My Three Favourite Hammers

There are hammers to live with and hammers you can live without. My work tells me which one to pick up. Outside of these three I keep a couple of claw hammers for heavier work, construction projects and such. The first claw hammer, the Stanley 20 ounce, I bought when I was 16. It is a bench joiner’s hammer but not really a furniture joiner’s hammer.

I’m no longer sure if hammer designers change hammer shapes and colours for good erg’ reasons or whether they are more fashion statements in an age of, well, fashion. Whereas my Estwing ripping claw changed from it’s previous claw shape, the ripping claw is my favourite construction hammer. I also like the leather handle over the wood, too.

But these three hammers above are mine. They were my choice from the beginning and no bench hammer has replaced them though i do have to chuckle at some of the silly little hammers some ‘tool designers‘ have presented through the years – ‘chic‘. Why then do you need three hammers, Paul? Surely one will do? you ask. Well, as it is with planes and saws, chisels and such, not all hammers are equal in the different tasks we do at the bench. Subtle differences in punch, hold and delivery make me pick one up over the others. Steel hammers like my cross-pein version means I can drive nails and hit nail punches to set nails. There are other metalworking tasks I can use them for too but nothing starts and drives small brads like the cross-pein of a cross-pein hammer. This is a 10 ounce hammer but I also have 12 and 16 ounce versions for other work.

Hammers worthy of my name stamp

My Thorex 712 38mm hammer is unchallenged for mallet work with my chisels and also assembly pretty well. It has pretty well replaced my wooden mallet versions though I will always love my hand made wooden mallets and for some work they are irreplaceable. The advantage of the two different hard and soft faces is density. The grey is soft enough for good and general assembly but not so good for chisel work. The white face is ultra kind to chisel handles yet still capably gives good delivery. The white face is also very good for assembly on hard and dense-grained wood too. Very positive in both delivery and feedback. Better than eBay!

I designed my brass headed hammer for two main functions; hammer tap adjustment to wedged planes – on both wedge and blade – and assembly and chisel work. The wider bell end is domed for chisel work and works especially well whereas the opposite side is good for closer and narrower work needed in plane adjustment.

17 Comments

  1. Ermir on 11 September 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Dear Paul,

    Greetings from Tirana, Albania!

    I bought the Thorex following your suggestion; it is very very good and very versatile also. It’s well made and delivers the blow precisely and efficiently.

    I recently got a brass blank to make two small hammers from it, one like yours and another a little bigger. Could you please give me (and all of us) any advice on the handle preparation and fitting, if you find the time?

    Thank you,
    Ermir

  2. Keith on 11 September 2019 at 9:04 pm

    In What situations do you still grab a wooden joiners mallet?

    • Paul Sellers on 12 September 2019 at 9:59 am

      I have two or three heavy wooden mallets made from Bois d’arc (also osage orange USA) so for heavy and deep mortise holes in hardwood I would likely use them then.

  3. Rodrigo Fuenzalida on 12 September 2019 at 2:21 am

    When carving wood is my guess.

  4. Max™ on 12 September 2019 at 2:39 am

    Tapping together softer wooden joinery I’d only use a wooden mallet unless I couldn’t find one then I’d use a piece of wood to cover the joint and a lighter hammer.

    • Paul Sellers on 12 September 2019 at 9:55 am

      I never used a wooden mallet for assembling because they do and are more likely to damage the wood so I do not recommend it even on “softer” woods. Since using the Thor hammer I have never seen damage caused by them and the ability to flip between softer and hard face means I can deal with any degree of hardness of wood.

  5. Keith on 12 September 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks Paul I have an Osage orange log round drying out for the last year that I plan on being my mallet one day

  6. Keith Wyles on 12 September 2019 at 2:31 pm

    i recently modified a copper / hide hammer (probably older then me) as the hide end was warn out. Dug out the remnants of the hide roll and shaped a piece of brass to fit in its place.

  7. Max™ on 12 September 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Well, my rubber faced wood hammer is softer than any other I have. Tacked a palm sheet from some old cut resistant gloves I had on the face for it.

  8. Scott on 14 September 2019 at 5:47 pm

    What is the weight of your brass hammer?

  9. Paul Frederick on 16 September 2019 at 4:17 pm

    You need more than three hammers. I have a hammer fetish so when I see one different than any I have I tend to pick it up. I have some truly bizarre hammers. As far as hammers that I actually use regularly go there’s only a few of them. But that won’t stop me from acquiring more hammers.

    • Paul Sellers on 16 September 2019 at 4:29 pm

      Ah! the western consumerist luxury. Therein is the difference between, “need more than three hammers” and ‘want’. In your case surely you are saying you want more than three rather than need?

  10. Matt on 16 September 2019 at 4:37 pm

    Paul,
    Can you recommend a modern Warrington hammer that is not junk? I see a few floating around the net; current Stanley’s from Lee Valley and a few German made. I bought one a few years back, but the casting was terrible. I took a metal file to it, made it somewhat better, but would like to have a decent one. Thanks!

    • Paul Sellers on 16 September 2019 at 4:42 pm

      I think I would prefer a well used one on eBay. Worn in but not worn out!

  11. Bob Hutchins on 16 September 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Please tell us the weight of the Thorex hammer. I’ve been undecided and the source for them here in the US lists several weights.

  12. Kerry on 17 September 2019 at 6:16 am

    To Bob- here in the US another option I would look at is the Estwing 12 oz Double face soft hammer. Red and yellow soft and hard heads like the Thorex. Hickory handle, made here in US, and available for less than $20 at most of the big-box stores. Found this alternative when I was considering the Thorex too. If you’re looking for something much heavier they make a 24 oz version also, got one for my son-useful for joinery sometimes. My favorite quote from Frank Klausz about dovetails is “if it doesn’t fit don’t force it–just use a bigger hammer.”

  13. Bob Hutchins on 18 September 2019 at 1:36 am

    Thanks, Kerry! I have a hammer like the Estwing.

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