The Parts of a Hammer – An In-Depth Look

This is a question that I receive a lot. Come to find out a lot of people don’t fully know each and every part of their hammers even though they use theirs every single day. Well folks today we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each and every part of the hammer, their function, and why they are necessary.

To start off this article I am going to refer to the below picture I created this morning. In my opinion there is no better way to learn then visual aids. I could write ten thousand words on hammers but what good will it do if you don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s where the picture comes in handy.

Parts of a Hammer

Got that picture memorized? Alright, good. Let’s dive into the parts. First we’ll be taking a look at the parts on the head of the hammer then we’ll move down to the handle.

The Face

The face of the hammer is the section of the hammer that sees all of the punishment and that does all the work. They are usually made of steel but there are a few exceptions here and there including a company that makes theirs out of titanium.

A hammer’s face is usually slightly convex but not so much so that it will cause slippage when driving nails. Depending on the type you buy you will either get a flat faced hammer that has a smooth surface to it or you could end up with what is called a ‘Waffle Faced’ hammer. See example picture.

Waffle Faced Hammer
Waffle Faced Hammer

There is some debate on the pros and cons of a flat face versus a waffle face. Most of the time you will see waffle faced hammers used on framing hammers for larger jobs. The waffle allows you to grip the nail easier and reduces the chance of your nail falling over. A smooth faced hammer is seen as a finishing type hammer where if you tried to use a waffle face when finishing you would end up with the ‘waffle imprints,’ all over your deck or whatever your project is.

Some of the more premium types of hammers on the market today have a replaceable face option. So, when your waffle print has been smoothed out over years of use or your smooth face is dented and beat all to hell you have the option to buy a replacement face. It’s a rather easy installation and will end up saving you money. I reviewed a framing hammer with this option the other day which can be found by clicking here.

Most hammers only come with one face and a claw on the opposite side. One of these exceptions is the ball-peen hammer that has a much smaller narrower face where the claw typically is. I’ll get into that later in the Claw section. The last thing that I’ll mention on the face of the hammer is that some come with a magnetic nail starter. These are usually found at the top of the face of the hammer and come with an indention right at the face. There is an example of this in the same waffled face picture above. See the slight indention? That is where the nail would slide in and stick until you are ready to swing.

Bell/Poll

I won’t spend too much time here on the bell of the hammer. While we just looked at the face of the hammer the bell of the hammer is everything around and supporting the face of the hammer. If you look at the picture above you will see the almost circular curvature at the face of the hammer and how it extends until the neck of the hammer. This is the bell.

Neck of the Hammer

As we move up to the neck of the hammer you will notice that the hammer begins to narrow. This wasn’t just done for the hell of it. There was a reason for this and that reason is balance. A good hammer will have the perfect balance between the face/bell and the claw. If your hammer didn’t have a tapered neck the bell and face would have a smaller surface area which would in turn make it more difficult to strike your nails. With the narrow neck on your hammer you can have it still be the same weight as the claw and still have the bigger face/bell for easier striking.

Cheek of the Hammer

The cheek of the hammer is what holds everything together. This is the point of the hammer that receives the most stress and the most reverberations. If your hammer has a weak point it is most likely either in the cheek of the hammer’s head or in the handle that is inserted into the cheek.

The Cheek of a Hammer
The Cheek of a Hammer.

In my first diagram where I showed the parts of the hammer I did not end up showing the wedge or the eye of the hammer. That was done because the hammer I chose was a one piece construction. The eye of the hammer is the hole, or holes, on the top of your hammer’s head where your handle will be inserted. The wedge of your hammer is the part of your handle that is wedged into the head or eye of the hammer.

Rather or not you purchase a one piece construction hammer or a wedged is up to you. I honestly can’t steer you in one direction or the other as it really depends on what type of application you will be using the hammer for and for how long you will be using the hammer. For example if you’re working on a framing project but will only be working on it a few hours a day then I would recommend a steel one piece construction. However, if you’re going to be working on this project day in and day out for twelve hours at a time you are GOING to need the wooden handle insert. In this example the wooden handle acts as a shock absorbed and will prevent injuries to your arm.

With the one piece construction hammers there isn’t much to talk about. Most of the time you will find these hold up over the test of time and have an overall strong support in the neck.  Their major downside is the shock that goes through your arm with each and every swing as mentioned above. Wedged hammers are usually done so with either a wooden or fiberglass handle. These hammers are cheaper but will eventually end up breaking and needing to be replaced. These handles are fixed in the eye of the hammer usually with a double wedge with a piece of metal in between to reinforce the attachment.

The Claw

Besides the face of the hammer the claw on your hammer is the next big thing to consider before purchasing. Do you want your standard curved claw? Or, are you doing some heavier framing work and want to opt in for the straight or rip claw? The claw is made of the same material that your face, neck, and cheek of your hammer’s head is. (Usually cast iron or steel.) Some hammers don’t even have a claw and instead have a Peen or perhaps something different from that.

Curved

Let’s start with the most basic and the probably the one that you are going to end up using. The curved claw as shown in the picture below is your standard claw on most hammers. If you were to walk into a store or buy one online this is what you would most likely run into. The only real main difference here is that the straight, or rip claw, hammer will allow you to pull out larger nails with ease. The curved is meant for smaller projects and will still be able to pull nails out but again, if you are working on a framing project then I would recommend the straight.

Curved Hammer Claw
Curved Hammer Claw

Straight

As I said before the straight claw is typically found on the larger and more heavy duty hammers. This is done because most of the time your average home owner will not have a need for a larger framing hammer. The curved claw will get the job done most of the time. The straight claw as shown in the picture is meant for pulling out 16D or 20D nails out of a framing project. Sure, it will pull out smaller nails too but keep in mind that this is a framing tool and not a finishing tool. If you need to do repairs or pull out some nails on a finished project then I recommend either being careful or using a curved claw.

Straight Hammer Claw

Peen

The Peen hammer is much less common in today’s world.  Originally the Peen side of a hammer was used for striking and shaping metal in metal fabrication. But over the years this process has become more and more automated and advanced. Other uses for the Peen hammer include driving chisels or punches using the narrower face of the Peen rather than the standard face of your hammer. In today’s world this type of hammer is used for riveting. The narrow point of the Peen face allows for easy driving of rivets.

Peen Type Hammer
Peen Type Hammer

The Handle

The handle is one of the most important things to consider when buying your hammer. Your handle is going to drive the success of your hammer and your overall feeling about it. I won’t get into it too deep here as I wrote another article diving into the various types of hammer handles but for now I am going to list the top three handles used today.

  1. Wooden Handles – This is the standard that I’m sure most of you are experienced with. While these handles tend to break over time they also have great shock absorption.
  2. Fiberglass Handles – Fiberglass handles are smack in between of wood and steel. Fiberglass is more durable than your wooden handles but has less shock absorption.
  3. Steel Handles – Steel handles can be bought as a one piece construction for increased durability or can be bought with the inserted handle. While steel is extremely durable it also has an extremely high vibration and shock when striking.

The Grip/Cover

Another thing to consider is the grip on your hammer. The grip is especially important if you are going with the fiberglass or steel hammer due to the shock absorption. Some of these grips come with a built in shock absorber that will ease some of the reverberations that you feel with each swing.

While the shock absorbing factor is great the other thing to look at is the grip of your cover. When you swing is it going to fly out of your hands from having sweaty palms? Or, is it going to stick to you and not go anywhere until you let it down?

 

Conclusion

That about wraps it up folks. I bet you never thought there was so much that went into a hammer? It is truly amazing what all goes into making something as simple as a hammer. What gets me is that you would never really think about all of this. It’s just a hammer. I mean a hammer is a hammer, right? Well, as we just went through each part we know that the answer is no. Each hammer is different and now we know why.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

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