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Mallet vs Hammer: What’s the Difference?

hammer header

Mallets and hammers are both tools that you use to force something into a place you want it to go. For that object to move, the stopping force when the hammer or mallet hits it and stops must be harder than the object itself. The amount of force made upon impact is determined by three things:

  1. The swing of your arm and/or hand

The farther away the tool is from what you are trying to move, the harder the strike will be. If you need to move something quite a bit, you’ll swing your arm up. If you only need to tap something, you’ll just bend your wrist up and let it fall from there.

  1. The length of the handle

As we just said, the farther the distance, the harder and faster a tool falls. This means a hammer with a short handle would be best for hanging pictures, while a long-handled hammer would be used in house construction.

  1. Gravity

Gravity helps to pull the tool down and gather speed. The beauty of a hammer is that you don’t have to have a ton of muscular strength to use one. You raise it up and let it fall by the pull of gravity. The weight of the hammer does the rest.

A hammer and a mallet do the same thing in the same way, so what is the difference between the two?


Hammers are designed to drive objects with a hard, blunt force. There are only two components to a mallet: the head, and the handle. The hammer, however, has many different parts.

Parts of a Hammer

  • Face:

The face is the flat surface on one side of the head that makes contact with your object.

  • Neck:

The neck is the narrow part that connects the head to the eye and is often octagon-shaped.

  • Eye:

The eye is where the wedge is placed to secure the head to the handle. It is often a deep and tapered hole where the tip of the handle is inserted. The tip of the wood has a split in the middle. A wedge of wood is then forced into the split, securing it by forcing it open. When a hammer hits, the head wants to push up, but since the wedge has forced it open, it’s now too wide for the head to move.

  • Claw:

The claw is on the other end of the head. It has a V-shape that can slip over and around any size of nailhead. Once the nail is secure in the smallest part of the V, the hammer is rocked backward, towards the head. The pressure from the pull can remove even the firmest of nails.

  • Handle:

The handle of the hammer is the part the user holds that allows its head to be used effectively. Longer handles provide more potential to achieve greater force, because the farther the hammer drops, the harder the strike. However, longer handles limit the spaces they can be used in while still allowing users to hit their desired targets accurately.

The head on a mallet is soft so it won’t damage soft material. The hammer, however, is almost always made of pure steel for hard, forceful strikes. The majority of the head’s mass is concentrated on the face side that is used to strike.


Mallets are designed to create or change the shape or appearance of an object. They are often used directly on finished surfaces where you don’t want to leave any marks. For that reason, mallets have heads that are made mostly of either rubber or wood, though they can be copper or plastic also. The point is that the material a mallet is made of has a softer impact on objects.

The weight of the head and how its mass is distributed is another factor in how hard the tool strikes. A mallet’s head is spread evenly so that both sides are equal. They can be the same because mallets have two hitting surfaces. There is no claw since they aren’t used to pull or pry on anything.

Image credit: Mauro Cateb, Wikimedia

Mallets are used to apply mild to moderate force. Therefore, the head and handle can be attached by wedges like hammers are, but they can also be held by hardware or glue. The swing and impact are lighter, so the head doesn’t necessarily need the extra security of the wedge.

Final Word

Mallets and hammers are both used to move objects. They force items into small places so that they have a tight and secure fit. They are used for entirely different things, though. Mallets are made of soft materials that can be used on any surface without leaving any marks. Hammers are pure steel, allowing one to strike with all of one’s might. It’s a great way to get your aggressions out.

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