Tool Talk: High tech hammers

Even though we commonly use cordless tools, pneumatic tools and some other high tech tools (such as laser levels) we all work with a hammer during the course of any given day. Until just a few years ago, there was not much variation in hammers other than framing, finish, ripping, and claw hammers.
Most fell into the 16- to 22-ounce weight range, and most had either fiberglass or steel shafts. At the present time, however, basic hammer design has gone through a transformation and there are now many different styles, shapes, materials, and weights from which to choose.
Undoubtedly the greatest innovation in hammers has been the introduction of Titanium hammer heads. The first one I ever saw was the Titan, made by Stiletto Tools. When Mark Martinez showed me this hammer at a trade show in Chicago a few years ago, I thought the hammer had potential. It is still one of my favorite hammers for driving nails. The head weighs only 14 ounces but because of the long American Hickory handle this beauty hits like a 24-ounce steel framing hammer. It can drive a 16d nail home with three or four blows.
During the course of a day’s worth of framing, the difference between this hammer and a steel equivalent hammer is very apparent. The casting of these heads is done by the Ruger Company, makers of fine firearms. It also has a magnetic nail start feature through the top of the striking face for one-handed nail sets. Two hickory handle designs are available — straight and curved axe style — and two striking faces, smooth and milled. The hammer costs approximately $65.
Stiletto Tools recently introduced the Ti-Bone all-titanium (both head and shaft) hammer. It has a replaceable steel striking head in either smooth or milled finish. Also included in the head design is a magnetic nail start for one-handed nail setting like the Titan. The titanium shaft has an injection molded rubber grip to further reduce shock to the user and provide a safer grip under wet conditions. The product costs about $195.
Last year the Vaughan & Bushnell Manufacturing Company introduced the Ti-Tech Titanium Hammer. This hammer is unique in that the hammer body is titanium but the replaceable striking cap is made from high-carbon, heat-treated steel. Both smooth and milled face caps are available. Under the replaceable cap is an anti-vibration pad and a unique free floating pin, which contribute to provide maximum shock absorption and a minimum of sting to the user. This hammer also has a magnetic nail holding striking cap for one-handed nail sets. The Ti-Tech is available with either curved axe style hickory or straight fiberglass shafts. The Ti-Tech runs about $35.
Vaughan also offers the Steel Eagle solid steel hammer, which utilizes a three-step process involving wood, rubber, and air to take the sting out of a hammer blow for the user. This unique solid steel hammer has a newly patented Shock-Blok rubber and hickory insert in the tool’s head to drastically reduce hammer blow vibration. Any remaining vibration is absorbed by the hammer’s air cushioned rubber handle. Some professionals have reported it to be almost as kind as a wood handled hammer. The Steel Eagle comes in both curved and straight claw styles with a wide range of head weights and handle sizes. Cost ranges from $18 to $24.
Last August at the International Hardware Show in Chicago I was first shown the Douglas 20-ounce steel framing hammer. The tool designer and CEO of Douglas Tool Company — Todd Douglas Coonrad — explained that because he is a professional framer in Southern California, he decided to invent a new hammer that was perfect for the type of work he did. The result is the Douglas 20-ounce framing hammer.
It has a unique straight claw head design with a chisel bevel to the claws. It is ideal for demo work. Todd designed this hammer with a side pull notch in the hammer head cheek which offers more leverage for pulling stuck nails. It also has a magnetic nail start feature through the top of the head for one-handed nail sets. The head and tang through-bolt to a 16-in. long, straight hickory handle, which has an axe handle-type butt end. Replacement handles are also available. Eighteen- and 23-ounce models are also available in addition to the original 20-ounce hammer. Cost is around $60.
The Stanley Tool Company offers the AntiVibe hammer, made from a single piece of forged steel. This hammer features a patented tuning fork design that reduces harmful vibrations. The patented ergonomic handle design allows multiple grip positions and has a specially textured rubber grip that is molded directly onto the shaft. The handle offers a good grip even when wet. The AntiVibe hammer is available in both straight and curved claw designs and in weights from 16 to 28 ounces. Costs vary from $29 to $40.
Stanley also offers a 22-ounce framing hammer in their professional FatMax line of hand tools. This hammer has an 18-in. long hickory handle with a contoured grip for better control and less likelihood of slipping. The forged and heat treated head is designed to provide a larger striking surface and it has a rim-tempered, chamfered edge to prevent chipping. As with many new hammer designs, the FatMax has a magnetic nail starter for one hand nail setting. Available in straight claw design only. The FatMax costs around $30.
One last hammer worth mentioning is the Homing Hammer from Shark Corporation. This is a 14-ounce, Japanese finish hammer that has a unique shape and is a joy to use. Although it only weighs 14 ounces it hits like a 16-ounce hammer because of the long fiberglass handle. The full wrap rubber grip dampens vibrations as well. The striking head of this hammer is trumpet shaped, which provides for even power distribution on the entire face surface, even when hit on the edge of the head. The claw end is chisel shaped and is designed for digging out and pulling embedded nails. Lastly, a special side hitting surface enables side strikes to a nail in tight spaces. A similarly designed 24-ounce framing nailer is also available. Costs are $32 and $25 respectively.
As you can see, there is a lot happening in the world of hammers, and the new offerings will help you to work better with less hand and arm fatigue.

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