A good hammer is like a best friend. Always by your side, always
true, always dependable. If you've been trying to get by with a
cheap hammer or Grandpa's old war club to sink and pull
nails or beat framing into alignment, you owe yourself a trip
to the home center or hardware store. You'll never believe
how much difference a quality hammer can make.
We're covering general-purpose hammers in this article.
Not big, long hammers for framing carpenters, or little
precision hammers for woodworkers. Not brick hammers
or sledgehammers. Just regular, all-purpose
hammers that will serve most DIYers (and many
carpenters) for 99 percent of their work.
For a simple tool that pounds in nails,
hammers have a surprising variety
of features. That explains the wide array
of hammer preferences among DIYers
and professionals, and the many passionate
Every editor here at The Family Handyman
has personal favorites too, but before you
buy, it's important for you to try out a
bunch of hammers and pick the one that
feels best to you. You can choose from traditional
types, which have been around for
decades, and innovative modern designs.
Whether you go traditional or modern,
we recommend three design features:
- a medium weight
- a rip claw and
- a non-wood handle.
These are time-tested, proven designs, in a variety of weights
and handle materials. Shown here is a Vaughan 20-oz.
with fiberglass handle.
Classic hammers are designated by head weight: 16 to 20
oz. is good for DIY use, with 16 oz. good for trim and shop
use, 20 oz. better for framing and demo.
For DIYers and
face is best
won't mar surfaces.
a “milled face”
doesn't slip off
nail heads as
For general DIY and
remodeling use, the best hammers are steel or fiberglass.
break, and the grip is
more slippery. They're
fine for the shop or trim
work but less useful on
hammer. Other things
being equal, fiberglass
handles are lighter;
steel handles are more
durable. Wood and
fiberglass transmit less
vibration to the user,
though for many
people (including us),
vibration isn't a
We prefer straight
rip claw hammers
for general use.
These hammers have new features that give you a
different, and possibly better, feel and performance.
Shown here is a Stanley 20-oz. with steel handle.
This feature is typically a groove and magnet that
hold a nail so you can get it started high above
your head with only one hand.
Common sense would
say that you'd miss
fewer nails, right? But
in our experience, the
difference is slight.
Classic handles are
straight, with a symmetrical
the end. Some
have a curved
handle and a
feels more balanced
to some users.
find that steel-handled
elbows sore after
long periods of
that in mind,
claim to dramatically
have head weights
similar to a classic
have a lighter head
and a longer
handle, which can
give high striking
force with less
Features we like
After testing all the hammers shown in this article, these features stood out as the most important for a general-purpose hammer.
If you prefer a straightforward traditional
design, you'll find many hammers to
choose from. Our recommendations: a
non-wood handle, a 16- to 20-oz. head
and a rip claw. The big differences among
them will be exact head weight, handle
material (steel or fiberglass), price and
country of manufacture. You'll also find
subtle differences in grip, handle length
and balance. There are more hammers in
this category than we had room to show,
but this is a good selection.
We can't really pick a favorite
in this group. We have used and loved
classic hammers for years, and we own
dozens of them. However, choosing one
is a matter of personal preference.
Back to Top
This group has interesting innovative features that are worth a try. Some, like the nail starter, seem useful, even if you use it
only once or twice. Others, like curved handles and big striking faces, may or may not feel good to you.
The modern-style hammers we tested all have solid steel construction. Compared with classic hammers,
however, you may find the balance very different. A couple of hammers in this group have a
lighter head and shaft; others have heavier heads. So it's particularly important to try
before you buy. Our favorite hammers are the ones with the features
and balance we like best for general use. But choosing a
hammer is very subjective, so try them all out and
choose the one you like. They're all