How To Use A Hammer

by Bob Backlin

Details on how to use a hammer the right way and great info for carpenters and apprentices that

The curved claw nail hammer is the tool to use for nailing and nail-pulling. Its usual bell-faced (slightly convex) striking surface minimizes marring when nails are driven flush, reduces nail deflection from off-angle blows. Hammer weights, based on head weight, are commonly 7 ounces for very light work, 13, 16, and 20 ounces for general carpentry. Ripping hammers (with straight claws) are designed for rough work and dismantling, as in opening crates, where the straight claws fit more readily between boards for prying. Their usual weight is 20 ounces, 28 or 32 ounces for heavy duty work. In either type, the head should be drop-forged steel rather than brittle cast iron. "Rim-tempering" of the striking face also greatly reduces the chance of breakage or chipping. Handle should be steel or fiber glass if the hammer must take excessive heat or humidity.

How to use hammers

In nailing, grasp the hammer near the end of the handle. Hold the nail between thumb and forefinger of your left hand and tap it lightly until it stands up in the wood. Then take your fingers away and drive the nail. To avoid marring a surface when pulling nails, place a thin piece of wood under the hammer head. (A thicker block gives you better leverage on long nails.) A ball peen hammer (not a claw hammer) is best for metal work. Using a nail hammer to strike metals harder than its face can damage it and cause dangerous chipping.

A quality hammer can last a lifetime if it is used properly and given reasonable care. Don't use a hammer for work it was not intended to do, like riveting with a nail hammer. Strike only with the striking face of a hammer (never with the side,! cheek) and don't use a hammer to hit anything that, is harder than the hammer's striking face. The real son for this precaution: Impact power, often as high; as 300 pounds, can damage the tool. Similarly, handle-leverage forces in nail-pulling may reach several thousand pounds, so use a nail-pulling wrecking bar instead of a claw hammer when you have to pull very large nails or spikes.

If you have a wood-handled hammer, keep it in a living area of the house, since high humidity, as for example in a damp basement, can swell the wood fibers inside the handle's head, crushing them, loosening the head, and making handle replacement necessary. Extreme dryness. as on a shelf above a radiator, can shrink the handle, which also causes looseness. The dry-shrunk handle can often be re-stored, however, by a brief water-soaking of the head end of the hammer. After this salvage operation, find a better storage spot for the hammer.

If a hammer (or other tool) is stored in an unheated area, such as an outbuilding or garage, condensation on the metal surfaces caused by temperature changes will produce rusting unless the metal is protected in storage by a film of oil. Light engine oil is suitable for the purpose.

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