The Ultimate Framing Hammer Buyer’s Guide

A hammer is a hammer, right? Wrong folks. There are so many different types of hammers on the market today and each one has their own specific purpose. It can be overwhelming to a novice and once you’ve finally decided on the type of hammer you want there are dozens of variations of size, material, claws, and other features to choose from. Will you choose what’s right for you? Or, will you end up with the wrong type of hammer, that is unbalanced, and a broken handle after only a few weeks of use?

Well ladies and gentlemen I aim to answer those questions and more for you. Today on ToughAssTools.com we’re going to be taking an in-depth look at framing hammers. What are framing hammers? What  type hammer should you get? What size? This buyer’s guide will go through exactly what to look for and exactly what the right fit is for you.

Why Use a Framing Hammer?

Well, just as the name says a framing hammer is used for just that, framing. What does that mean exactly? Well, the intention of this hammer is to be used when putting up the foundation of whatever you are building. Think of it like the guts of you house. The two-by-fours and four-by-sixes holding your house, garage, or barn together. This is where a framing hammer is used.

You wouldn’t use a framing hammer to finish a product but you would use it to drive a bunch of 12D three and a quarter inch nails on the frame of a new garage. In most cases you will see experienced carpenters carry at least a couple of hammers with them and one of them will always be a framing hammer. They use their best judgement on what hammer to use on each situation. For example, you wouldn’t use a framing hammer to nail in the new trim that you are installing in your living room. The force of the blow may cause the thin trim board to splinter not to mention the damage a waffle face could have on your trim.

What Are Framing Hammers?

First thing’s first. It’s good to understand exactly what framing hammers are. What sets them apart? Truth be told there aren’t that many differences between a framing hammer and your standard hammer that you would find hanging on the rack in your hardware store. Those in the industry call those standard hammers the Homeowner’s hammers. (That’s not a compliment.) The distinction between a framing hammer and a standard hammer can be laid out in three points:

  1. The first noticeable difference on a framing hammer is that they are significantly heavier than a standard hammer. A standard hammer will come in between twelve to fourteen ounces. A framing hammer usually starts at twenty ounces and can go all the way up to thirty-two ounces. This large size difference is meant for power. You need to have that extra weight when it comes to driving those three and a half inch long 16D nails.
  2. I can almost guarantee that most of you have used your standard hammer at some point in time. When you used that hammer you probably noticed that the face of the hammer (The part that does the hammering.) was smooth. This smooth faced hammer is again tied to your standard hammer. Framing hammers typically come with an edged, or waffle, face. If you look at the picture to the right you can see why it is called a waffle face. The point of this serrated face is for grip. The indentations on the face help grip the nail during drives and prevents the nail from slipping and rolling away from you. Estwing E3-22SM 22 oz Framing Hammer with Milled Face & Shock Reduction Grip
  3. The last feature that separates the framing hammer from the standard is the length of the handle. Your standard hammers will come with a thirteen to fourteen inch handle. A framing hammer will come with a sixteen all the way up to eighteen inch handle. The reason for this is to add more leverage and power with each swing that you do. Now there are some framers out there that have a thirteen inch handle but most of the time you’re going to see this longer handle on a framer.

Alright, so now when you go to the store or look on Amazon.com you can tell the difference between a standard hammer and a framing hammer. But now what? What size framer should you get? What kind of handle? What kind of head? Well there are a few considerations to keep in mind before purchasing your new framing hammer.

Considerations

  1. The first consideration when looking at a new framing hammer is the type of handle on your hammer. There are three main types of handles that you will run into: Wood, Fiberglass, and Steel. There are significant pros and cons between each one. Let’s take a look:
    1. The wooden handles are great for shock absorption and ease of use. However, the downside to wooden handles are there tendency to break or snap in half over extended use. The snap could happen during a drive or when trying to pull a nail out with your claw. If you don’t mind replacing the wooden handles and enjoy the lessened shock from a steel handle than this is your choice.
    2. Steel hammers are almost the exact opposite of their wooden counterpart. With a steel hammer you get a huge boost to durability. A steel handle isn’t going to break or snap on you. You don’t have to worry about applying too much pressure on the handle when ripping out a nail. However, unlike the wooden you will find that steel handles are notoriously bad for shock. The steel reverberates and vibrate with each drive you that hit. These vibrations work their way up to your wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Some steel handles come with a rubber or poly grip to help with the shock but a wooden handle will always be better. If you’re a young guy and don’t mind the shock now or if you are just a do-it-yourselfer then I would recommend steel. If you are a full time carpenter and will be using this hammer day in and day out then I would lean you towards the wood to help save your arm.
    3. The last type worth mentioning is the fiberglass. The fiberglass handle is a medium between the steel and wood. Fiberglass is tougher and has increased durability then wood but it is not unbreakable. It may eventually break on you but it will definitely last longer than a wooden. The shock on a fiberglass handle is right in the middle as well between steel and wood. If you are looking for a mixture of both durability and shock dampening then a fiberglass hammer handle may be for you.
    4. The last thing worth mentioning on handles is the size or length of the handle. Are you comfortable swinging a standard thirteen inch or do you think you can handle an extended handle up to seventeen or even eighteen inches? If you opt for the longer handle it may take some time to get used to it but I can assure you that will enjoy the increased power with each drive.
  2. The next thing to consider when buying a framing hammer is weight or size of the hammer. There are so many sizes to choose from on hammers that it can be overwhelming. They can go from eight to ten ounces all the way up to a monster thirty-two ouncer. There are two pieces of advice I can give on this aspect of your product. The first is to physically hold the hammer and practice, or actually do a couple, swings. How does it feel in your hands? Could you stand repeating that motion dozens of times a day? Or, is it too heavy? The other piece of advice I can give on this is that if you are looking for a framing hammer then I would suggest going with a standard twenty-ouncer or a twenty-two ouncer. These are a safe size that will allow you to get enough power without having to get a giant hammer and risk hurting yourself or the project.
  3. Shock and user fatigue are one of the most important things to consider when looking at a hammer. The reason is right there as well. If you don’t know by now then you should know that you need to protect and take care of your body. We aren’t invincible. We won’t always be twenty years old. If you choose the wrong hammer and end up using it day in and day out you are going to run into injuries. It’s just a matter of time. You may develop Carpel Tunnel. You may develop Tennis Elbow. Or, you may end up messing your shoulder up. Either way you’ll end up paying for it. That is why today I say stay away from the gigantic sized framing hammers like the twenty-eight, thirty, or thirty-two ouncers. They aren’t worth the price you pay not to mention how fast you will fatigue swinging that large of a hammer. On top of that if you are still concerned about the shock and the effects it will have then I would suggest getting a wooden handle framer or a steel product with a proven shock absorption handle such as Estwing’s framer.
  4. Most framing hammers will come with a waffle or edged face by default. Carpenters and tradesmen like the waffle face as it makes easier to grip the nails and prevents slippage when driving. Now there are some framing hammer choices out there that come with a smooth face but they are not nearly as popular. Honestly, this doesn’t make that much of a difference but if you’re really wanting that smooth face then it may take a bit to find it but they are out there. Click here for an example of a smooth faced framing hammer. Either way the price will remain right about the same for a waffle or a smooth face.
  5. The last consideration is the price. Prices on framing hammers can vary wildly. Some are as low as fifteen to twenty dollars and some are as high as over two-hundred dollars… some even more. All of this price range depends on one word. Quality. Do you want a hammer that will last you for a year or two, or do you want a hammer that will last generations and that you can pass on down to your son and maybe even his son? It all depends on how much you are willing to spend. For example, Stiletto offers a premium solid Titanium framing hammer for around two-hundred dollars on Amazon.com. (Prices subject to change.) This hammer will last forever. Or, you could spend fifteen and get a standard framing hammer. It’s up to you.

Alright folks so you are ready to buy and you know what you are looking for. Let’s take a look at some of our preferred picks here on ToughAssTools.com:

ToughAssTool’s Preferred Picks

What I like to do when looking at something to buy, especially a tool, is to take the Good, Better, Best approach. What is this you may ask? Well, in my opinion there are three types of consumers in this world. The first being the ones who only want to pay the bare minimum, the second is the middle of the road guy who can afford to spend a little bit more, and the third being the premium money is no object kind of guy. We all wish we could be that last guy but the truth is most of fall into the either the second or first category.

Now with the Good, Better, Best approach I do not like to recommend junk. Hence the name Good. I will recommend a good product that will last for some time but if you want a nicer product than we can move up to the better and if you want the premium then we move up to the best. In this article I am going to choose a framing hammer based off the model I discussed above. The question is what kind of consumer are you? (I’m ashamed to admit that I’m the bare minimum guy!)

Good

Stanley 51-402 FatMax 22-Ounce

Stanley 51-402 FatMax 22-Ounce Checkered Face Framing Hammer

Buy Now!

Alright folks. So you want yourself a framing hammer but are a little intimidated by the price? Well, I’ve got just the one for you. Let’s take a look at the Stanley 51-402 FatMax Framing Hammer. Now, like most tools that you buy nowadays this hammer is imported. I am not sure from what country but it seems that imports are the norm these days. Don’t let that scare you though. Even though this product was imported from overseas it doesn’t mean that it is not a quality hammer.

Remember how I had mentioned earlier that most framing hammers were of a one piece construction? Well, unfortunately, this one is not. The handle of this hammer is made out of Hickory. The manufacturer states that the head and the handle were ‘forged and heat treated’ for increased durability but there is still that risk of the head coming flying off after years of use. But, that is the price that you pay for getting the Good and not the Better or Best.

This hammer comes in at twenty-two ounces. This is your right around your standard size for a framing hammer and as we discussed above this extra weight will give you additional force when driving those larger nails in. Also like before the head of this hammer is checkered or edged to allow better gripping when driving your nails in and to make things even easier the head is magnetized to ensure that your nails are not getting away.

The specifications on this hammer are as follows:

  • Claw Style – Rip
  • Face Style – Checkered
  • Handle Type – Axe
  • Head Length – 6-1/8
  • Overall Length – 18-1/4

This product is made by the StanleyTools company and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. As with most warranties there is a slew of fine print which can be read from StanleyTools’ website by clicking here. Basically, their warranty states that as long as you are not using the hammer in ways that you shouldn’t than they will replace your product if it is defective. So, if you get it in the mail and the head is already jostling around then you can visit their website through the link I provided above and get yourself a new replacement product.

Overall, this hammer has great reviews across the web. Looking at Amazon.com on this product we can see that there are nearly two-hundred and fifty reviews on file. The average rating is 4.5/5.0. That’s a ninety percent approval rating, it is hard to get better than that. The only downsides of this product that I have seen are that, like I said before, the head separating from the handle or that the head was not fitted tightly. But even if you do have problems with the hammer staying together you have their lifetime warranty to refer to. There have been a few grumblings of the magnetic head not working well or not working at all but these complaints have been very minimal and I do not believe that they are a legitimate problem.

If you are in the market for a framing hammer but looking to save some money than this is the product for you. However, if you are looking for a better product than by all means keep on reading my friend.

Better

Estwing E3-22S 22 Ounce

Buy Now!

Now we’re getting there folks. We’re not quite at Tough-Ass quality yet but we are getting closer. If you are one of those middle of the road guys than the Estwing E3-22S Framing Hammer is the one for you. Remember how I was talking about most framing hammers being of one piece construction? Well this guy is it. The Estwing E3 is a one piece solid steel construction. This thing is not going to break no matter what you do to it. If there is one purpose to my site than this it. I want to suggest tools that are going sit on your shelf for decades. Durability is key here.

Another important note to mention on this hammer is that it is manufactured by the Estwing company. What does that mean? Well my friends the Estwing company is an American company that has been around since 1923. They are located in Rockford, Illinois and still manufacture hammers there today. No imports here. This the real deal, American made. Their official website can be found by clicking here. Nylon Grip on Estwing Hamme

While this is a one piece hammer of solid steel it wouldn’t make sense to have the handle without a cover. I can’t imagine trying to swing a steel handled hammer. It just wouldn’t be comfortable not to mention the shock you would feel in your arms. So, what Estwing did was create a Nylon based handle and molded it right onto the steel base. This Nylon handle is unique to the Estwing company. Along with being durable the cover has a shock absorption system that minimizes the pressure of impacts with each swing. So, even though you are swinging a heavier hammer you will actually feel less impact. Lastly, the Nylon grips with your hand and makes it easier to hold on during swings even when your hands are sweating like crazy during a shingle job. A picture of the Nylon grip is below:

Like most framing hammers this one comes in at twenty-two ounces. One thing to mention is that unlike the first hammer we looked at there is NOT a magnetic head on this Estwing hammer. The head on this hammer is not checkered or serrated either. So, while you may have the one piece construction you are lacking the benefits of the edged head and the magnets. So, it’s really up to you what you think is more important.

If you buy this hammer it will come in looking brand new. The lacquer on the outside of the steel will shine and shimmer in the sunlight. No seriously, it will actually shimmer in the sunlight. The hammer has a polished silver look to it. I mention this because the only negative thing I can find on this hammer is that after seeing repeated use the silver lacquer on the outside of the hammer begins to chip and peel away. While this may look like the hammer is falling apart on you it is really not. This is jut the lacquer coming off. The actual steel construction is still there and as solid as ever. An example picture of the lacquer chipping away can be seen below.

For about the double the price of the first hammer that I recommended you get this one of a kind Estwing solid steel framing hammer. When comparing the two hammers the Estwing definitely comes out on top even without the edged head or magnets. The question you have to ask yourself is it worth paying more money. In my opinion I would say it is as this hammer will NOT break on you. If you are interested in purchasing then please click here to go to Amazon.com. However, if you are one of those best of the best guys than I would recommend you check out the next hammer in this article.

Best

Stiletto TB15MC TiBone

Stiletto TB15MC TiBone 15-Ounce Titanium Milled-Face Hammer

Buy Now!

No article on this website is complete without the mention of a Tough-Ass Tool and this hammer is a prime example. The Stiletto TB15MC TiBone hammer is the best of the best. You cannot find a better hammer in my opinion. This baby is made of titanium. Yes, you heard right freaking titanium. While this is only a fifteen ounce hammer the manufacturer, and many other customers, state that it drives like a twenty-eight ounce one.

The difference here is titanium is much lighter than steel, forty percent lighter. What does that mean? It means that this hammer is much lighter than the steel hammer that we looked at earlier but has the same driving power. You and your body get the benefit of swinging a much lighter hammer and you still get the raw power of a monster steel framer. This is done through better and more efficient transfer of power. As they always say work smarter, not harder.

Remember that nylon grip that I was talking about on the steel Estwing? You know, the one that reduced shock when driving nails in? Well, the Stiletto doesn’t have a nylon grip… it doesn’t need one. The titanium make of this hammer automatically reduces recoil and impact by over ten times when comparing it to steel. A reviewer from Amazon even stated that, “A little expensive but worth it, especially if your dealing with carpal tunnel like I am.” There is a still a cover on this handle but it is made of standard rubber that grips to your hand.

The handle has an axe style grip to it that slightly curves which makes driving that much easier. Just like the first hammer that we reviewed the Stiletto has a magnetized head along with a milled or edged face. To top it off this edged face is replaceable. So, after years of use you find that the edging has chipped or smoothed away all you have to do is buy a replacement from Stiletto’s website. (The link is here to their company website.)

Other hammers come with a lifetime warranty. Now, I’m not sure how big of a deal this really is. I mean who is going to keep their paperwork for decades down the road until your tool eventually breaks? I’m not that organized. The Stiletto comes with a one year warranty that ensures the hammer is free of any defects or manufacturing errors. If you receive your hammer and find that it is damaged then all you have to do is visit Stiletto’s website and view their return policy. The link to their return section can be found by clicking here.

Another thing worth mentioning on this hammer is the nail side puller. Stiletto claims that they have a new patented puller that will ease out 16D nails out with one one-hundred and eighty degree motion. I was a little skeptical so I checked some of the reviews looking for any mention of the nail puller. One buyer stated that, “I can’t say enough good things about the side nail puller!”  

There are only two downsides to this hammer that I can find. The first is obvious, and that is the price. This is not a cheap hammer. But, as I stated above we are in the Best category right now. I am going to recommend the best framing hammer out there that I can find and this ladies and gentlemen is it. I mean just look at how they ship their product. (Picture below.) I’m sure if you bought some cheapo hammer on Amazon it would not come to you like that.

Stiletto TB15MC TiBone Packaging

The second downside to this hammer is the length of the handle. Now, some people may see this as a benefit but others complain about it. Honestly, from what I can see and from what I have read it has the typical standard length of any framing hammer. The handle comes in at a length of 17 1/2 inches. Guys who are used to a sixteen inch handle may need to take some time to get used to it, but it is worth it. Yes it is long but as I have said earlier the longer the handle the more force you are going to have. It may very well be that the reason it can drive like a twenty-eight ounce hammer is due to the length of the handle.

When looking on online there are nothing but positive reviews. I struggled to find anything negative about this thing. If we look on Amazon.com we can see that this hammer over one-hundred reviews and almost all of them at four or five stars. (Overall rating of 4.5/5.0) If you are looking for a Tough-Ass Tool than this my friends is it. I highly HIGHLY recommend getting this and adding it to your tool belt.

Conclusion

Well folks that about sums it up. We have taken a look at everything there is to know about a framing hammer ranging from the handle to what face to choose from. Along with that we also provided our top choices on the market today and why they are worth your time to review. The question for you now is have you decided what framing hammer is best for you? If not, what is holding you back? Did we miss something? Do you still have questions unanswered? Then by all means please contact us by clicking this link and let us know!

Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to help in your buying choice today.

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

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