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Although the hammer is one of the simplest tools consisting of a handle and a head there is nonetheless a great variety of sizes, styles, and functionalities. For basic home repairs, which ones should you have handy? Read on to find out!

Knock these off the list

In general, there are some tools that fall into the "hammer" category that are only used for more specialized tasks. These include: mallets and mauls, which are woodworking tools; ball-peen hammers, used for metalwork; and more heavy duty options such as the roofers' hammer or sledgehammer. Assuming you are just looking for something that drives nails and occasionally breaks things apart, we'll disregard the options below and discuss the more common varieties.

What's it made of?

Hammer heads, which have the striking surface, are typically made of metal.

The handle allows a good grip, extends the arc of your swing thereby increasing speed and velocity of the strike, and in modern times serves as a shock absorber. The most common and inexpensive handles are made of wood, just as they have been since the hammer was first invented. Although wood handles have okay shock absorption, keep in mind that they will probably need to be replaced at some point. Another problem unique to wooden handles is that over-striking and hitting the handle against the piece you're working on will cause a wooden handle more damage than it would to a metal or fiberglass one.

Also roughly for hundreds of years, metal hammer handles are extremely durable and resist damage from over-striking. The weakness of a metal hammer is its lack of shock absorption. To combat this, most metal hammers also have a well-cushioned grip.

Finally, the new kid on the block in hammer handle materials is fiberglass. Fiberglass handles have the most outstanding of both worlds they absorb shock as well as or better than a wooden handle (with the addition of a rubbery grip), and they are nearly as rigid or durable as metal handles. Fiberglass hammers can also be used by electricians.

Weigh your options

The most popular hammer weights are between 455 and 680g (16 to 24 oz). The state hammer weight consists of the weight of the head only not the handle. A 12-oz hammer is known as a tack hammer and can be used for driving small nails, brads, and tacks. While 20 oz hammers drive larger nails efficiently, the middle size of 16 oz hammers is the most popular and versatile.

Choose a head, any head

Most general work hammers have a flat striking face on one end and a peen on the other, with the balance in the head. Peens vary in design; the most common hammer is the claw hammer, in which the peen is shaped like a two-prong, curved fork. This claw design is most useful for pulling nails. Similarly, a rip hammer has a two-prong, straight fork. The rip hammer is designed to pry apart two joined pieces of wood.

The deciding factor

Although the purpose of the hammer is the most important factor in your decision, you should also consider how an individual hammer feels to you. When you have narrowed down your choices based on weight, type of materials, and style, pick up your finalists and swing them. If possible and safe, hit something with it. Think about how the hammer feels in your hand, whether the shock level is acceptable, and if you have a good grip and a good amount of swinging power for the project at hand.

Handle your hammer like a pro

Now that you've bought your hammer, learn what to do with it! A few basic hammer use pointers are addressed below.

To make a job easier and avoid damage to either your tools or the project, consistantly choose the appropriate hammer for each individual job.

If you notice a hammer slipping off nails, use medium sand paper to roughen the face.

Never use the side of a hammer head to make contact, because the metal at this point is not hardened like the striking face and could incur damage.

Check on a regular basis to ensure the steel wedges holding the hammer handle in the hammer head are tight. Wood can shrink in dry conditions. If a wood handle does become loose, submerse the head in water overnight. This will rehydrate the wood, causing it to expand and tighten up again.

A piece of scrap wood inserted between the work piece and hammer will prevent damage to the work piece when crafting delicate projects.

Another way to prevent damage to the work piece is to use a nail punch to sink nails into the timber.