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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, breaking apart rocks or concrete, shaping metal, or even applying force to a delicate surface you don’t want to be 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 many different hammer types and designs out there. Hammers often are classified by weight, but that weight refers to the metal head, not the entire tool.
We researched a wide variety of the most popular hammers available today and selected the top picks best suited to the average DIYer, renter, or homeowner looking to tackle various tasks around their home.
Here are the best hammers available now.
Best Overall: Stanley 16-Ounce FatMax Xtreme AntiVibe Rip Claw Nailing Hammer
Large strike face
Few complaints that it's not for heavy-duty use
Stanley is a big name among tool manufacturers, so it's only natural that their FatMax Anti-Vibe Rip Claw Nailing (51-163) 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, including carpal tunnel syndrome. 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.
Type: Rip claw | Weight: 16-ounce head | Handle Material: Steel
Best Mallet: TEKTON Double-Faced Soft Mallet, 35 mm
Rubber face and plastic face
Hollow steel rubberized handle
Small head size
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 Double-Faced Soft Mallet (30812) will get the job done. The dual soft faces—one side is black rubber, and the other is red plastic—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. 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.
Type: Mallet | Weight: 11.4-ounce head | Handle Material: Steel
Best Budget: Stanley 51-106 13-Ounce Wood Hammer
Finished wood handle
Not for heavy-duty use
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 Stanley's 13-ounce Curved Claw Wood Handle (51-106), it still has a lot to offer. It offers a level of ergonomic customization that metal and rubber simply can’t match. And when the price is this reasonable, so much the better.
Like other wood handles, this one 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.
Type: Curve claw | Weight: 13-ounce head | Handle Material: Hickory wood
Best Stubby: IIT 32380 12-Ounce Stubby Hammer
Perfect for use in close quarters
Not for heavy-duty use
Somewhat awkward for large hands
The IIT 12-Ounce Stubby Hammer (32380) 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, and its stubby size makes this tool ideal for working in confined quarters or carrying out around-the-house repairs and simple carpentry tasks.
When it comes to weight, the Stubby is just right; at 12 ounces, it isn't too heavy, nor is it too light. 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 tool belt when not in use.
Type: Claw | Weight: 12-ounce head | Handle Material: Fiberglass
Best Lightweight: Olympia Tools 8-Ounce Wood Claw Hammer
Great for light tasks
Head not magnetized
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 such as the Olympia Tools 8-Ounce Claw Wood 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 wood handle that absorbs some of the strike impact, is very durable, and just plain looks good. The business end of the tool is drop-forged alloyed steel with a curved claw opposite the face for use in pulling nails back out of walls or other surfaces.
At under a pound in total weight and measuring just 11.5 inches in length, the hammer won’t take up much room in your toolbox, nor will it weigh you down.
Type: Curve claw | Weight: 8-ounce head | Handle Material: Wood
Best for Metal: Estwing Tinner's Hammer
Solid, quality construction
While tinner's hammers are mostly intended for shaping sheet metal and other metalwork, they are also useful for driving nails through tough wood or metal. 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.
Type: Tinner’s | Weight: 18-ounce head | Handle Material: Steel
Best Club Hammer: Estwing Sure Strike 3-Pound Drilling Hammer MRF3LB
Forged steel head
Rubberized grip on handle
Some people may find it too heavy
You’ll feel like Thor when you give the Estwing Sure Strike Drilling Hammer a swing. Drilling hammers, also called club hammers, are one step below sledgehammers in terms of power and weight. This is a tool you’ll count on for the toughest tasks, such as driving chisels into brick, pounding nails into the hardest woods, light demolition, or driving stakes into the wood, 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 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.
Type: Drilling | Weight: 3-pound head | Handle Material: Fiberglass
Best Flex: Craftsman 18-Ounce Flex Claw Hammer
Unique pivoting head
Large strike face
Few complaints of wiggle in head
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 sufficient weight for a solid swing and impact with each stroke.
Type: Flex claw | Weight: 18-ounce head | Handle Material: Steel
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 Anti-Vibe Rip Claw Nailing Hammer (view 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 Drilling Hammer (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in a Hammer
There are three basic materials used for hammer handles, including wood, fiberglass, and steel.
Wood is the classic hammer handle and is still preferred by many. It’s fairly lightweight, doesn’t transmit a lot of vibration to your hand and wrist, and with enough use, wooden handles tend to “form” a little bit to your hand over time. Still, wooden handles are the likeliest to break, and they can be slippery. They’ll also rot or warp if left out in rough conditions or exposed to moisture. However, you can generally replace a wooden hammer handle if it breaks.
Fiberglass handles are not as light as wood but weigh less than steel. Fiberglass is also good at reducing vibration from hammer blows; this can be a major issue if you are using your hammer for a lengthy work session. Because fiberglass doesn’t conduct electricity, these hammers are a good choice if you’ll be working in an area with live wires. Fiberglass also won't rot or warp over time. On the downside, you won’t be able to replace the handle should it break. Typically, fiberglass handles have a rubber or composite grip to prevent the tool from slipping out of your hand.
Steel hammer handles are the heaviest and the strongest, making them a favorite for demolition work. Steel transmits a great deal of vibration, however, which means you could end up with sore wrists and arms by the end of your work session. Steel hammers are generally one piece of forged metal from handle to head, unlike fiberglass and wooden hammers, giving them excellent durability. Typically, these hammers have a rubber or composite grip to help reduce some of the vibrations and make it easier to keep a hold of the tool when your hands get sweaty.
There are different hammers out there, each with a specific purpose, although there can be overlaps among them. Here are some of the most common types of hammers.
- Claw: This is the most common type of hammer. The head has a slightly curved, forked claw that’s useful for pulling nails out of wood and other materials and a smooth face that won’t mar the wall as you drive the nail home.
- Framing: These hammers are very similar to claw hammers, but the claw is straight rather than curved. Often, framing hammers have a slightly textured face that helps hold nails in place as they are struck.
- Ball Peen: The head of this hammer has a flat face on one side and a round, somewhat ball-shaped face on the other. There is no claw. Ball peen hammers are mostly used for metalwork.
- Club: Also called drilling hammers, these short tools with two flat faces are basically smaller sledgehammers. Club hammers are great for light demolition, as well as driving chisels and wedges.
- Rubber Mallet: Shaped much like a club hammer, but with a rubber head instead of metal, mallets are not used to drive nails but to add some force when driving stakes or chisels, building furniture, working with upholstery, or similar tasks where you need more power than your hands provide alone, yet you don’t want to damage the surface upon which you are working.
- Tinner's: These hammers have a square face and a sharp claw without a fork. They are mostly used for metalwork, including hammering sheet metal and automotive repairs.
Weight and Length
A hammer that weighs too much will tire you out. However, go too light, and you sacrifice strike power. It should be noted here that a hammer’s weight refers to just the steel head, not the entire tool.
You’ll find claw hammers weighing as little as 8 ounces and monsters weighing as much as 32 ounces, but for the average DIYer, a tool that’s between 16 and 20 ounces is best. Go towards the bottom of that range if you’ll mostly use the hammer for hanging pictures and similar light tasks, and towards the upper end of the range if you’ll be doing framing or similar construction activities.
When it comes to length, longer isn’t always better. While it’s true that a longer hammer lets you build up more momentum for a more powerful blow, it’s also true that such a hammer weighs more than its shorter counterparts and is generally not necessary for the average DIYer.
As a general rule, choose a claw hammer that’s between 12 and 16 inches in length for typical around-the-house repairs and tasks.
How do you use a hammer?
Using a hammer is relatively easy. Start by gripping the handle in one hand and quickly inspecting it for any damage, like rust or a loose hammer head. If the hammer seems safe, use your other hand to hold a nail in position at the base of the nail, as far from the intended place of impact as possible, then bring the hammer head down onto the head of the nail to drive it into the wood.
Hammers also have a peen or claw at the back of the head that can be used to pull nails out. Just slide the head of the nail into the crevice between the two sides of the claw, then apply force toward the face of the hammer to pry the nail out of the wood.
Keep in mind that hammers can have many different uses, and this is just the most basic application of using a hammer.
How do you nail baseboards with a hammer?
If possible, it's advised to use a nail gun to secure baseboards, but if you don't have a nail gun available, then a hammer will work. There are specialized hammers known as trim and finish hammers designed for this job.
Line up the nail with the stud and strike the head of the nail with the hammer. Continue to drive the nail through the baseboard and into the wall stud until the head of the nail is flush with the surface of the baseboard. If the nail is sticking out, it looks bad, makes it difficult to fill and paint, and can also pose a safety hazard to people walking past.
What is a claw hammer?
Claw hammer is the official name given to a standard hammer. This style features a solid striking face at the front of the head and a curved claw at the back of the head to help extract nails. Claw hammers are the most commonly used hammer by DIYers.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience writing about all things related to the home and carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. Timothy Dale, a seasoned home improvement expert specializing in several topics, including plumbing, construction, and product recommendations, provided additional research.