the handle. These are stronger but run a greater risk of the handle separating from the blade. The weakest variety features a blade glued or otherwise attached to the handle, with no metal extension connecting the two.

We started this explanation with knives because it gives most users an easier time understanding tang when it applies to hammers. Full-tang hammers are cast from a single piece of metal, and the head and handle are just different parts of the same piece. A rubber or plastic handle may be wrapped around the handle to increase comfort, but there are no weak spots at which the tool is likely to break.

However, most hammers aren’t full-tang. Typically, the handle, whether wood or plastic, attaches to the head through a groove or slot that’s forged in the head. As you may have guessed, that presents a weak point in the tool, and in low-quality tools, it’s the point at which they typically break.

If you want a hammer that will last for decades, you’d be wise to go with a full-tang model.


Handles aren’t typically the first thing most people think about when shopping for a hammer, but they’re a part that has a big effect on how much you enjoy using the tool. The best handles can reduce the torque that you feel when swinging the hammer, which makes them a lot easier on your wrists. This isn’t an incredibly common feature yet, but you can find some models with it.

More common are handles that reduce vibration. Hitting a metal nail with a metal hammer produces a lot of vibrations, and while you may or may not notice them in the moment, vibrations are the thing that causes most fatigue when using tools, and not necessarily weight. It’s a good idea to get a hammer with a handle that reduces vibrations if you’re going to be using it for long stretches at a time, as it will greatly reduce the rate at which you tire.

Which framing hammer is right for you?

Not all hammers are made equally, and they’re not priced equally, either. While some look at expensive or cheap options exclusively and try to find the best value in there, it’s a good idea to start with your needs instead of price.

If you make a list of hammers with the features you need to have a satisfying experience, and then rank them by price, it becomes much easier to choose. Just choose the lowest-priced one from that list, which may or may not be the lowest-priced one on the market. It has the features you need, but comes at the lowest possible price, making it the best overall value for the money.

Or maybe you’re looking for a different type of hammer:


The Estwing Framing Hammer 22 oz E3-22SM is the hammer to get if you’re looking for the best framing hammer on the market today, due to milled face, shock-reducing grip, and the fact that it was forged in one piece. The Stanley 51-167 FatMax Framing Hammer comes with a torsion-control grip that also reduces vibrations, and good overall balance, but its high price means it only takes second place. The TEKTON 30325 Carpenter Hammer has a cross-milled face, a sharpened claw, and a magnetic nail slot, and since it costs less than the first two models on our list, it’s the best overall value for the money. The Vaughan CF2HC 19-Ounce California Framer comes with an extra-large, milled face, and a great claw, but its lack of magnetism and its wooden handle drop it to fourth place. In last is the Real Steel 0517 Ultra Framing Hammer, which has a magnetic nail starter and a milled face but comes with an underwhelming grip and a slightly lighter and less powerful weight.

Hopefully, our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you learn more about framing hammers. You should now be able to find the model that’s right for you.

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About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!