Crushing It: The 7 Best Hammers

True, you can slap any hunk of metal, wood, or hide on the end of a stick and call it a hammer, but such rudimentary inventions have no place on a job site or even hanging from the belt of a true DIY artist. Like a good utility knife, the right hammer can be the cornerstone of any toolbox. Once you have used a quality hammer to complete a job, or upgraded to using the proper hammer for the proper task, you will quickly see how important it is to find the right one for your body and the job at hand.

For the purpose of this guide we’re going to focus primarily on standard hammers, the sort that can be used for general purpose carpentry rather than specialized models. These all have proper weight distribution for easy handling and accurate striking. They are made of materials built to last and accessories such as peens or claws that are well-suited to making their purpose as simple as possible. We’re also going to be looking primarily at manual hammers rather than impact drivers or mechanical options, as those have their own special place. Now, on to the 7 best hammers for pros and amateurs.

Stanley 5oz

Stanley 5oz

Pro: Long handle
Con: Weak magnet

Totally Tacky: There’s no reason a good hammer has to be a heavy hitter. Being able to handle small, delicate jobs like putting together a doll house for your daughter is just as important as being able to bust through a marble wall. The 5-Ounce tack hammer from Stanley seems ideally suited to tiny tasks. The balance gives a touch of extra weight to the head for a better swing with less wind up for work in tight spaces. The long, hickory handle gives you the ability to work from a distance with improved leverage over shorter models. The forged head works equally well on decorative and purely functional tacks without mangling them while a magnetic end ensures nothing is lost in the process. The smooth head can take some practice to aim if you are used to tapered models and the magnet could stand to be a little stronger. [Purchase: $9]

Craftsman NEXTEC Autohammer

Craftsman NEXTEC Autohammer

Pro: Quick charging
Con: Limited power

Automatic: Still swinging a hammer like an ape with a bone from 2001? Well, Dave, it’s time to dump the low-tech and hop into the space age. The NEXTEC is the auto-hammer of note. It works in any space and still manages to pack enough power to put nails into oak. The end rotates a full 90 degrees so you can work head on, around corners, or at a 45 degree angle with equal ease. The battery will give you 2,000 hits a minute and comes with a Quickboost charger that can get you back up to 25% power in just 3 minutes so the work never has to cease. LED lights help you hit the sweet spot every time. Very little vibration, a low cost, and the Craftsman logo on the side should be all you need to know. [Purchase: $85]

Wilton BASH 24oz Ball Peen

Wilton BASH 24oz Ball Peen

Pro: Rubber handle
Con: Heavy

Metal Masher: At 24oz this is actually one of the lighter peen options that Wilton makes, but they are all great.Their unbreakable sledge hammer is particularly luscious. Since ball peen hammers are intended primarily for metalworking, they have created a handle made of vulcanized rubber which is many times better at absorbing shock than even the softest wooden handle. You can work this for hours without getting the trembles up your arm or ending up with a vibrating shoulder. The interior is constructed of spring steel rods that are meant to last forever and give the BASH more than enough stiffness to make every strike count. A safety plate holds the head in place so there’s no risk of it dislodging and injuring the machinist next to you. It can be used for basic carpentry, though the heft will make that a tiring endeavor and you might want a magnetic nail holder to prevent flat fingers. [Purchase: $37]

Estwing E3-16C

Estwing E3-16C

Pro: Incredible balance
Con: Small striking surface

Speed Demon: Weighing in at exactly one pound the 16C is no phantom weight and hits like a much heavier piece of hardware without the fatigue to go along with it. The balance is superb offering the ability use a fast stroke as quick as a drill. The weight will do lot of the work for you while also giving you the ability to get those inverted nails and work at strange angles to get the twisted bastards that refuse to slide straight. The ergonomic nylon vinyl handle is a pleasure to hold and gives you a little squish to improve your grip but not so much as to feel mushy or knock your aim off center. The head is only an inch wide, which might cause a few slips for newbies, but improves aiming for the experienced carpenter. If you need something that can do a lot more damage then the Estwing Hammertooth with its fin protrusion for lumber mauling and 24oz head is also a great buy. [Purchase: $21]

DeWalt MIG Weld 15oz

DeWalt MIG Weld 15oz

Pro: Excellent pulling claw
Con: Requires large swing space

Frame Job: The MIG Weld is all about length. The claw end has long teeth with only a slight curve to easily gets in under embedded nails. The 16 inch handle helps deliver more force per swing than you’d normally get from only 15oz. This makes working with plenty of space a joy, and can help move this from a perfect framing hammer to a very good roofing hammer, but if you expect to handle hardwoods in tight spaces, you’re luck will rapidly run out. The magnetic nail starter on the head works splendidly for one-handed work and the milled tread on the head offers traction like a rock climbing shoe. The vibration-reducing handle is good, but greenhorns will probably need a rest after a hard day on the site. [Purchase: $50]

Stiletto TB15MC TiBone 15oz

Stiletto TB15MC TiBone 15oz

Pro: Magnetic starter ideal for one-handed work
Con: Costly

Tricked Out Titanium: Still working with forged steel hammers? Well, no one can blame you for not wanting to drop the coin on true titanium, but there’s no reason that this can’t go on your wish list because once you’ve tried it, you’ll never want to go back. The TiBone puts nearly all its peers to shame. It might slip in at under a pound, but it lands like a 24oz beater. The body and rubber handle drop recoil down to nothing so that you can work for days on end at any angle without wearing down. A magnetic nail starter lets you work one-handed even if you’re upside down. The face is replaceable and comes in milled or smooth depending on your needs. The price is prohibitive, but since you can replace the head, its and investment in an amazing tool. [Purchase: $197]

Cole-Bar Hammer

Cole-Bar Hammer

Pro: Multiple uses
Con: Odd balance and weight

Coming Soon: This can’t get here fast enough. The Cole-Bar is part pry bar, part ruler, part socket wrench, and oh, yeah, it also pounds in nails. The handle is actually a folding mechanism that can open up into a crowbar using the claw end for some down and dirty dismantling. On the inside of the handle are basic measurements while the end has a standard 0.25in socket driver. You can go from building to demolishing in seconds. While this idea is certainly great, it does leave a few holes in the actual “hammer” part. All you get is a smooth head which leaves framers or those who like a little tread for their work out in the cold. The folding handle doesn’t allow for much in the way of padding and the extra parts make the whole thing heavy and give it a very strange balance. It’s basically several good tools rather than a single great one. [Purchase: $99]

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