The best hammer isn’t hard to find if you know what to look for and where to look. We’ve taken care of both of those areas with our ultimate hammer guide, so whether you’re working with metal, wood or need to knock out a dent, we have you covered…
Replaceable milled face
16-inch ergonomic handle
Magnetic nail starter
Lots of prying power
A Titanium head and overstrike protection are only two highlights of this beauty from Dalluge and Vaughan.
With Anti-vibration tech and one-piece design, this Bell Pein hammer set is perfect for pros and average consumers alike.
Another classic from Estwing, the BIG BLUE is 25 ounces and built for framing and ripping boards apart.
ABN’s dead blow hammer is affordable and covered in a non-marring rubber coating with a non-sparking face.
The perfect tool for beginners thanks to overstrike protection and a durable design.
While I’ve owned several hammers over the years, my favorite is a good old Estwing claw hammer. I’ve had it for over a decade, and while the milling is long gone, it’s still going strong today.
The hammer has been around for a few million years and is one of the earliest tools used by humans. Unless you want to go primitive, the best hammer doesn’t need to rely on sinew and stone anymore as titanium and other exotic alloys are now commonplace.
When it comes to finding the right hammer for the job, there are a wealth of options to choose from. Frame houses? A good carpenter hammer or a California framing hammer will drive nails through wood with ease. The type of hammer you need depends on the task at hand, so whether you need a soft face hammer or a cross pein, we have you covered…
You may think everyone has used a hammer; you’d be mistaken. There’s a reason they sell “beginner” toolkits although most have chintzy hammers. With that in mind, we decided to tackle the top hammers for several different areas which turned out to be easier said than done.
While I’ve used hammers for over 20 years, the number of hammers available today is truly astonishing although screwdrivers still have them beat 10 to 1. After checking out the top brands, I deferred to my fellow builders to hear their thoughts before narrowing the field down to a pool of products featuring only the best.
We were unable to cover every type of hammer although we’ve included the most popular styles. That means there’s something for the weekend warrior ready for an upgrade as well as consumers than need a narrower or heavier head.
What are you using the hammer for?
Once you answer that simple question, things are straightforward as you just need to focus on the style you need. From here, take a look at the materials used in the construction of the hammer and its weight.
If you are professional, you may need to consider any site standards required for your tools as well along with the warranty. Our picks are all built to last, but tools tend to take more abuse when used commercially.
Would you hammer in the morning or hammer out love between our brothers and sisters on planet earth? Well, you can hammer all over this land if you have the right tool, but finding the perfect hammer can be difficult if you are new or just unsure of what you need.
In our hammer buying guide, we will cover all usual suspects along with specialty tools built for specific trades. We’ll also explain the basics like, “What is a claw hammer” and tell you what the difference is between a cross peen and ball pein hammer.
Before you try to decide between an Estwing Ultra or something from Vaughan hammers, you need to understand the parts of a hammer. Did you know the claw of a hammer can be used for far more than pulling nails? Have a clue what the cheek is or the notch found in the neck of some hammers? Have no fear as we’re going to break down the basics.
Whether you get a choice depends on the model, but it’s key as a milled head decreases the chance of bent nails. Smooth heads also serve a purpose, however, especially if you’re doing finish work and don’t dig nail punches or putty. This diagram gives shows the rest of the parts of a hammer head…
Fiberglass is lighter, but won’t hold up as well as a wooden handle hammer. There are some models with jacketed cores or other decisions that make them more durable than previous generations as well. If you plan to use your new hammer as an implement of destruction or for prying, metal is your obviously your best option.
There are too many specialty hammers to keep up with these days, so we decided to focus our search on the most common styles. All of the hammers below are used to build things or tear them apart. They will also allow you to work with wood, metal and other materials that require a lighter touch than a traditional hammer can provide.
That claw provides a considerable amount of leverage – just don’t consider it a replacement for an actual pry bar. If you do, you may be looking for a new hammer.
More often than not, the only difference between this type of hammer and a straight claw (aside from the obvious) is the build quality, weight and price tag.
Framing hammers fall into this category as well, and most carpenters hammers will have a milled face to decrease the chance of slippage. These are pro level tools as well, and typically not something you’ll have lying around in the garage.
The weight of these tools varies wildly, so you may be better off with a set unless you know what you need beforehand. The style of head is important, but so is the handle if you plan on working around heat.
As with most different types of hammers, there are a few variants of the dead blow. Some are solid and build like a mini-sledge while others are filled with sand or other substances. You can even find a dead blow hammer with brass or removable faces as well.
While those are the most popular types of hammers in our experience, there are a few others that didn’t make the cut. Brass hammers are a popular tool for gunsmiths and for any environment where sparks can be an issue.
There are also “lump” hammers which we call mini sledges and hammers built do deal with drywall. If you have a specific task in mind that requires driving, ripping or destroying something, there’s a good chance they make a hammer for the job.
Common Things to Consider…
Even when you understand what kind of hammer you need and know the type of claw you require, it would be a mistake to pick up the first hammer that tickles your fancy. That’s because there’s more to a hammer than a smooth or milled face…
If you plan to use your new hammer on a daily basis, look for build quality and buy a pro model. You may pay twice the price or even hundreds of dollars in some cases, but it’s worth it. When you make a living with your tools, don’t skimp and remember it’s a write-off as long as its business related. Makes the price of that Stiletto hammer you had your eye one a little easier to swallow doesn’t it?
Weight is another area that should be high on your list but something we won’t be of much help with. The only advice I can give you is don’t buy a heavy hammer if you’ve never spent the day swinging one. Sure, you will get used to it, but you can put yourself out of commission if you spend 6 hours swinging a 25-ounce framing hammer.
On that note…
Whenever we refer to hammer weight, we’re talking about the head itself and not the handle unless stated otherwise. That’s not by choice as manufacturers use the same system and finding length can be difficult at times as well. It generally depends on the brand.
While we won’t go into the old drop forge vs. pressed debate, we are big fans of tools sporting a one-piece design. If you need a construction hammer, it’s something to consider along with the warranty. We’re also keen on tools that are “Made in the USA” or with high-quality materials as you don’t want a hammer head to snap off and fly across the room. Without a good hammer, you’ll never be able to do things like this…
It’s also wise to consider a set if you’re looking for ball pen, dead blow or other specialty hammers. This allows you to get an idea of what you need without breaking the bank and you can always upgrade individual hammers as needed.
Most tools have some sort of warranty, even if they aren’t powered and made from one piece of steel. Torque wrenches can break, and the head can snap off a hammer without ever making an errant blow. That’s rare, but it can happen with cheap tools although you won’t find any of those on our list.
Handles are generally the first thing to go if fiberglass or wooden, but may not be covered by your warranty… if you even get one. It’s hit or miss, but we tried to include as much information as we could dig up for each of our top choices. You may get a lifetime guarantee, or it could be a “promise” of sorts that may take you through the year.
Considering the nature of hammers and the fact people like to smash things, there are a lot of activities that could void that warranty as well. In short, if you are concerned about the durability of a hammer in the short term, you may need to buy a big hammer or one made from titanium.
Tools Of The Trade
This is another section of quick tips for beginners, so if you’ve got a bag full of tools, feel free to skip ahead. If not, stick around a little longer as we’re going to tell you a few things you may want to go along with your brand new hammer.
While there isn’t a lot of gear for hammers, the number one accessory in our eyes is a simple tool belt with a hammer holder. There are thousands of options available from classic leather to full harness systems. It’s really up to you, but if you want something simple, you can buy a loop that works with almost any belt.
If you’re doing finish work, you will need to stock up on sanding blocks, putty, and pick up a nail punch. Actually, pick up a set of nail punches as they are easy to lose it’s better than using an extra nail when you need to sink one deep. Now that you know what to look for, it’s…
The designers behind this Estwing hammer combined the past with the present. This tool has an old-world feel thanks to the comfy leather grip but is designed drive, demolish and pull with the best of them.
The Estwing Ultra hammer is a 15-ounce hammer from the Ultra leather series. It’s built to be strong and light with a slim profile in the middle the company is famous for. It’s sturdy considering it’s forged from one piece of tool steel, so there are no weak spots or joints that can fail. You can pry away with this one, but that’s not all it can do.
Rip and Pull…
Hammers with a rip claw can tear through sheetrock or pry board apart with ease. They aren’t always ideal for nails however due to leverage, but the Estwing Ultra is an exception. It has a notch in the side of the head that provides a bit more torque than the backside claws. As for the handle, it’s not as comfy as others but is covered in leather, sanded and then lacquered which gives it a unique look.
This Estwing hammer is available with a milled or smooth face and is a good hammer for general use with only one real drawback. That lovely handle isn’t the best choice if you use your tool on a daily basis so this one is more for the garage than the job site. The hammer is made in the USA from American steel and has a solid if somewhat confusing warranty.
There is also a smooth face model with a shorter handle but all clock in at the same weight. If you prefer a curved claw but still like the leather handle, check out this variant that’s available in 12, 16 or 20 ounces.
Forged one-piece design
Magnetic nail starter
Will outlive other hammers
Made in the USA!
Lack of shock reduction
Looking for a California framing hammer? Vaughan hammers has the solution with this rugged wooden handle hammer. It’s another tool that sports the Made in the USA tag, and one you should seriously consider if you want a traditional framing hammer that won’t break the bank.
Andrew Jackson would have been proud to own this hammer given its durability and the fine hickory handle. This old hickory handle has a large eye where the handle meets the head which adds to the overall strength of the tool. The design comes from the company’s Rig Builders hatchet, and that’s not the only thing the designers borrowed for this Vaughan framing hammer.
The head of this hammer is forged from high carbon steel and polished to perfection. The company gave it a triple zone heat treatment and an extra-large striking face. It’s modeled after the popular 999 rip hammer and powder coated to prevent rust. This particular model clocks in at 23 ounces and has a heavily milled face although other weights are available.
Just like with the rest of our picks, you won’t get a regular warranty with the Vaughan framing hammer, but they do cover their products for repair under regular use. While not a tool for the average Joe or Jane, it’s an excellent option for carpentry, framing and other heavy duty work.
Extra-large striking surface
Large rip claws
White hickory handle
Made in the USA
IRWIN Tools is another manufacturer consumers turn to when they want high-quality tools that won’t break the bank. Their General Purpose Fiberglass Claw Hammer certainly fits that bill, and while it isn’t fancy, it performs as advertised.
The highlight of this hammer is the price although it has a sturdy forged steel head. It’s not something you’d want to frame houses with for obvious reasons but is perfect for finish work thanks to the smooth face. Regardless of your prowess with a claw hammer, you won’t leave those nasty waffle marks behind.
As this is a two-piece tool, it’s not quite as durable as the rest. You can still pry nails and boards apart, but you’ll want to be careful with the latter. Fiberglas is strong, but not ideal when you really need to pull something apart. That’s not necessarily a negative with the 1954889 – just a general fact.
One advantage IRWIN Tools hammer has over others is in the comfort department. The handle is covered with a ProTouch no-slip grip, with a slight curve and hard end cap. It’s available in three weights as well in case you need something a little beefier. The 16 oz model has a fiberglass handle while the 20 oz hammer has a one-piece design and magnetic nail holder. The 21 oz rip hammer is made for framing with a milled face, forged head, and curved hickory handle.
Comfortable to use
Sturdy rip claw
Sweet price point
Not built for heavy duty work
It’s a basic hammer
Stilleto pulled out all the stops for the TBM14RMC. It’s made from titanium which is one reason it’s so pricey, but also why it will excel where others fail. Need pulling power? You’ll get it from this straight claw hammer although that’s far from the only trick up its sturdy sleeves.
While only 14 ounces, this Stiletto hammer has the power of a 24-ounce tool. It’s all about the face, which is made from steel and screws onto the head. Yup, you can actually swap heads out when one wears down, or you simply want to go from the stock milled face to one that’s a bit smoother.
Two other features we’re fans of are the magnetic nail starter and their patented side nail puller. The latter is a bit different from the rest as its set towards the bottom instead of the top and can remove a 16 penny nail with ease. The handle has ample padding as well to go along with a slight curve which makes it easier to use during those long days on the job.
Half pry bar, half hammer, the Stiletto TiBone Mini-14 is a beast and a rarity considering the quality and the fact you can swap faces out. The obvious downside is the price considering an experienced contractor can drive a nail just as well with a $50 hammer as one that cost a few hundred bucks. It also has a short warranty given its price, so you’ll only get a 1-year.
Replaceable milled face
16-inch ergonomic handle
Magnetic nail starter
Lots of prying power
If you’re a professional, you may own a Dalluge hammer, but it’s a brand often overlooked by new builders. Well, that would be a mistake as they make some slick tools like this unique 16-ounce hammer that’s packed full of friendly features.
The Dalluge 7180 has a 16 oz titanium head with a serrated face to prevent slippage. It has a nail holder in the top of the head, but it’s a bit different from the rest. It can handle regular nails but also deals with Duplex nails which are difficult for other hammers. If you’re not familiar with the style, it’s like a temporary nail with a collar and very, very useful with construction or remodeling.
On the rear of this hammer lies a reinforced rip claw that’s straighter than others and quite compact. It can do some damage, and you won’t have to worry about a bad strike. The Dalluge titanium hammer has an overstrike guard that tapers down from the head into each side of the hickory handle. There’s also a side nail puller, and the company says the handle is shock absorbing although it’s wooden and sans a grip.
Sometimes you have to pay up for top quality tools, and that’s the case with the Dalluge titanium hammer. It’s pricey and in the pro class, but could be the last hammer you have to buy for a decade if you treat it with care. This particular model is available with your choice of a milled or smooth face, and all Dalluge hammers come with a warranty through Vaughan & Bushnell Mfg.
Milled or smooth face
Sturdy hickory handle
Duplex nail holder
Pro level tool
Ball pein hammers come in all shapes in sizes. That includes budget-friendly tools with fiberglass handles and a Stanley hammer like the Proto line. This set has tech that will make your job easier, and it’s hard to argue with their style…
Tools are supposed to be functional, not fancy although it’s safe to say nobody wants ugly tools in their box or bag. The Stanley Proto J1304AVPS Ball Pein Hammer set are the best-looking peens we’ve seen, and they will last twice as long as others given the build quality and design.
Proto went with a one-piece design for this steel hammer set, so there are no weak spots. The heads are heat-forged, and nickel plated with a rim tempered striking surface. This increases the durability while decreasing the chance at damage from a bad strike. They are Pro level tools and ones that won’t jar you with every strike.
Every hammer on our list has some form of vibration dampening tech – wooden handles aside. In this case, you’ll get a patented antivibration tech that dampens your delivery and keeps your arms fresh. You’ll be thankful for with as the biggest hammer has a 24-ounce head and weighs 2.5 pounds.
On that Note…
This set includes four tools with 8, 12, 16 and 24-ounce hammer heads. The 24-ounce hammer is 13-24/32” long while the 8-ounce hammer head has a total weight of 1.2 pounds and is 11 inches long. As with other branded sets, you can pick up matching hammers with a 4 or 32-ounce ball peen hammer.
If you’re serious about your trade, you need good tools, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better set than this one. Sure, there are cheaper sets, but these are one-piece, and that anti-vibration tech is well worth the money. They are also warrantied for life although you shouldn’t ever need to put that to use given the build quality.
Grip gives you more control over strikes
Pro quality tools
Our second Estwing hammer is just as outstanding as our first option – this one is only built for framing. The E3-25SM hails from their BIG BLUE lineup and sports all the features that made the company famous over the years.
From the forged head to the shock reduction grip, there is a lot to like about this framing hammer. It’s a one-piece hammer so you’ll never need to worry about the head flying off. You’ll also be able to tear through a variety of materials thanks to the big rip claw on the back. It’s not titanium, but prying won’t be an issue with this one.
The neck is slim and tapers down from the head before widening at the grip. At 25 ounces, it has plenty of weight so you’ll be thankful for the shock reduction grip at the end of the day. It’s said to reduce vibration impacts by 70%, and while that’s something we can’t test, I can attest to the fact it does cut things back considerably.
This Estwing framing hammer is 18 inches long, and while we chose the milled face, a smooth-faced variant is available as well. It’s made from high-quality materials in the USA just like the rest of the Estwing family and should be an option if you’re looking for the best framing hammer.
Shock reduction grip
Excellent value for the price
Made in the USA
Our pick for the best dead blow hammer comes from a company called ABN. They may not have the name recognition of some of the brands on our list, but this mallet delivers accurate strikes at an affordable price.
ABN stands for Auto Body Now, so they definitely know a thing about dents and rubber hammers. This dead blow hammer doesn’t have a cutting-edge design, and it isn’t filled with exotic materials. Simple and effective are the first two words to come to mind with this one although you won’t be disappointed by its performance.
This hammer is non-marring and won’t set off any sparks with a thick rubber coating. It’s quiet due to the noise dampening design and durable as its unicast. The handle is covered in the same rubber but serrated so you can get a good grip. To color speaks for itself – you definitely won’t lose this hammer in the shop.
If you like the design, you’ll get a choice with this one with a set or individual hammers that range from 1 to 4 pounds each. Regardless of which size you choose, the hammers come with a 1-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
Thick rubber coating
Variety of sizes
nice price. That includes tools like this Stanley hammer which comes is built to make driving and pulling nails easy if you’re just getting started.
We’ll get to the variants soon enough, but we want to concentrate on the Stanley FatMax 51-403. It’s an Over-Strike framing hammer which is a great way of saying it’s perfect for beginners. It has a larger face which gives you more room for error while the rim-tempered face resists chipping from bad blows.
Getting nails started can be tricky when you’re new, but it won’t be an issue with this Stanley hammer. The FatMax 51-403 has a magnetic nail starter to lend a hand, and we dig the double wedge design between the head and wooden handle as well. It’s made from hickory, but that’s not what drew us to this hammer.
When you miss your nail, bad things happen – especially if you miss the surface entirely. It’s one of the quickest ways to break a hammer with a wooden or fiberglass handle, but not if you have additional protection. This hammer has just that with a slim steel plate beneath the head; another reason we love this hammer for beginners.
As for the variants, they do not vary the FatMax moniker, but may be worth a look depending on your needs. They include a 5-ounce tack hammer, 7 and 13-ounce general purpose hammers and a 16-ounce rip claw with a black head and hickory handle.
Designed for beginners
Reasonable price tag
Better options for prying
Not a Pro-level tool
As we said in our guide, it can be tough to find the right size ball pein hammer if you don’t know what you need. That’s where sets like the TEKTON 30409 come into play as you’ll get four forged head hammers for the price of one.
This 4-piece set has four ball pein hammers that range from 8 to 25 ounces. That’s a solid range that should cover most folks needs unless you’re beating hot metal, then you’ll want a blacksmith hammer. Each head is forged and polished to perfection from hardened steel with rounded ball ends for shaping your metal. Needless to say, they should hold up well.
But what about the handle?
Well, they went for fiberglass this time around so you’ll want to be careful with overstrikes. They are lighter however and have a poly jacket to help with impacts. The rubber grips are well made and of the non-slip variety. Consumers felt they were comfortable to use and we like the fact the grip is integrated into the handle as well.
TEKTON did a good job with the size to weight ratio on this ball peen hammer set as the 8-ounce hammer is only 11 inches long while the 25-ounce hammer clocks in at 13.75 inches. It’s a good range although you can pick up a 32 or 48-ounce matching hammers if you need something heavier or just want to add a hammer to your set.
A ball peen hammer doesn’t have to be fancy, and this set is rather basic, but that’s not a bad thing at all. If you just need an affordable set that should last for years, TEKTON’s hammers are well worth a look. They come with an “Always Guarantee” which claims to give you help and free replacement parts, but you’ll want to read the fine print as always. On the downside, there have been some reports of quality issues, so check your tools out of the box.
Affordable set of hammers
Forged & polished heads
Good weight range
Looks can be deceiving in the tool world, and despite its simple nature, a small hammer can do major damage. Not just to blocks or drywall either, your body can take a beating if you’re not careful and don’t use a little common sense.
While you may cringe at this one, we always recommend using safety glasses when working with any tool – motorized or not. You only get one set of eyes, and we’re not good enough at cloning body parts yet to supply you with a new pair. Use safety glasses, even if you’re just driving one nail.
Unfortunately, no protection on earth can protect your fingers from a hammer swung at full or even half force. Keep your digits out of the way and always be aware of what’s beneath the area you are driving a nail through.
That’s especially true if you’re using those claws to rip instead of pull. Wiring can be in the strangest of places, and a water pipe is not something you want to hit with a 16 penny nail. If you happen to hear a crack when prying, thoroughly look things over before using the hammer again. Cracking your tailbone when the handle breaks and you topple over won’t be pleasant, and neither is getting smacked in the face by flying projectiles.
It was nigh impossible to make a complete list of the best hammer for anyone or everyone given the wide variety of options available for different types of work. We covered the most common areas, but if you are a gunsmith, do craft work or need to break boulders, there is a hammer out there for you.
Need a hammer that can do a little bit of everything and looks good in your tool bag? The Estwing Ultra E15SR has both those qualities and a smooth leather handle to boot. The 15-ounce head has a magnetic nail starter with a rip claw on the back, and there’s a dedicated nail puller on the side. You can pick this hammer up in one of three styles including a variant with a shorter handle!
This IRWIN claw hammer is in the homeowner class, and our top choice if budget is a concern or you just want something simple. The contoured grip will keep it comfortable in the hand while a fiberglass handle ensures it won’t wear you out. It’s available in three sizes from 16 to 21 ounces and has a smooth face.
If you feel we missed out on your favorite band or there’s a hammer you think we should have considered, let us know it the comment section below. We may even include it in our next tool roundup!
It’s going to hurt like the devil, but you’ll “probably” be fine. Cursing aloud helps, but if that’s not possible flex your digit and get checked out if things look amiss. That said, black fingernails are more common than broken bones.
Yes, but you usually won’t need as they are widely considered to be a universal tool you can use with either hand. Side nail pullers may be tricky, but everything else is up to par.
A general purpose hammer with curved claws. It doesn’t have to be expensive or made from one piece, so fiberglass handled models will certainly do the trick. Just consider the weight as you don’t need a heavy hammer to do light-duty work around your home.
This is something almost everyone is going to attempt, so remember to wear safety glass as those nails can flip.
The short answer is not nearly as long as you think if you have an excellent hammer and know how to swing it. The type of nail makes a huge difference, but you don’t have to be a superhero to sink a nail in one strike. The better question is, do you really need to?