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In the Workshop: Claw Hammers

Filed Under: Tools, Know-How

claw hammer

A claw hammer. Photo: Getty

When it comes to tools, it doesn't get much more basic than the hammer. Essentially, a hammer is a stick with a weight on one end that's good for pounding things. However, once you get past that rudimentary concept, the subtleties of design that exist today between one type of hammer and another are vast.

That being said, there is one hammer that pretty much defines the category and is a necessity in any basic tool kit: the claw hammer.

A claw hammer is your standard carpentry hammer. One end of the head is used primarily for pounding nails, the other, for pulling them out. If you're in the market for a claw hammer, you've got a few decisions to make.

First, do you want a large 22 oz framing hammer, a smaller 12 oz finish hammer, or something in the middle? If you're looking for a general out-at-the-workbench hammer, I'd suggest something in the 16 oz range. Think twice about the whole "bigger is better" idea and steer clear of the massive framers. I made that mistake with my first hammer and bought something that is so large it could double as a sledgehammer. It has remained virtually unused for about 10 years. The smaller 12 oz hammers are nice, but they lack the weight for aggressive projects like framing.

Second, do you want a metal handle, a wood handle, or a fiberglass handle? Wood handles provide very good shock absorption and have a nice, traditional feel in your hand. Fiberglass handles also provide good absorption and usually have some kind of molded grip on them. Hammers, like the ones that Estwing makes, consist of a single solid piece of metal with a rubbery grip. Because of this construction, they are indestructible and you'll never have to replace handle, like you might with a wooden handled hammer.

As far as the shock absorption goes, my experience is that it's only noticeable if you're using the hammer everyday for an extended period of time, like if it's your job to frame houses. I'm a carpenter and use my Estwing everyday and have never once thought about the vibrations. A quality claw hammer will usually be in the $20 range, but you could spend as much as $200 on one.


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