6 Types of Hammers and How to Choose

Hammers are one of the most essential tools for any homeowner, DIYer, or professional tradesman. With the wide variety of hammers available, it can be challenging to determine which type of hammer is best suited for the job at hand. This article will explore the 6 most common types of hammers, their key features and benefits, and tips for choosing the right hammer for your needs.

Claw Hammer

The claw hammer, also known as a carpenter’s hammer, is the most popular and versatile type of hammer. Identifiable by its curved claw on one side of the head, the claw hammer is ideal for driving and extracting nails.

Key Features

  • Curved claw – Used for pulling out bent or sunken nails. The curve allows for better leverage.
  • Flat striking face – For driving nails into various materials with accuracy. Often textured to prevent slippage.
  • Rip claw – The jagged side of the claw, used for ripping apart materials.
  • Smooth claw – The smooth side of the claw used for gently prying materials apart.
  • Steel head and handle – Forged steel head provides durability. Wooden handle absorbs shock.

When to Use

The claw hammer is the perfect all-purpose hammer for:

  • Driving and extracting common nails
  • Light demolition work
  • Pulling old nails from wood
  • Minor prying work

It’s the ideal general DIYer’s hammer for light household projects.

What to Look For

  • Head weight – Typically 16 oz or 20 oz. Heavier hammers provide more striking force.
  • Handle type – Wood, steel, or fiberglass. Personal preference.
  • Head and face material – Solid steel forged head best for durability.
  • Claw style – Rip or smooth claw depending on usage.
  • Balance and feel – Choose a hammer that feels balanced and comfortable in your hand.

Ball Peen Hammer

The ball peen hammer, also known as an engineer’s hammer, has a rounded “peen” on one end of the head. It’s used for metalworking tasks like shaping and fitting metal parts.

Key Features

  • Ball peen – Rounded end for indenting, shaping, and smoothing metal.
  • Flat striking face – For driving chisels, punches, and nails.
  • Peening face – Checkered face prevents slipping when striking chisels, punches, etc.
  • Heat-treated steel head – Strength and durability important when metalworking.

When to Use

The ball peen hammer allows for versatility with metalworking projects:

  • Shaping and forming metal pieces
  • Smoothing out welded joints
  • Setting rivets
    -indenting or marking metal
  • Driving punches and chisels through materials

It’s the go-to hammer for auto body work, metal fabrication, jewelry making, and other metal crafts.

What to Look For

  • Head weight – 4 oz to 32 oz depending on task. Heavier for more striking force.
  • Head material – Forged and heat-treated steel.
  • Handle type – Wood, steel, or fiberglass. Should have rubber grip.
  • Peen type – Cross peen, straight peen, or rounded peen. Choose by task.
  • Balance – Head and handle should be balanced when gripped.

Rubber Mallet

The rubber mallet has a head made of dense rubber or plastic, making it ideal for delivering controlled, low-impact strikes. It protects surfaces from damage.

Key Features

  • Rubber or plastic head – Provides cushioned blows to prevent surface damage.
  • Larger striking surface – Broad face disperses force over wider area.
  • Steel shaft – Absorbs rebound energy from blows.
  • Textured head – Creates friction to prevent slipping when struck.

When to Use

The rubber mallet is perfect for projects where force is needed but damage would be unacceptable:

  • Assembling furniture to avoid scratches
  • Adjusting flooring pieces into place
  • Applying tile or laminate sheets
  • Seating dowels, chisels, punches into place
  • Tapping machine parts into position without damaging

It’s very useful when an extra level of control and finesse is required.

What to Look For

  • Head material – Rubber, plastic, urethane, or neoprene. Varying degrees of softness.
  • Head weight – Typically 1 to 3 lbs. Heavier mallets provide more striking force.
  • Handle type – Wood, steel, aluminum, or fiberglass. Should have non-slip grip.
  • Face type – Single face or double face. Choose based on application.
  • Rebound – Minimal bounce back preferred for control.

Sledge Hammer

The sledge hammer, also called a sledge or maul, features a heavy metal head attached to a long sturdy handle. It delivers maximum demolition power.

Key Features

  • Oversized metal head – Typically 6 to 20 lbs. Provides tremendous striking force. Can be solid or contain a center core.
  • Long rigid handle – Allows both one or two handed swings. Usually 36 inches.
  • Beveled face – Maximizes force delivery on the strike surface. Reduces glancing blows.

When to Use

The sledge hammer brings sheer brute force for demolition tasks like:

  • Breaking up concrete
  • Driving stakes into tough ground
  • Busting through brick, stone, or masonry
  • Breaking up frozen ground
  • Felling trees and stumps
  • Crushing rock

It’s the heavyweight hammer when enormous striking force is required.

What to Look For

  • Head weight – Typically 6, 10, 12, or 20 lbs. Choose weight based on your strength and task.
  • Head material – Forged or cast steel. Solid or filled core variations.
  • Handle length – 36 inches most common. Provides optimal swing leverage.
  • Handle material – Fiberglass, hickory wood, or steel. Should be very rigid.
  • Head/handle connection – Secure wedge or epoxy connection.

Dead Blow Hammer

The dead blow hammer contains shot or sand loosely packed inside the head to minimize rebound and prevent marring of surfaces. It delivers solid, controlled blows.

Key Features

  • Hollow metal head filled with shot – Adds mass and eliminates bounce while minimizing head damage.
  • Plastic, rubber, or urethane head – Prevents surface markings and damage.
  • Short handle – Enables easy, compact swings.

When to Use

The non-marring blows of a dead blow hammer are perfect for:

  • Metal fabrication – assembling jigs or knocking parts into place
  • Automotive work – removing dents and shaping body panels
  • Jewelry making – hammering delicate metal pieces without marking them
  • Tilework – adjusting tiles on floors and walls

Any task that requires sheer force without marring the striking surface.

What to Look For

  • Filled vs unfilled head – Shot-filled absorbs rebound, unfilled provides firm but slightly bouncy blows.
  • Head material – Metal, rubber, plastic, urethane. Varies in softness.
  • Head weight – Typically 1 to 5 lbs. Heavier provides more striking force.
  • Handle – Shorter 12 to 15 inch handles for control and easy swinging.

Tack Hammer

The tack hammer features a small teardrop shaped metal head for driving small fasteners like tacks, brads, and finish nails. Ideal for precise work.

Key Features

  • Small teardrop shaped head – Built for driving small fasteners and precision work. Typically 1 oz to 4 oz heads.
  • Magnetic head – Holds fasteners in place while driving.
  • Short handle – Improves accuracy and close quarter use. Typically 6 to 12 inches.
  • Steel head – Durable and long lasting. Provides sufficient striking force.

When to Use

The tack hammer allows for meticulous work driving diminutive fasteners, ideal for:

  • Upholstery work – tacking fabric and cushions
  • Detail woodworking – driving brads in tight areas
  • Securing dollhouse components
  • Hanging pictures and artwork
  • Assembling electronics or jewelry

Any small project requiring accurate placement of tiny fasteners.

What to Look For

  • Head weight – 1 oz to 4 oz. Heavier provides more striking force.
  • Head material – Steel or titanium. Titanium lighter weight.
  • Handle length – 6 to 12 inches. Shorter improves control and accuracy.
  • Handle material – Wood, steel, or fiberglass.
  • Magnetic head – Contains magnets to hold fasteners in place. Very helpful feature.

How to Choose the Right Hammer

With so many types of hammers to choose from, it can be tough to select the right one. Here are some tips for choosing the best hammer for the job:

  • Consider your project – The type of work you’re doing determines the hammer type. Delicate work? Use a tack hammer. Heavy demolition? Use a sledgehammer.
  • Think about precision – Projects requiring accuracy need hammers like tack hammers. If precision isn’t important, a basic claw hammer will suffice.
  • Check the force required – Does the job require brute striking force? Use a sledgehammer or dead blow. Gentler force? Opt for a rubber mallet.
  • Assess if marring is acceptable – Delicate surfaces require non-marring hammers like rubber, plastic, or rawhide. Metal surfaces can use steel hammers.
  • Pick a suitable handle length – Longer handles provide more swing leverage and power. Shorter handles are easier to swing in tight spaces.
  • Make sure it feels comfortable – Consider the handle material, diameter, and balance when choosing a hammer. It should feel good in your hand.
  • Consider your experience – If you’re a beginner, opt for basic versatile tools like a claw hammer. Experts can handle specialized hammers.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select the ideal hammer for the project you have in mind. Referring to the features and usage of the 6 main types covered here will simplify the process. Don’t be afraid to own a few different types of hammers to build your tool arsenal!

Frequently Asked Questions about Types of Hammers

Hammers are a vital tool for countless do-it-yourself, home renovation, construction, and manufacturing tasks. With such a wide variety available, it’s helpful to understand which hammer is best suited for common needs around the home, auto shop, or work site. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the different types of hammers:

What is the most commonly used type of hammer?

The most popular and widely used hammer is the basic claw hammer, also called a carpenter’s hammer. Its versatility to drive and pull nails makes it useful for a broad range of household projects and general tasks. Most DIYers would benefit from owning a 16 or 20 oz claw hammer.

What’s the best hammer for pulling out nails?

A claw hammer is specifically designed for pulling nails. The curved claw provides optimum leverage and grip to withdraw nails, even those bent or sunken into the wood. Use the rip claw side for easier extraction.

What type of hammer is best for automotive work?

Ball peen hammers are perfect for shaping panels and metal pieces on vehicles. A dead blow hammer with a rubber head allows for delivering controlled blows to vehicle bodies and panels without damaging the surface or finish.

What hammer should I use to hang pictures and art?

Small tack hammers are ideal for delicately driving picture hanging nails, tacks, and brads when hanging framed art, photos, wall decorations, and mirrors. The short handle provides improved precision.

What’s the best hammer for assembling furniture?

A rubber mallet allows you to tap furniture components like dowels, corner blocks, or shelves into place without marring the furniture surface. Use a mallet on wood, laminate, or painted surfaces to prevent dents and chips.

Can I use a carpenter’s hammer on metal surfaces?

It’s advisable to use ball peen, cross peen, or specialty hammers on metal surfaces. The checkered striking face grips metal surfaces better and reduces slippage and marks. Use a non-marring hammer like plastic or rubber on finished surfaces.

What type of hammer delivers the hardest strike?

Sledgehammers are designed to deliver the hardest, most forceful hammer strikes for heavy demolition. A 10 to 20 lb sledge will provide extreme striking force, especially when swung with both hands on the long handle. Use extreme caution.


Understanding the various types of hammers and their uses empowers DIYers to choose the best tool for their project needs. With the proper hammer, you can gain better control, accuracy, and avoided damaged surfaces. Claw hammers may be the old reliable standby, but having specialty hammers like a tack hammer, rubber mallet, or ball peen hammer will expand your capabilities. The key is matching the hammer’s features and abilities to the work you intend to do. So know your options when it comes to hammers, select wisely, swing safely, and you can tackle just about any household project with confidence.