General woodworking doesn’t necessarily require a woodworking hammer as one can build many nice projects without nails.
Carpentry framing, on the other hand, is still performed by nailing and that’s where a trust carpentry hammer comes to play.
As a newcomer to woodworking, you’re probably not going to run out and buy a nail gun, so the focus of this article is on the hand-powered hammers and mallets.
Once through with this article you’ll learn of numerous hammers and mallets that you might want to load your toolbox or tool shelf with – our product picks will get you what you’ll need for your new woodworking adventures.
The 3 Best Carpentry Hammer and Mallet
Carpentry Hammer vs Woodworking Mallet
In simplicity, hammers are for driving and pulling nails, whereas mallets are for striking other things, such as carving tools or part of a project to seat it into a snug fitting joint. Setting wooden joints with a hammer can be done, but only with a block of wood between it and the wood you’re striking. No need to leave a hammer face dent in that nice project, huh?
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of carpentry hammers and woodworking mallets. Both are very similar so they share a number of characteristics.
Framing hammers are generally used for construction framing and demolition work, as they are heavier and have longer handles than finishing hammers. Many framing hammers also have a milled face whereas finishing hammers do not. The hatch-patterned surface is designed to grip the head of framing nails to prevent deflection. A framing hammer is not suitable for general work, due to the added weight and course face.
Finishing/trim hammers are generally lighter and have shorter handles than framing hammers. They also have smooth faces, so as to not mar the wood when setting finishing nails. It’s in the hammer owner’s best interest to keep the face of a finishing hammer clean and smooth. It’s very frustrating to try to nail with a finishing hammer that has a flawed face as the hammer will tend to slide or deflect off the head of the nail.
Like the faces of framing and finishing/trim hammer, the claws are usually different, too. The claw on framing hammers tends to have less curve than finishing/trim hammer. This flatter claw makes the hammer handy for clawing nailed boards apart. Finishing/trim hammers have a tighter curved claw which is primarily used for pulling nails.
There are numerous styles of mallets, intended for numerous tasks.
Rubber headed mallets are used for shifting parts, or driving them home. Rubber mallets can be used in woodworking, as well as in automotive work. It’s common practice to seat a wheel cover with a rubber mallet. Don’t strike sharp objects with a rubber mallet as it will gouge the head.
Plastic headed mallets are used for shifting parts, adjusting the angle of a hand plane, driving parts into holes are cut joints, as well as a myriad of other tasks. Many plastic headed mallets have two types of head materials, a hard plastic head and a soft plastic head are common.
Carving mallets come in two basic styles and are used only for tapping on the anvil end of carving tools and chisels. Many woodworkers prefer the “potato masher” shaped carving mallet over the sledge shaped carving mallet. Carving mallets are available in wood and composite materials.
Dead blow mallets are designed to eliminate bounce back when setting stubborn parts. These mallets have hollow heads that are filled with metal shot. When the mallet hits home, the shot slings forward, thus dampening the mallet’s tendency to bounce back. Dead blow mallets are only to be used on flat or almost flat surfaces, so as to prevent piercing the face and losing the shot.
What To Look For In A Good Hammer
Though hammer and mallet are intended for different uses, they share some traits that have to be considered when looking for a reliable carpentry hammer or woodworking mallet.
Take a closer look at the 2 factors that determine what makes a hammer or a mallet a good one.
Both hammers and mallets have striking surfaces, known as the face. A carpentry hammer has one striking face, where mallets have two, one on each end of the head. The sides of the heads are known as cheeks and the hole in which the handle is mounted is known as the eye. Carpentry hammers have a claw, for pulling nails, at the end of the head opposite of the face. Framing hammers tend to have a flatter bend in the claw than do finishing or trim hammers.
Hammers are designated by the weight of the head. Sixteen to twenty-ounce hammers will serve well in DIY work. The 16-ounce hammer is good for trim work with the 20-ounce hammer better for demolition or framing work.
The key decision to make when buying a hammer is to not buy one that’s too heavy for the user. Too heavy a hammer will tire the user. Too light a hammer and nails will not be driven efficiently.
Hammer handles come in three material types; old-school wood (most commonly Hickory), composite (plastic or resin based), or metal.
Wood handles have served well for centuries and can last for years if taken care of. Wood handles can easily be replaced if necessary and absorb shock and vibration, cushioning the user’s hand and arm. When buying a wood handle hammer, look for a crack free handle. No one needs a new hammer that will break after the first couple of nails.
Composite handles are generally molded into the hammer’ head and cannot be easily replaced. Like wood handles, composite handles also absorb shock and vibration. Whereas wood handles tend to be straight, composite handles can be formed in ergonomic shapes that lesson the strain on the woodworker’s wrist.
Metal handles are generally forged as part of the entire hammer. These tend to be heavier and do not absorb shock and vibration as wood and composite handle hammer. Metal handle hammers are unquestionably the strongest of the three handle styles. Metal handles can also be formed in ergonomic shapes, similar to composite handles.
Non-metal headed mallets tend to use wood or composite for handles, whereas metal headed mallets can be purchased with wood, composite, or metal handles.
The length of a hammer or mallet’s handle will affect the force of each blow. The longer the handle, the greater the force as the hammer head will swing faster than a shorter handled tool. Short handles are great for precise light blow work, so it’s wise to buy accordingly.
Best Woodworking Hammers
Stanley 51-623 20-Ounce Rip Claw Fiberglass Hammer
As the name implies, this hammer has a fiberglass handle and a head weight of 20 ounces. It’s a framing hammer with a rip claw, which is not as curved as a finishing/trim hammer. This hammer will serve well driving framing nails, as well as tearing stuff apart.
Though hammers are not really high-priced tools, there is still a bit of a difference. This Stanley classy hammer is one of the cheapest of the bunch, therefore it is not even a doubt whether you should get this one for your toolbox! The price for such a high quality tool is more than great.
The hammer is heat treated and made of stainless steel. As a one-piece rip claw hammer it is durable and you won’t be having problems with breaking the head – it can’t happen that easily.
Though the head can seem as too little for its’ overall size, the size ratio between the head and handle adds a weight benefit as it feels lightweight and stable, therefore it is comfortable to swing it.
The handle of this Stanley hammer is the most remarkable perk. It’s made of fiberglass which absorbs vibration and shock while the rubber grip provies comfortable gripping – no need to worry about sweaty hands causing the hammer to slip.
Another great addition is the yellow color on the handle – though a very small design perk, it helps to locate the hammer much easier on your workplace. Who hasn’t lost a hammer because of its’ neutral, dark color? You won’t have that problem with this Stanley model!
In case you are looking for something smaller, the model comes in sizes from 7 to 20 ounces so you have plenty of options. Thanks to the fiberglass handle and sturdy stainless steel build, it is a reliable asset.
It might not be the best fit for finishing and trimming works but thanks to the weight and build, it is a perfect choice for framing nails.
Estwing E3-16S 16 oz Straight Claw Hammer
Estwing hammers are available from 12 to 22 ounces – the 16 ounce one is a nice “middle man” for all around work. The one-piece head and handle combination with rubber grip provides comfort and confidence in swinging the hammer.
The 16 ounce model is one of the most affordable versions as it is the most common size. For the price, there is more than plenty of a tool: if you are looking for a hammer with a good price and high quality, this is the right one.
For extra strength, the hammer has a forged solid steel head that is fully polished, alike the handle – its’ one-piece design and straight claw are designed to pull nails easily. The smooth-faced head is not only durable but has light weight and the nice balance between the weight of the head and the handle guarantees this will become your favourite hammer.
The most extraordinary part of this hammer is the handle which has a molded Shock Reduction Grip, proven to reduce the shock up to 70%, hence it is safe to say it is one of the safest hammers available.
Additionally, you can benefit from its’ nylon-vinyl deep cushion grip and one-piece design which means you won’t have to worry about the head flying off while ripping.
If you are looking for a hammer that can last a lifetime, then this is the hammer to choose. Sturdy design, lightweight structure and supreme materials combined make for a top-notch product that is not only reliable but comfortable to use. Thanks to Estwing’s unique shock reduction molding, it is a safe tool and nice to work with on a daily basis.
TEKTON 30653 White Rubber Mallet
This double-faced, non-marking solid white rubber head mallet is great for “motivating” joints to go together as they should. The high strength composite handle provides shock absorption, lessening strain on the users arm. This mallet is handy for construction, woodworking, metal working, and automotive working.
The price range of mallets can vary quite much, so you will be happy to hear this white rubber mallet is a low-priced model. With such a good price, it’s a must-have tool in your workshop!
This rubber mallet model is especially unique because of the specially formulated white rubber compound that won’t leave black marks on the surface contrary to black rubber mallets that can easily leave marks on light wood.
Solid rubber head gives a softer blow, therefore it is safe to use even with more delicate parts and finishes. With this white woodworking mallet you won’t need to worry about messing up a sensititive surface – that’s what this mallet is made for!
Similarly to the framing hammers, this mallet has a lightweight fiberglass handle which will absorb the vibration and keep you safe. The poly jacket protects the core of the handle and absorbs any impact when missing a strike.
Moreover, it is equipped with non-slip rubber grip which guarantees the mallet won’t slip from your hand while you are malleting.
No matter if you need a mallet for heavier work or need to fixate delicate joints, this white rubber mallet can do the trick. If you are looking for something even bigger and stronger, TEKTON has also a 32-ounce model. Affordable price and high-quality materials make it one of the best woodworking mallets out there.