Hammers for chisels – many choices

For more information on chisel hammers, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

OK. Heard recently of a woodworking guru describing plastic headed hammers disparagingly and then describe another heavy duty brass mallet as the way to go. Not really true. Reality is, again, it’s seldom an either or, but more likely many or around three or four anyway. Balanced views and balanced hammers and mallets is everything.

My mate Nick uses a cast iron head stuffed with dense raw hid hammer, perfect for heavy work such as timber framing and such. He really likes his and so do I, but it’s not really for driving his chisels so much as dispatching the joints.

I have several wooden mallets I’ve made and used through the decade that I wouldn’t change for anything that are just great, I have seen silly little brass-headed chisel hammers some engineer thought we needed with short shafts that are imbalanced and cute. I hate cute. I posted in the past on my Thorex hammer and then found I couldn’t find them in the USA until a few weeks ago. What the secrecy was I don’t know. I found this hammer. It’s wonderful in the hand and gets the job done without an ounce of excess weight. I love it. Now that doesn’t mean it replaces all other mallets, but for under twenty bucks it gets new woodworkers started with something solid and without compromise. Other mallet types can come later. The name on the hammer is Vaughan and the place of origin at first glance is Illinois, but the hammer is actually made in the UK. This one is also made by Thorex, UK and aside from the wooden shaft it’s the same as the one I use. Mine is Nylon shafted and has nylon interchangeable heads. These heads tended to slip so I roughened the faces and they work perfectly well, but these yellow heads made for the US models are wonderful in that they don’t slip. A slip of white paper on the wooden shaft says made in England.

It’s becoming more difficult than ever to find out exactly where things are made and that’s all part of the shame we bear for deception. This is a good chisel hammer that will last well and deliver the goods. Great tool!

Oh, and remember that these Thorex hammers are available in different sizes and weights and a wide range of head types so you can pick heavier or lighter weight models to suit your personal preference and soft to hard heads to. With these yellow head; I beat one on a concrete step has hard as I could two or three times and could not break one Very important.



  1. I looked at this picture, close up, and see the model number is NT150 and they only way I can find it for sale in the U.S. is online. And with white heads (like the one you are using ) not yellow heads.

    So if you have a retail source will you please share it with me, though it may not be anything thing national I can get to.



  2. I wondered what you thought of these Thorex hammers with their nylon shafts and was going to ask you about it!  I have seen the nylon shaft Thorex hammers more often in Australia than the type you have illustrated in the book and videos.  I guess that you are using the 32mm diameter head, or thereabouts, is that correct?  Does it have the same impact as the equivalent wooden shaft hammers for morticing?


    1. I really like mine and wouldn’t trade it for a wooden shaft as yet. I took the rubber sleeve off and roughened the shaft and prefer that. It feels comfortable and doesn’t slip at all. It delivers a very positive blow and absorbs shock well and similar to a wooden shaft.

    1. Remember that these Thorex hammers are available in different sizes and weights and wide range of head types so you can pick heavier or lighter weight models to suit your personal preference too. Very important.

  3. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for all your videos, great stuff. My father learnt all the hand tool skills in an apprenticeship as a Pattern Maker. Later on he tried to teach me when I was a child and although I picked up a lot I, was very resistant and alas did not benefit from his skill and knowledge as much as I could have. Watching your videos it’s amazing how familiar it all is, the way you hold the tools, the pragmatic practical approach. Common sense knowledge that has been developed by a whole army of craftsmen over hundreds of years

  4. ……Thinking about it, your style of hand tool use probably traces back in a continuum all the way to the first flint cutting tools and clubs etc. how wonderful, thousands of years of development by generations. I purchased the wooden handled 712 and its great, thanks for the recommendation. BTW are not the “cute” brass headed hammers referred to for carving use rather than chiseling out joints. I have one similar to this one http://www.veritastools.com/products/Page.aspx?p=179 and find it excellent for very fine delicate applications.

  5. Would a 40mm diameter hammer with a cellulose face/head work well with chisels or do hammers with nylon heads work better?

    1. I don’t see why not. Nylon is virtually indestructible and don’t know where cellulose falls in the scale of durability. 40mm is a decent diameter. Last week I used a rawhide hammer that worked well too.

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