One of the oldest and crudest hand tools is the hammer. Its application is pretty basic: You simply lift it up and bring it down. The tool’s hardest part makes contact with whatever you want to apply force to.
Therein lies the nuance. For a tool with such crude action, there are lots of different ways to apply that force. Why? Because there are lots of different things to do with it. There are activities like driving nails that call for brute strength. There are activities that require a more direct application, like driving a chisel through wood. There are even hammers with heads designed for chipping away at rock or corrosion.
We’ve examined quite a few different kinds of hammers to give you an idea of the variety that’s available. No matter what job you have, there’s a hammer designed for it, and we’re pretty sure that we’ve got it profiled below.
A basic hammer is like a roll of duct tape. It can be used for so many things. Here are the different types:
Your basic nail driver needs no real introduction. It comes with a striking side and a curved two-prong nail lifter for correcting screwups. Not well suited for applying force to other tools, but it can work in a pinch. These are also cheap and easy to find.
A more sophisticated brother of the basic nail driver, the framing hammer is for building house frames. Its shorter, straight claw and waffled head set it apart from the claw hammer. It’s not as versatile and it’s a little more expensive. We put it here because of its similarity to the basic, all-around hammer.
The second most common hammer in a DIYer’s inventory is a basic mallet, designed to soften blows. You won’t use this to drive nails, but you will use it for things like pushing chisels or applying pressure to turn wrenches. These days, most commercially available mallets are made from rubber.
If you need a hammer for basic demolition, a sledgehammer is a great way to go. It can either bring down a wall or drive a giant stake deep into the ground. Because it’s designed for pretty basic work, it’s another fairly common tool in most workshops. Just don’t buy this expecting to drive in carpet nails.
What’s that about driving in carpet nails? The tack hammer is perfect for such work or really anything that requires a deft touch. One side of this tool is usually magnetized to hold things in place.
When it comes to hammers, people often associate them with bulging biceps and hard swings. You aren’t aiming for finesse, you’re aiming to pound. These hammers deliver that action.
Think of a club hammer as a one-handed sledgehammer. It’s designed for those situations where you need the strength of a sledge but have limited space to wield it in.
Possibly the most specialized of the pounding hammers, the dead blow hammer is designed to minimize recoil and damage inflicted on a struck surface. That makes it ideal for driving chisels or moving wrenches as they loosen stuck screws. Great for precision work or in tight locations.
If you need a hammer to shape a piece of flat metal, you’re looking for a tool that relies on finesse rather than brute strength. For this reason, hammers used for shaping have a different design profile than hammers used for pounding.
While you can use the flat face of this hammer as you would a common pounding hammer, the curved peen on the back is great for basic shaping work. Lots of workshops have ball peen hammers in them, and they are especially useful in basic metalworking for their shaping qualities.
Familiar to fantasy fans mostly because of the burly blacksmiths who wield it, a blacksmithing hammer is used primarily to shape malleable, white-hot metal. That means you need finesse and skill more than bulging biceps to properly use it.
A blocking hammer is another popular one for blacksmiths. Its flat face is used to shape hot metal on an anvil or a block. Its smaller head is indicative of the fact that—among blacksmithing jobs—this tool is really all about finesse and detail work.
Unlike the rounded ball peen hammer, this hammer has a peen that has a blade perpendicular to the handle. Like its more popular cousin, its face is great for crude power and its peen ideal for shaping.
The finest of the shaping hammers, the chasing hammer is great for shaping soft metals into jewelry. The handle is tapered toward a bulbous end for optimal stroke control, and its flat head is great for turning that soft energy into just enough power to bend malleable metals.
Working with wood calls for more than just driving nails. Sometimes you need a hammer designed to help you work with the wood itself. The following specialty hammers address this challenging issue.
With a flat head that is perfect for working in small nails designed for trim, this woodworking hammer has a short, to-the-point claw for removing problem fasteners. It’s great for light woodworking or working in tight angles.
Drywall isn’t actually wood, but normally you hang drywall on a wood frame. So a drywall hammer has a place among woodworking hammers because of that. This tool comes with a flat head to drive fasteners and a hook on the back to tear off drywall—or wood paneling—you need to remove.
While most hammers focus on the head as the primary source of action, people who buy a hatchet hammer are usually keen on its peen. Unlike a traditional hatchet, which is just a chopping blade, this one allows you to knock together two crude pieces of wood via a fastener.
You can tell this is a woodworking tool by its all-wood construction. Used to either push chisels to shape wood or to knock two joints together, the soft-hitting surface won’t leave a scar if you happen to overhit or miss the mark.
This subcategory is a bit of a misnomer since masonry and working with rock are two different things. These hammers are used to either shape or break up rocks, or to help in replacing masonry work. Technically, it’s called hardscaping.
This hammer’s flat head is pretty conventional, but what passes as a peen is really a flat blade that you can use for a variety of purposes. It can split bricks, chip apart rocks, or even cut bricks.
Shorter than a traditional sledgehammer, but designed with masons in mind, this hammer allows you to break up concrete or rocks with hard swings. The flat edge and angled edge both have their respective uses.
Designed with hobbyists in mind, this hammer allows you to knock out an interesting find from a strata layer and do some simple shaping work. Don’t expect to open up a vein of copper ore with this—it’s designed entirely with pretty gentle, skilled work in mind.
There are also hammers for specialized purposes, from electrical work to cooking. If you really want to appreciate just what hammers have to offer, this is the subset that really drives it home.
While this looks like a traditional carpenter’s hammer, this tool comes with a less pronounced claw for pulling fasteners. It’s also usually more expensive than a claw hammer because it comes with insulation to protect the user from shock.
With the great variety of shingles in use these days, this multi-medium hammer can really come in handy. It can be used for asphalt or slate and comes with a small claw for removing bent nails. Admittedly, most people nowadays opt for nail guns, but this is still an option.
Though technically a rock hammer, it’s really for recreation rather than construction. The piton hammer is used to help mountain climbers drive life-saving stakes into rock faces. You might say it has the most exciting life of any hammer.
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!