Essentials of Woodworking Hammers


If you’re hanging a picture, tacking loose upholstery, nailing down toe-strip or framing a wall, you most often grab a hammer out of your tool box. Is the hammer in your tool arsenal the only choice you have? Did you purchase it for a reason – a reason other than it was one of the less-expensive tools in the bin? Or do you mull-over your choices, selecting the best hammer for the task at hand? Most woodworkers have been around hammers for a long time, yet this basic toolbox staple may be one of the most under-appreciated in the shop.

(Fig. 1) There are few terms used to describe hammers. Most of the terms, such as claw, face and handle, are familiar to woodworkers. If you didn’t know that a hammer had a poll or adze-eye hole, you’re not alone.

There are many types of hammers. They vary in weight and size. (Hammers weighing in at 16 ounces seem to be the most common.) Hammers also vary in design (Fig. 1). It’s easy to see the different claw designs, curved and straight, or rip. But which is better? You guessed it. It depends upon what you’re working. Curved claws are better for finishing work, while straight claws are the correct call for decks and framing, and the decision focuses around extricating nails from your project.

What is less obvious in hammer design is the shape of the poll, and what that has to do with the transfer of energy. Yes, there is a science to hammer design. Ever hear the terms “centurion” and “bell” when hammer-speak is being tossed about? These are poll designs common in hammers, and each has a specific purpose when driving nails.

Fine-tune Adjustments

What is an adze-eye hole? If the term gave you reason to pause, then you probably do not have a hammer designed to fit you. Or you have never needed to fit your hammer head with a new handle. This hole in the head and the accessories provided when you purchase a replacement handle are there to specifically adjust the hammer to your swing. More science. I know.

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One thought on “Essentials of Woodworking Hammers

  1. Thanks Ron and 360 – great information!

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