Ergonomics & Finesse

"Ergonomics and finesse" of a demo hammer sounds like an oxymoron until you start comparing the tools in projects other than straight-down blasting. We used each hammer to clean up edges and chip out the concrete around pipes, conduits, structural steel, chases, and finishes–situations that are not a matter of power, but more about ease of use and control. It's a good idea to dial-down the power around these breakables to help control the tool, so access to switches and controls is also key in this work.

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Makita's bit holder is durable, and swapping bits was easy.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

DeWalt has good, accessible power controls, and its in-line body provided nice balance in various working positions. The power dial is easy to read and reach. It's also large and accessible enough to use with gloves on or off. Hilti, Makita, and Bosch all have adequate controls and nice balance. The controls were easy to reach and use, wearing gloves or not, while each tool was comfortable to use. Hitachi's controls were very difficult to read and access, and they are recessed in such a way that they are exposed to collecting dust; the balance wasn't what we were hoping for.

Break Through

After demo-ing the floor, we moved on to chipping-out openings in walls and chipping overhead. This is where power switch location is critical and the tool's balance is doubly appreciated. No one wants to be fumbling around to hold a tool or for the on/off switch with a 20-pound vibrating tool overhead.

Again, we liked the DeWalt's controls and feel. The balance was great and the pistol-type trigger on the inside edge of the grip was easy to turn on and off while keeping our hands where we normally grip the handle.

Bosch and Makita also had a good feel to them, though they employ different switches. Bosch's large slide trigger was easy to activate/deactivate, and Makita's bar trigger engaged well. Hilti's balance was nice, too. The power switch could be better located, but the power level control was good. Once again, we thought Hitachi's design was lacking: the balance wasn't what we'd hoped for and the switch was tougher to use than we'd hoped.

Vibration. Tool companies take two basic design approaches to combat vibration in this category of demolition hammer. In the first, on the Bosch, Hilti, Hitachi, and Makita, no single item specifically works on vibration, but parts and features–like balance, rubber bumpers, padded grips, and isolation of the vibrating parts from the non-vibrating parts–work in unison to manage and control how much the tool shakes around. Within this category, each company details its tools differently, but the approach is the same. The second method is DeWalt's patented Anti-Vibration Control, which is a torsion spring–based mechanism that fits inside the hammering mechanism of the tool.

We really became aware of how these approaches played out on site while working in front and overhead because these applications really bring home every wiggle and vibration the tool makes. Hilti's handle and design provided the best cushioning and dampened the vibration quite well. DeWalt also paid attention to this issue with a nicely padded grip. The Bosch, Hitachi, and Makita all had suitable handles and grips.