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The most popular and the commonly used type of hand tool is the hammer. The hammer is defined as a device used to deliver blows to an object or strike another object , in the sense that it is used for driving nails, fitting parts and breaking up objects. Available in various shapes and structures, hammers are designed for specific purpose. The hammer consists of a handle to which a heavy head, usually made of metal is attached, with one or more striking surfaces. The basic design of a hand tool is hand operated though there are also different mechanically operated designs for heavier uses.

Hammers: History
Hammers are considered to be man's first tool. The first hammer that man used was a stone held in his hand. Later, the stone age men decided to put a handle on the stone and lo, the first hammer was born. This took place somewhere in the 4th century B.C. The handle was made of wood and it was tied to the head with vines or strips of hide. Later a hole or an "eye" was bored into the head and the handle was fitted inside the hole. Through the centuries, the shape and size of the hammer head together with the handle began to change, evolving through the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, to the modern Industrial Age with different options of steel and metal alloys.

Parts of a hammer
The two major components of a hammer are the head and the handle. The design of these two components, especially the head, depends on the specific application, but all hammers have many common features.
  • Face: The most important component of the hammer is the face, which is the striking face and it is the face which does the actual job. A properly crowned face drives nails flush without damaging the wood or wall surface. The face may be flat which is called plain faced or slightly convex. Such a hammer is called bell faced hammer. Another face design is called a checkered face, which has criss-cross grooves cut into the surface to prevent the hammer from glancing off the nail head.

  • Neck and Throat: The neck is either in straight design or in octagon-shaped design. A deep throat on a strong neck helps in giving power strikes even in difficult areas. EYE: The eye of the hammer should be deep and properly tapered so as to provide a secure head-to-handle assembly.

  • Cheek: The cheek of the hammer head is the one which frames the face.

  • Claw: The claw in the hammer head can either be a single or double. In case of double, the claw comprises double bevels that can help in clearance for nail heads and allow a firm grip on nails of any size.

  • Handle: It is the handle which takes the entire weight of the stone head. Made of wood or plastic or rubber, the handle should have a comfortable grip and should be strong enough to take the weight of the head.
Types of hammer
Curved Claw Hammer: It is used for nail pulling and general carpentry work.
Straight Claw Rip Hammer: This type of hammer is mainly used for general and heavy carpentry work, ripping and framing.
Finishing Hammer: Mainly used for finishing, general carpentry and cabinet making . This is recommended for small workshop projects and having a weight of 12 to 16 oz. They have smooth faces.
Ball Peen Hammer: Used for bending or shaping soft metal, for riveting and for center punching. This hammer has a round face with beveled edges and the other end has a ball-shaped peen for metal working.
Hand Drilling Hammer: This type of hammer is deigned to do powerful job like striking masonry nails, steel chisels and masonry drills.
Soft-face Hammer: This is used for doing any job which requires non-marring blows like as assembling furniture and wood projects, setting dowels etc.
Tack Hammer: This is meant to drive small nails and used for furniture upholstering.
Brick Hammer: This hammer is designed for cutting and setting bricks of blocks.
Drywall (Wallboard) Hammer: This type of hammer is used for making cutouts, drywall work or marking wallboard and also in corner nailing.
Carpenter's Mallet: A smaller sized hammer, this is used in furniture assembly, shaping soft sheet metals or any task that requires non-marring blows.

Materials used in making hammers
Hammer heads are made of varied metals for strength and durability. They are usually made of high carbon, heat-treated steel. The heat treatment given to hammer heads prevents cracking or chipping caused by repeated blows against other metal objects. Certain hammer heads are made of copper, brass, and other materials.

The handle of the hammer is made from either one of the following:
  • Wood: Can be either straight-grained ash or hickory. These two woods have excellent durability, good cross-sectional strength, and a certain degree of resistance to absorb the shock of repeated blows.

  • Steel: They are stronger and stiffer than wood, but they are subject to rust and can transmit more shock to the user.

  • A composite material: Composite hammer handles may be made from fiberglass or graphite fiber-reinforced epoxy and they offer a combination of stiffness, light weight, and durability.
Features of good quality Hammers
  • Forged steel heads for strength and durability.

  • Heat-treated heads for strength, toughness, wear resistance. Should be heat treated differently on face (striking area), at eye (where handle is inserted) and on claws.

  • Finish-ground face with a crowned surface that is canted slightly toward the handle to center hammer blows.

  • The chamfer or bevel on the striking face is recommended to be approximately 10 percent of the diameter of the poll to reduce chipping.

  • Double-beveled nail slot to resist chip-out when pulling large nails.

  • Claw slot that narrows close to head to grip and pull small nails.

  • Well-formed claw points capable of getting under embedded nail heads.

  • Hickory, solid or tubular steel or fiberglass handle firmly attached to head.

  • Handle should be ergonomically shaped and cushioned for secure grip and comfort.

  • Fiberglass, graphite and steel I beam hammers should have a jacket of materials such as polycarbonate to provide overstrike protection.

  • Warning and use message affixed to the hammer.
Buying tips: How to select a quality hammer?
Since a hammer is widely used in various purposes starting from DIY projects like home repairs to professional jobs , a quality hammer can be a lifetime investment. The factors to take into consideration before purchasing hammers are as follows:
  • Balance: The first consideration is balance. The proper head-to-handle weight distribution is very important. The common curved claw hammer has a 0.2-0.6 kg head and a 30.5-33.0 cm handle. A framing hammer has a 0.5-0.8 kg head and a 30.5-45.5 cm handle. When a hammer has good balance, it seems to swing itself.

  • Depth of Hardening: The depth of the hardening on the striking face is another factor to consider. Many times, as hardness cannot be seen, it is neglected, which in turn affects the durability and makes the hammer a potentially dangerous tool. If it is too hard it chips easily and becomes brittle.

  • Eye of the hammer: The eye of the hammer should be softer as it needs to be strong rather than hard.

  • Claws: These are designed in such a way so as to easily slip under nail heads. There are double bevel on hammer claws. This provides clearance to allow claws to slip easily under nail heads and it firmly grips nails of all sizes. The bevel on the striking face of the hammer also make the hammer safer to use as it reduces the chance of chipping the face.

  • Handles/ Grip: The hammers with a hickory handle are best to consider followed by fiberglass, and then comes solid steel hammers. It is very essential to have a secure and good grip for light and heavy blows.

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