By definition a hammer is a tool with a solid head mounted on a handle used with force to drive nails or pound metal. A hammer is easily the most common tool found in any tool bag of almost any trade profession.

Hammers are also one of the oldest tools used by humans with the first noted use dating back almost 3.5 million years ago. Hammers today have many forms, names and uses evolving from a simple tool to smash something with into a specialized form for getting specific jobs done.

What Is A Hammer?

A hammer consists of two basic parts: the head and the handle. Even over the years this hasn’t changed very much.

The head, usually made of steel, attaches to the handle in a perpendicular direction creating a “T” shape. The head will have two different ends and each end will have a specific purpose. One end of the hammer will be the driving head. This is the end that is used for impact. Generally, the driving head will have a flat contact surface with a weighted or balled steel behind it.

The other end will vary depending on the hammer’s use. Some will have wedges to remove nails, while others will have small axe heads, a pick, a peen or even a second head and face such as found in a sledgehammer.

The handle is attached to the head in the center at the head’s eye. The eye is the hole in the head where the handle is inserted. A handle can be made of any solid material such as wood, fiberglass, steel or carbon fiber.

Depending on the type of head and the material of the handle, they will be joined in different ways. In the case of a basic claw hammer, for example a staple or nail is set in the top of the handle after it is wedged into the eye to force outward pressure keeping it in place. Glue and welds are other forms of attachment.

What is a Hammer Used For?

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This tool, in it’s most primitive state, is used to drive nails or pound metal. Anywhere you need to use force with precision, a hammer will work.

However, since the hammer has evolved, there are many specific uses for them. A hammer will almost always have a head and face for driving or pounding, however different faces are used for different purposes.

A drywall hammer, for example has a flatter, wider face with virtually no head. The face also has a cross-hatch or waffle print to prevent damage to sheet rock and drywall when driving drywall nails in place. Some faces are spherical without a flat surface and are used for pounding and shaping metal.

When you want to drive nails into wood for structural or craft building a claw hammer is your best option. The weighted head and flat face ensure a solid impact with the nail head. The claw wedge on the other end will get under a nail head and allow you to pry it out of the wood surface.

Other professions besides drywall, framing and crafts use hammers as well. Plumbers will use rubber mallets to seat fittings or to dislodge rusted pipes. Even a court judge will use a special all wood hammer called a gavel to announce rulings or bring order to the court room.

You will find a hammer of some sort in just about any tool bag, from steel and iron workers to carpenters and HVAC technicians. Hammers are a go-to, must have item for any trade professional.

Projects Hammers Are Great For

Hammers are not known as a finishing tool and as such will not be used to start and complete any specific project. However, there are several specific projects that hammers are essential for.

Framing and Decks

In construction, framing is the portion of building and setting wooden (or steel) pieces together to give the structure support and shape. To fit these pieces together you will need a hammer and nails.

The hammer will drive the nails into the wood holding the framed piece together which will then be lifted into place and the rest of the structure mounted to them. Most of the rest of the structures will be mounted to the frames using some sort of hammer as well. Even the drywall that goes over the final frames to create rooms, will be attached with a hammer.

Decks and patios will be built primarily with hammers as well. Once the wooden planks are cut to size, they will be mounted on the deck frames with a hammer and nails. The deck planks will rest along a series of cross beams and nailed into place with a claw hammer.


Still in practice today, blacksmithing relies on hammers to forge, shape and strengthen metal. Hammers will be used as blunt force objects to pound metal against an anvil until the desired size and shape is met. These hammers. Known as forging hammers, farriers hammers or lineman’s hammers have different sizes and faces for different jobs.

A sledgehammer style will be used for hot pounding using it’s thick, heavy and flat faces, while a rounded hammer will be used to bring shape to metal using a rounded face.

Delicate Works

You will also find hammers being used in certain trades where a delicate touch is needed. HVAC professionals will use a rubber mallet when pounding on the soft copper lines of a condenser unit, for example.

Jewelers will also use jeweler’s hammers to resize or reshape rings. Some hammer’s also have a pick or an axe for a face and will be used by rock-hounds and geologists to remove stones from the Earth.

Everything from small, delicate work to heavy iron work will make use of a hammer. Even in the steel industry.

Bosch Hammer Drill

A hammer drill, such as the Bosch hammer drill, is not a typical hammer. A hammer drill is used primarily in concrete and steel work for aiding the worker in drilling. A hammer drill is an electric (or battery powered) drill with a special percussion hammering action.

While drilling, the percussion device will slide back and forth providing a hammering pulse to the drill bit. This, in turn, will make the drill more effective with less effort. Drilling holes in concrete, for example is a lot easier with a hammer drill than a regular drill.

Common Types of Hammers

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As we have discussed, hammers come in all shapes and sizes for a myriad of uses and trades. While some are very specialized, like a jeweler’s hammer or geologist’s hammer, others are more common and serve a wider range or purposes.

Ball Peen Hammer

A ball peen hammer is a standard hammer with a steel head. The difference is that one end of the head is rounded, like a ball. This is the peen. The peen is used in metal working, mechanics and assembly.

The peen head isn’t used to drive nails but instead it is used to shape metal (like with blacksmithing), or to round off nail heads or rivets when assembling pieces.

Claw Hammer

A claw hammer is one of the most common types of hammers around and can be found in tool boxes and bags not only in professional trades but in residential homes as well. The hammer has a striking head with a flat face for driving nails and a claw end for removing them.

The claw end is wedge shaped with a specific arch to it. It is usually split into two halves with the split growing ever narrower towards the eye. The is used to get under nail heads and using the arch to leverage them free. The narrowing split allows for virtually any sized nail to be grabbed and pried.

Framing Hammer

A framing hammer looks very similar to a claw hammer. It is generally heavier with a longer handle to provide more power at the head using gravity and leverage.

Framing hammers are used primarily in framing and carpentry work where brute force and repeated swings are needed. The claw is also used to remove nails but is called a straight claw. It doesn’t have the arch that a claw hammer does.

The primary purpose of the claw on a framing hammer is to rip and remove wood and lumber. The longer handle provides more force on a smaller fulcrum to provide power to splinter the wood apart.


While there are many uses for a hammer, and many specialized hammers for specific jobs, they all serve the same basic purpose: Drive nails and pound objects. For over three million years hammers have been used to break things apart or pound objects together.

While the design hasn’t changed much over the years, the need for hammers has increased. Today, you will find hammers being used by almost every profession, trade or specialist.

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