Photo: Getty Images
I confess: there was once a time when I hung pictures by pounding a nail into the wall with the heel of my shoe. But as I tackled more projects around the house and worked with different tools, I started pounding nails the right way: with a hammer. And then different hammers (did you know there's a different type of hammer for just about any job you're doing?). My days of shoe hammering are long gone.
Of all the hammers in my toolbox, these are my three favorites:
- A standard 16oz. claw hammer
is just the right size for basic household projects like hanging pictures, removing loose nails, and installing hardware.
- A tack hammer
comes in handy for craft projects like reupholstering tag sale finds, adding small trim to furniture, and assembling homemade wreaths.
- A rubber mallet
is useful for tapping together loose furniture, assembling pre-fab pieces, and loosening stuck windows (Tip:
If you don't want to spend the money on a mallet and you have an old tennis ball around, cut a slit in the ball and fit it over the head of your claw hammer. This will soften the hammer's blows and make it safer for those delicate projects.)
Over the years, I've picked up and thought up lots of handy hints you can use while pounding through projects with a hammer. Here are some of them.
1. The Magnet Trick
Photo: Mrs. FIXIT
Here's an idea that can save you time and hassle. Use some hot glue to stick a small magnet
to the bottom of your hammer, then use the handle to pick up nails from your toolbox or the floor.
2. The Ruler Trick
Photo: Mrs. FIXIT
When I installed a chair rail I needed to pound the nails in every six inches along the length of the board. Rather than marking the board itself, I marked my hammer handle with a marker (you can use a pencil if you want to erase the marks later). This way, I could hold the head of the hammer at the nail and eyeball just where the next nail needed to go with my makeshift measuring tool. This also comes in handy if you need to need to "guesstimate" other measurements while you're working. Mark the handle every three inches and you won't need to pull out your measuring tape for a rough measurement.
3. The No-Split Trick
If you want to nail into a wood that splits easily (like shoe molding
), turn the nail upside down and give it a couple taps with your hammer to blunt the head of the nail. That way, when you drive the nail in, the head won't split the wood.
4. The Double-Nail Trick
On a project like repairing wood furniture, you need to countersink the nail
below the surface to hide it. Don't worry if you don't own a nail set
(a metal shaft used to countersink nails without damaging the material's surface). Tap the nail below the surface with another nail. It will work just as well.
5. The Comb Trick
If you're trying to drive a nail into a tiny spot, or drive a tiny nail and don't want to hit your fingers, put the nail in the teeth of a comb to stabilize it.
6. The Rubber Band Trick
If you need to remove a nail, criss-cross a couple of rubber bands over the top of the hammer before using the hammer's claw. The rubber bands will protect the surface that you're removing the nail from.
7. The Leverage Trick
If you need more leverage when you're removing a nail, cut a block of wood into a wedge and put it under the head of your hammer before attempting to pull the nail; it will give you more pulling power. Don't feel like cutting wood? Use a rubber door stop.
8. The Sandpaper Trick
When you're done with your project clean the head of your hammer with some fine sandpaper to remove wood resins and nail coatings that could cause your hammer to slip the next time you need it.
Don't forget: Whenever you're using a hammer, wear a pair of safety glasses to prevent little shards of nails and splinters of wood from breaking off and flying into your eyes.