Tips for Properly Using a Hammer

  • 01 of 06

    Hammer Tips: Start by Choosing the Right Hammer

    16 ounce hammer
    16 Ounce Curved Claw Hammer. © 2007

    I know, it's not a common power tool like a circular saw or power drill. It's just a hammer right? How hard can it be to use?

    Well, it is still a tool, and since I like to make sure my readers use tools safely and with good results, I'm offering a few tips on hammer usage.

    The hammer of choice for all around versatility is the 16 ounce curved claw hammer. If you're looking for a little lighter version of this hammer, its little brother, the 13 ounce curved claw hammer is a great choice.

    Stay away from specialty hammers such as the 20 to 30 ounce ripping-claw framing hammer. Those are for pro carpenters or studly home repair folks doing rough carpentry work.

    Now let's review some useful tips on using the curved claw hammer.

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Hammer Tips: Hold the Hammer Correctly

    Let's start with eye protection.

    Next, get used to holding the hammer correctly. You don't choke it. Don't grab it by the neck and start "tapping" a nail. Nothing says "I have no idea what I am doing!" like using a hammer this way.

    To properly hold the hammer, grab it near the end of its handle. Get used to the feel. Swing it loosely in your hand. A well-made hammer will have a nice balance to it and a little sweep in the end of the handle to help hold on.

    Once you have the hammer held by the end of the handle, you're ready to swing.

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Hammer Tips: Hold the Nail Properly

    proper hammer nail hit
    Proper Nail Holding Technique. © 2007

    I'm sorry. I know this sounds silly but yes there is a right way to hold a nail. You want to hold it near the top or the head of the nail. Not right at the top but near the top.

    Why? Well if you miss the nail with the hammer (I'll tell you how not to miss in the next section), you will just bounce off your finger. If you hold the nail at the bottom and miss, the hammer winds up crushing your finger against the wood or whatever surface into which you are nailing.

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Hammer Tips: Hit the Nail

    Here's the goal, folks. You want to hit the nail squarely and with force. I don't mean hard pounding, but I don't want anyone "tapping" either!

    To score a direct hit every time, simply grab the nail near the top and watch the nail, not the hammer as you swing to strike the nail. The hammer is designed to use the momentum of a smooth, easy swing to drive the nail. So let it do what it was designed to do!

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Hammer Tips: Dull Your Nail Tip

    Why would you want to dull a nice, sharp nail? When you want to avoid splitting a piece of wood near the end of the board. A sharp nail tip will serve to split a piece of wood if you're nailing near the end of the board.

    A tried and true technique to avoid this problem is to to take the nail and turn it upside down and place the head of the nail on a hard surface with the sharp tip facing up. Now lightly take your hammer and tap (yes, here I do want you to tap) the nail tip so as to blunt or dull it.

    Now nail into the board and your board will not split. I don't care who you are, that tip is cool!

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Hammer Tips: Make the Last Blow Count

    You'll notice the face of the hammer head striking surface is very slightly convex. This is to allow this next tip.

    Time your hammer strikes so that the last blow will set the nail head flush with the surface of the material your nailing. This requires countersinking the nail head ever so slightly so the thickness of the nail head is into the surface. What you want to make sure happens is that the nail head is not sticking up and that you make sure the nail is "set" properly and is flush.