Hammers come in many forms and variations (see the full list of hammer types here), each designed to take on their own unique tasks. As a result, many aspects of a hammer are different, which can make choosing the right one harder than it needs to be!
The following guide will walk you through the anatomy of a hammer, detailing the functions and purpose of each part. Upon finishing you will know all there is when it comes to hammer anatomy, allowing you to make informed choices when shopping for your next hammer.
Starting from the bottom we have the grip. The purpose of a grip is fairly self-explanatory, to stop the hammer slipping out of our hand during use.
Many steel hammers also tend to feature a shock-absorbing grip to ease the impact of each strike on the user.
Wooden hammers, however, don’t typically have a grip covering their handle due to the natural shock-absorbing ability of wood.
Moving further up the hammer, we have the handle. Often overlooked, the handle is a very important part of any hammer. Saving a few dollars for a cheaper hammer could mean sacrificing the material of the handle, which isn’t a good idea!
Hammers have to stand up to the impact of many repeated strikes, a poorly constructed handle can easily become the weak link, leading to breakage.
Here are the handles you will likely come across:
- Long: Longer handles allow for greater swings and subsequently more power, one such hammer that features a long handle is the sledgehammer.
- Steel: Being metal, a steel handle is guaranteed to be very sturdy and extremely durable. Yes, they will be heavier than a wooden or fiberglass handle but the rock-solid construction will serve you well for many years to come.
- Titanium: Surely it can’t get much better than steel, right? Wrong! Titanium hammers deliver 97% of their force into the nail as opposed to 70% for steel hammers while weighing 45% less! This means less recoil and more efficient hammering. The one downside, price. However, if you do commit to a titanium hammer, you won’t regret your decision!
- Wooden: The most used material for hammer handles. Although sturdy with great shock absorption, they will break over time. Whether it is from warping or rotting, it will happen. Take care of it and you can get a good few decades out of it though!
- Fiberglass: Recently becoming more popular, fiberglass handles provide greater durability than wooden handles while being lighter than the metal options. Although slightly more expensive, they are much more trustworthy and will last you longer.
The shape of the handle can also vary.
For example, the handle of a chasing hammer starts thin at the hammerhead end and thickens as it works down. This offers greater balance when striking. It is important you hold the hammer for yourself before committing to a purchase.
The part of the hammer where the handle connects to the head, most prominent in wooden hammers. Metal hammers are usually made from one piece of material and therefore don’t have an ‘eye’ as part of their anatomy.
The head refers to the bulk of the top part of a hammer. The key factor to consider here is weight. A bulky head will add some serious weight to your hammer. This may be good for delivering heavier blows but isn’t so great for precise and delicate work. There are some cases where an addition is made to the head, such as in roofing or shingle hammers. Made for roof workers they have a small claw on the side of their head which is used to remove nails.
The throat connects the head to the face. Some hammers, such as the sledgehammer and its variations do not have a throat. Others, such as a tack hammer have an elongated throat.
The face is the surface on a hammer used to strike objects. You may think there isn’t much choice when it comes to this part which isn’t quite true. Although limited, there are a few options available that all make a huge difference to the performance of the hammer.
The shape of the face
You will find the majority of hammers feature a slightly convex face which is fine for the vast majority of users. The opposing option is to go with a milled or ‘waffle’ faced hammer. This will provide slightly more grip when striking down on nails, ideal for users with less experience. Bear in mind though that when flattening a nail in line with the material surface, a milled faced hammer will leave behind marks.
Similar to a milled head, but lightly less intrusive, texturized faces allow you to add a unique look to the surface of woods and metals. Some examples include inverted dimples, wide stripes and crosshatch. Textures can even be overlapped to create even more unique patterns.
A lesser-known face variation is the addition of a magnetic nail starter which is presented as a notch at the top of the face. Simply place the nail in the small notch and it will stay there until you’re ready!
The diameter of the face
You will notice hammers designed for heavy-duty tasks normally have a larger face, while hammers intended for delicate tasks have a face will a small diameter.
If you are still having trouble deciding which variety of face is for you, there is one last option that may interest you, replaceable faces! This option also gives you the luxury of replacing a face once the waffle pattern has worn out or the flat surface has dented. Yes, it will cost you more initially, but in the long run, should pay off very well!
The cheek is simply the side of the hammerhead. There is minimal variation when it comes to this part of a hammer.
Claw & Peen
Along with the face, the claw is one of the most important aspects you must consider when purchasing a hammer. Depending on their design, the claw can be used for a variety of jobs from pulling nails out of wood to separating material and digging holes.
- Curved Claw: The type of claw you are probably most familiar with, a curved claw features two curved claw heads that act as the perfect tool for prying and removing nails.
- Straight Claw: The main function of a straight claw is to separate or dismantle material such as wood and plastics. They tend to be heavier than curved claw hammers.
Instead of featuring a claw, some hammers feature what is known as a peen. A peen is essentially a second hammer head commonly used in metalwork, here are the main variations.
- Ball Peen: While the head of a ball peen hammer is flat, the peen itself is rounded. The rounded peen and steel head design make ball peen hammers a great choice when working with metal.
- Straight Peen: The peen on a straight peen hammer is wedge-shaped and runs parallel to the handle.
- Cross Peen: Same shape peen as on straight peen hammers, with the difference being they run perpendicular to the handle as opposed to parallel.
Did we miss something out? Let us know in the comments below.