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A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. The most common uses are for driving nails, fitting parts, forging metal and breaking up objects. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and vary widely in their shape and structure. The usual features are a handle and a head, with most of the weight in the head. The basic design is hand-operated, but there are also many mechanically operated models for heavier uses.

Malene Thyssen, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene

The hammer may be the oldest tool for which definite evidence exists. Stone hammers are known which are dated to 2,600,000 BCE. Various shaped stones were used to strike wood, bone, or other stones to break them apart and shape them. Stones attached to sticks with strips of leather or animal sinew were being used as hammers by about 30,000 BCE during the middle of the Paleolithic Stone Age. Its archeological record means the hammer is perhaps the oldest human tool known.

The essential part of a hammer is the head, a compact solid mass that is able to deliver the blow to the intended target without itself deforming. The opposite side may have a ball, as in the ball-peen hammer and the cow hammer. Some upholstery hammers have a magnetized appendage, to pick up tacks. In the hatchet the hammer head is secondary to the cutting edge of the tool. In recent years the handles have been made of durable plastic or rubber. The hammer varies at the top; some are larger than others giving a larger surface area to hit different sized nails and such.

Although the claw hammer is the most widely used hammer, woodworkers use a variety of special hammers. Specialized hammers include the tack hammer, the ball peen hammer, cross pein pin hammer and the joiner's mallet. In addition to hand tools, woodworkers may also use a power hammer, or power nailer as they are often called.