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Next to a screwdriver, your hammer is likely the most reached-for item in your toolbox. While most often used to drive nails or pull them back out, hammers are actually very versatile tools. Depending on the design and weight, you can use a hammer to drive much larger objects than nails, such as spikes. And of course, you can use the right hammer for demolition, to break apart rocks or concrete, to shape metal, or even to apply force to a delicate surface that you don’t want marred.
While the basics of hammers are simple—they consist of a wooden, metal, or fiberglass handle with a metal head used for striking other objects—there are a lot of different hammer types and designs out there. It should be noted that hammers often are classified by weight, but that weight refers to the weight of the metal head, not the weight of the entire tool.
We researched a wide variety of the most popular hammers available today, and then whittled the choices down to those we feel are the best suited to the average DIYer, renter, or homeowner looking to tackle various tasks around their home.
Here are the best hammers available now.
Stanley is a big name among tool manufacturers, so it's only natural that their 51-163 16-Ounce FatMax Xtreme takes the top spot for good hammers to buy. This one goes beyond what most hammers offer in design and build. While it easily can drive nails into hard and thick woods with its 16-ounce, all-steel construction, it does it in a way that is meant to protect the user.
Hammering repeatedly can lead to many problems with hands and wrists over time. The vibrations of each impact can stress the bones and tendons holding everything together. If you will be using a hammer a lot, this one minimizes the dangers by absorbing most of the impact of each strike. The handle is also designed to reduce the torque placed on the wrists and elbows as you swing.
The toughest hammer isn't always the best for some projects. If you are looking for a versatile hammer to use for more delicate projects, the Tekton 30812 Double-Faced Soft Mallet will get the job done. The dual soft faces are better for hitting surfaces you don't want to damage as you apply a lot of force to each strike. This is perfect for protecting fragile surfaces or completed finishes while you hammer.
The body of the hammer is meant to keep the whole tool light if you need something that you can comfortably carry and use for long periods of time. The shaft and handle are made of tubular steel, which reduces the overall weight of the tool. The soft, rubber grip will also keep the hammer comfortably planted in your hands while you swing and strike.
Sometimes, finding a good hammer is a matter of personal preference. For some people, nothing can quite compare to the feel and weight of a wooden-handled hammer when it's time to drive nails home. Wood is old-school technology, but with hammers like the Stanley 51-106, it still has a lot to offer. It offers a level of ergonomic customization that metal and rubber simply can’t match.
Like other wood handles, the 51-106 will change to fit your grip the more you use it as the wood slowly wears over time. Don’t worry; this is natural and rarely compromises the overall strength of the hammer. The wood is heat treated and polished to a visual shine to increase its overall strength. The shaft is also tempered in its weak spots to reduce the possibility of chipping and splitting the wood as you strike.
Rubber handles have become more popular over the years as more people have wanted a comfortable grip covering the strength of a hardened-steel hammer. The IIT 32380 12 Oz Stubby is meant for light-duty projects where you will find yourself hammering for hours on end. The lightweight, ergonomic handle is covered in a soft rubber comfort-grip that will work for both right and left handed individuals.
This hammer falls right in between heavy and light options. The steel head is strong enough to survive repeated abuse for long projects, while the weight is convenient for the times you need a little extra force in your swing. At 8 inches in length, it is also a perfect size for carrying around on your toolbelt when not in use.
If pounding in nails to hang pictures is just about the most action your hammer ever sees, there’s no need for a heavy tool made for more rigorous tasks. Instead, a lightweight hammer like the AmazonBasics 8-Ounce Hickory Wood Claw Hammer gets the job done very effectively, but with less wear-and-tear on your hands and wrists, and less potential damage to your walls should you misjudge your swing.
The hammer has a solid hickory handle–the wood is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified–that absorbs some of the strike impact, is very durable, and just plain looks good. The business end of the tool is forged carbon steel with a curved claw opposite the face for use in pulling nails back out of walls or other surfaces.
At 13.6 ounces total weight, and measuring just 11.4 inches in length, the hammer won’t take up much room in your toolbox, nor will it weigh you down.
On the opposite end of the weight spectrum are the heavy hitters. Hammers that have enough weight to drum up serious strike power are the tools of choice when you need to drive a nail through tricky wood or even soft metals. The Estwing T3-18 will give you 18 ounces to play with when you want extra force and durability behind your swing.
Despite the size and weight, this hammer comes with shock reduction grip to minimize the amount of shock and vibration your wrists absorb after a strike. This type of design tries to keep the shock in the hammer, so your bones and ligaments don't take the brunt of the force. The hammer is properly weighted between the head and claw, which is forged directly with the handle as one piece for a well-balanced feel in your grip.
You’ll feel like Thor when you give the Estwing Sure Strike 3-Pound Drilling Hammer a swing. Drilling hammers, also called club hammers, are one step below sledgehammers in terms of power and weight, so this is a tool you’ll count on for the toughest tasks, such as driving chisels into brick, pounding nails into the hardest woods, demolition, or driving stakes into wood, the ground, or other hard surfaces.
The double-faced hammer has a hardened, tempered steel head and an 11-inch heavy-duty fiberglass handle with a ribbed, easy-grip jacket that keeps the tool securely in your grasp even during the most powerful swing. Its total weight is 3.51 pounds, which is heavy, but not overly so for most people. It’s a great choice for anyone who needs a hammer for tough jobs around the house or yard.
Want a good hammer that is more versatile than just driving nails into wood? A good claw—the rear end that lets you remove things like nails and damaged screws—can be a useful addition for projects that require some deconstruction. The Craftsman 18-Ounce Flex Claw takes the traditional hammer claw to the next level by adding a solid pivot point for a degree of adjustability. Since you may find nails in surfaces at different, uncomfortable angles, an adjustable claw can move to provide you the best angle to pull a nail out.
The claw locks at four different positions, so you can quickly set the rear end to the desired angle as you work. For hammering, this tool also includes a large striking face and a weighty 18-ounce for a solid swing and impact with each stroke.
Hammering for more than a few blows can really take a toll on your hands. That’s why our top choice of hammers is the Stanley FatMax Xtreme (available at Walmart), which is designed to greatly minimize vibration and impact. But if you need a heavyweight hammer to tackle demolition or to drive nails, chisels, or stakes into the hardest surfaces, reach instead for the Estwing Sure Strike 3-Pound Drilling Hammer (available at Amazon).