While hammers and mallets perform similar functions, the major difference between the two is that a hammer has a metal head while a mallet has a wooden or synthetic head. There are a range of styles specific to most trades. Within each is a multitude of variations. For example, claw and framing hammers, used for driving and extracting nails and spikes, can have milled or smooth faces with or without an integrated magnetic nail holder; short or long claws with or without a built-in nail puller; and wood, steel, titanium or fibreglass handles that can be straight, curved or hatchet styled. Buying the right hammer depends on the type of work you’ll do with it, how you’ll use the hammer and how often you’ll use it. Warrington hammers are for starting finish nails with the cross peen head and then using the round head to drive the nails home without marring the wood surface. Choose a tack hammer for driving small nails and tacks. Japanese hammers have one flat and one slightly convex striking face and are widely used for light chisel work and adjusting hand plane blades. For working on your shop machinery and for any kind of metal work, choose a ball-peen. Veneer hammers aren’t used for pounding at all – after glue is applied to veneer, they’re used like a squeegee to press out excess glue and air. The sledge is a heavy-duty hammer used for demolition work and driving large spikes.
Common types: claw, framing, Warrington, tack, Japanese, ball-peen, veneer, sledge
Head composition: steel, titanium
Handle composition: wood, steel, titanium, fibreglass
One style of hammer won’t suffice for all your striking work. Make life easier by using the appropriate type of hammer for the striking job at hand.
If doing a lot of overhead work, or carrying a hammer on a tool belt for long periods of time, choose a lightweight model.
Wood handles are the lightest, transmit the least vibration and can be easily replaced or customized. Leave the hammers with metal and titanium handles to the pros.
If you’ll be using a hammer primarily outdoors and likely to occasionally “park it” there, choose one with a fibreglass or composite anti-slip handle.
Nails, splinters of wood and pieces of concrete can inadvertently break off and get deflected towards your face.