Which Hammer Handle Is Best?

Updated: Jul. 13, 2023

Hammer handles come in a variety of designs and are made from varying materials. So which is best?

Three hammer handles | Construction Pro Tips

Which hammer handle is best?

The three most basic handle options are steel, fiberglass, and wood. Hammer handles come in a variety of lengths and most are available in either a straight, curved, or hatchet style configuration. Find out which one is best for you.

A steel-handled hammer | Construction Pro TipsPhoto: Courtesy of Structure Tech

Steel handle

Steel handles are the strongest of the bunch. It’s tough to beat a solid or welded piece of steel when it comes to overall strength. But steel is also the heaviest option, and that extra weight doesn’t necessarily mean that steel-handled hammers pack more punch. A lot of the weight is down away from the strike point, so it doesn’t actually affect swing-power. Steel hammers are the worst offenders for causing vibrations that impact the user. Heavy vibrations can lead to repetitive strain injuries and other ailments.

Because of their strength, steel-handled hammers are a favorite among masons and demo crews. Estwing

Here’s what Charlie Vaughan, president of Vaughan Manufacturing, had to say about steel hammers:

With all the nailing guns out there, most guys these days use their hammer for “destruction” rather than “construction.” So, it really depends on what you’re going to do with the hammer. For demolition, steel would be the best choice.

A hammer with a fiberglass handle | Construction Pro Tips

Fiberglass handle

Fiberglass handles transmit less vibration than steel, but still more than wood. Electricians love fiberglass handles because they are non-conductive. Plumbers and mechanical guys like fiberglass because a decent one can be had for not a lot of money. Stanley

All I really use a hammer for are small jobs like tacking up pipe hangers and tapping on a putty knife or screwdriver. And my hammers tend to get left at jobs, stolen, or lost behind walls, so I tend to carry an inexpensive one. –Les Zell, plumber

A hammer with a wooden handle | Construction Pro Tips

Wood handle

Wood handles transmit much less vibration than either metal or fiberglass. Wood is also the lightest handle material, which means most of the weight is up in the head (where it counts). Wood handles can be replaced if they are damaged and can even be customized for those uber-particular hammer connoisseurs out there. Wood handles are strong, but not as strong as steel, so not the best option for demo work.

If a hammer is going to hang from your pouch all day long, you probably don’t want it to be super heavy. And if you pound on a whole bunch of nails, a low vibrating wood handle is just the ticket. So, naturally, wood handles are typically preferred by framers, trim carpenters, and siding installers. Vaughan

When it comes to less vibrations, wood handles are by far the best. And when it comes to the best type of wood, hickory is the only way to go.” -Charlie aughan, president of Vaughan Manufacturing

Two hammers with different handles | Construction Pro Tips

Which hammer handle is best?

Length and contour

Most hammer handles are 14 to 18 inches long and are available in either a straight, curved or hatchet style. Hatchet style hammer handles are a bit narrower than straight handles.

Some remodelers like 16-in. handles because they can use them as a quick guide to locate (not layout) a stud behind drywall or sheathing if they know the location of an adjacent stud. There are also siding installers who spend a good portion of the day climbing up and down ladder and don’t like long hatchet-style handles or curved handles, because they tend to protrude forward just far enough to catch on the rungs when climbing.

Many plumbers, electricians and mechanical workers often find themselves crawling around in tight spaces and therefore prefer short hammers, because they’re less likely to get hung up.

A hammer with a classic wooden grip | Construction Pro TipsRuud Morijn Photographer/Shutterstock

Which hammer handle is best? 


Some folks just love the feel of wood, and most wood handle hammers don’t have a grip material added to them. Cushy handle grips feel good but also tend to wear faster. Trim carpenters often choose grips with a rubber bottom so the handle doesn’t leave a mark when they squat down or bump into finished surfaces.

“I swing the 15 oz. Estwing Ultra, smooth face. I use it for demo, framing, trim, dirt digger. Can’t beat the classic Estwing grip and the side nail puller is super handy.” –Josh Blake, Carpenter

For our complete guide to all things hammers, click here.

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