10 Types of Hammers

Hammers are for pounding, but they don't all pound the same things. Know the types of hammers out there so you can choose the right one.

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Hammer Assortment on a wood backgroundLisa Stokes/Getty Images

Choosing a Hammer

Whether it’s used for pounding, tapping, driving nails or pulling them out, tradespeople and DIY home improvement enthusiasts alike need hammers.

Considering what a simple tool it is, it’s amazing how many types of hammers you can find. A complete list of hammers would have more than 30 types. If you include Thor’s hammer and Maxwell’s silver one, the list gets even longer.

Here, we’ve narrowed the list to the best hammers for home repair and light construction.

Parts of a Hammer

Hammers vary in obvious and subtle ways. To really understand the differences, it helps to know the basic parts. A hammer has more parts than you might expect!

  • Handle: The length determines the leverage, the thickness determines how easy the hammer is to hold, and the material determines durability. The most common hammer handle materials are wood, fiberglass and rubber-encased steel.
  • Head: This is the business part of the hammer. The shape and weight of the hammer head largely determine its usefulness for particular tasks.
  • Face: The part that contacts the surface you’re pounding. Hammer faces vary in size and shape. Some are serrated or textured, and some are smooth.
  • Throat: This connects the face to the rest of the hammer head. It may be long or short. Ot, in the case of a sledgehammer, there may not be one at all.
  • Neck: The part that connects to the handle. Length and diameter vary from hammer to hammer.
  • Eye: This is the part of the head that slips over the handle. Hammers with wooden handles, as well as some with steel handles, have eyes.
  • Cheek: The side of the hammer head. The cheeks of some hammers — particularly Japanese ones — can be used for pounding when you’re short on clearance.
  • Claws: If a hammer has claws, they extend outward from the rear of the head. They can be straight or curved, and the ends may or may not taper to points.

Hammers InfographicFamily Handyman

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Utility Claw Hammer Irwin Hammer Gen Purpose Ecomm Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Utility Claw Hammer

This category includes claw hammers. They vary in several respects, but all have certain features in common. The head typically weighs from 14 to 18 ounces, and a narrow throat ends in a wider, flat, smooth face. Curved claws extend from the rear of the head.

Irwin’s General Purpose Claw Hammer is a popular example. The fiberglass handle and rubber grip make it a good everyday, around-the-house hammer.

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Framing Hammer Estwin Gg417 Ecomm Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Framing Hammer

A framing hammer resembles a utility claw hammer, only with a heavier head (from 22 to 24 ounces), a longer handle and straight claws. It’s best for pounding 16d and larger nails, so it has a short throat and a serrated face that won’t slip off the nail head. The serrations leave nasty dents in wood, so this hammer isn’t suitable for light-duty jobs.

The Estwing 22-Ounce Framing Hammer features an extra-long easy-grip handle for maximum pounding leverage with minimal user fatigue.

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Klein Electricians Hammer Ecomm Via Homedepotvia homedepot.com

Electrician’s Hammer

Another variation of the claw hammer design, an electrician’s hammer has a mid-weight head and a straight claw. Its distinguishing feature is an extra-long throat that lets the head reach into deeper cavities than other claw hammerss.

With its smooth face, the Klein Tool’s Electrician’s Hammer can double as a utility hammer or even a framing hammer in a pinch. It’s handy when you’re stapling electrical wires to studs or installing electrical boxes.

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Fiskars Sledge Hammer Double Flat Face Ecomm Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Sledgehammer

If you’re doing demolition or serious yard work — think pounding stakes or crushing rocks — you need a sledgehammer. The double-faced steel head, typically weighing 12 pounds or more, is made for bludgeoning and not much else. The three-foot handle helps you develop maximum leverage.

Sledgehammer heads mounted on wooden handles frequently slip off. You won’t have that problem with the one-piece Fiskars Double-Face Sledgehammer. You won’t experience much user fatigue, either, because the shock-control handle absorbs vibrations.

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Alltrade 2.5 Lb Club Hammer Black Ecomm Via Amazon.comvia amazon.com

Club Hammer

Also known as a dead-blow or mini sledgehammer, a club hammer has a two- to three-pound sledge-like head mounted on a 10- to 12-inch handle. It’s good for chiseling and breaking up stone, tile and similar materials.

The Alltrade Club Hammer is an Amazon top choice. The head is permanently bonded to the shock-absorbing fiberglass handle, and the non-slip rubber handle minimizes user fatigue while facilitating accuracy. These are important because this isn’t a hammer you want slipping out of your hands in mid-swing.

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Real Steel Non Slip Cushion Grip Jacketed Graphite Forged Ball Pein Hammer Ecomm Silo Via Amazon.comvia amazon.com

Ball-Peen Hammer

Also known as a machinist’s hammer, the ball-peen hammer has two pounding faces on opposite sides of the head, one flat and one ball-shaped. The rounded face shapes metal (peening). The flat face can do anything a standard claw hammer face can do.

Ball-peen hammers come in weights from four to 32 ounces; heavy ones can double as club hammers for chiseling work. The 16-ounce Real Steel Ball-Peen Hammer is a mid-range choice that’s good for metalwork and chiseling.

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Tekton Fiberglass Handle White Rubber Mallet Ecomm Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Rubber Mallet

When you need to tap things together without damaging them, you need a rubber mallet. They’re good for laminating and gluing boards in the wood shop, coaxing floorboards together, tapping bricks or pavers into the sand and putting a lid back on a paint can.

To do any work at all, the rubber head with its opposing flat faces needs some weight. The Tekton 16-ounce Rubber Mallet has all the bulk you need plus a lightweight, easy-grip handle.

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Estwing Bricklayers Masons Hammer Ecomm Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Mason’s Hammer

If you do any brick work around the house or in the yard, you’ll need a mason’s hammer. One end of the head has a smooth, flat face for tapping, and the other a long chisel-like head for breaking bricks and cutting into mortar.

A tool like the Estwing Bricklayer’s/Mason’s Hammer isn’t particularly useful outside of masonry and stone work, except maybe for concrete demolition. If you’re thinking of landscaping with stones and rocks, you’ll find this tool invaluable.

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Estwing Fireside Friend Axe Hatchet Hammer Ecomm Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Hatchet Hammer

A dual-purpose hatchet hammer, sometimes called a wood-splitting maul, comes in handy whether you’re on a camping trip or in your backyard. The head incorporates a hatchet on one end, which is handy for split logs into kindling among other things. The flat-face hammer on the other end is good for pounding stakes and much more.

The Estwing Fireside Friend is one of the most highly-rated models on Amazon (4.8 stars). Its heavy-duty construction and ergonomic handle make it a great choice

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Estwing Sure Strike Tack Hammer Ecomm Via Amazonvia amazon.com

Tack Hammer

Tired of hitting your fingers when pounding tacks and small nails? If so, you need a tack hammer.

It features opposing flat faces on the end of long, tapered throats, with one face magnetized. Pick up and set individual tacks or nails with the magnetized head, then turn the hammer around to pound them in. Your fingers stay out of the way.

Upholsterers, woodworkers and other hobbyists favor the lightweight Estwing Sure Strike Tack Hammer. It’s a useful addition to any tool drawer.

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Chris Deziel
Chris Deziel has been active in the building trades for more than 30 years. He helped build a small city in the Oregon desert from the ground up and helped establish two landscaping companies. He has worked as a carpenter, plumber and furniture refinisher. Deziel has been writing DIY articles since 2010 and has worked as an online consultant, most recently with Home Depot's Pro Referral service. His work has been published on Landlordology, Apartments.com and Hunker. Deziel has also published science content and is an avid musician.