By Michael Davis
Tools of the Trade rounded up nine waffle-faced framing hammers from around the globe and put them out on a Colorado jobsite with 15 framers, lead by regular contributor Michael Davis, to see how they'd stack up. Here's what we learned, in order of increasing appreciation.
Dogyu Nailing Hammer
The Japanese-made Dogyu Nailing Hammer (15-1/4 inches, 24 ounces) has an elongated head and yellow handle that quickly earned it the nickname "Yellow Duck." Its 20-ounce head is too light for a framing hammer, and its checkered face rules it out for trim. The guys complained that the long head threw off their aim and made hitting a nail difficult. Almost everyone who tried this hammer ended up using it to pull nails instead of driving them. One guy said he preferred it to his nail bar, but aside from him, the Yellow Duck had few fans.
Designed for demolition, the 22-ounce-head HomeWrecker (15-7/8 inches, 32 ounces) is an indestructible, all-steel hammer with a short, cat's paw nail-pulling claw and a unique hole in the head for straightening wayward anchor bolts. The striking face is dropped to create a raised surface in line with the claws, so you can hit it with another hammer to dig out a buried nail. The manufacturer says the HomeWrecker eliminates the need for a nail bar, but then you need a second hammer to bang on the first, unless you have failproof nail-hooking aim with the claw end. Losing my cat's paw and adding a s econd hammer isn't going to lighten my tool bags. Sorry, but I don't get it. Probably great for tearing things apart, but not a favorite among the nail-banger set.
The Australian Maxistrike "The Don" (14 inches, 34 ounces) is a very different 24-ounce-head, all-steel hammer. The Don's claim to fame is its curved handle, which lets you reach around obstructions to drive a nail. That's cool if it's something you run into a lot, like when you need to toenail blocking between 12-inch o.c. joists, or if you manually nail off a lot of joist hangers. The heavy weight and short, curved handle create a top-heavy balance that delivers quite a punch. It's a good nail driver. The straight claws are useful for tearing things apart. Who knows? If you get in a jam, you're ready. Keep one in your truck, just in case.
Dead On Steel Framing/Construction Hammer
The Dead On Steel Framing/Construction Hammer (18 inches, 40 ounces) is 2-1/2 pounds of solid steel. One crew guy said "just looking at this thing makes my elbow hurt." With its 18-inch length and 22-ounce head, it's a great hammer for making stubborn things move; it will definitely drive nails. It has a magnetic nail holder on the bottom of the hammerhead, which is where they all should be. If you're setting a nail out of reach over your head, you can't see the top of the hammer. The nail-pulling notches next to the face are hard to get a grip with, but the claw is short and powerful. I think this mini-sledge is too much artillery to swing all day. However, one of our guys loved it, was his No. 1 pick. Go figure.
Estwing's Weight Forward Hammer
Estwing's redesigned 21-ounce-head Weight Forward Hammer (15-3/4 inches, 33 ounces) is a really nice tool. It takes a little getting used to, but once you've had it awhile, you'll find it's a very comfortable hammer to swing. The fiberglass handle is isolated from the steel head by a rubber liner, so it's extra easy on the old elbow but packs one heck of a wallop. The long, flat claws are great for getting under things, and the head design provides great overstrike protection. However, the striking face seems a little small, and the sharp curve of the handle makes it harder to get into tight corners.
Craftsman Replaceable Cap Framing Hammer
Craftsman's 21-ounce head Replaceable Cap Framing Hammer (17-1/4 inches, 41 ounces) has a unique shock-absorption system. The striking face cap fits over a steel post, and a thin rubber pad sits in between. The perpendicular bolt that holds the head in place is set into an oversized hole, what Craftsman calls a "free-floating pin." The idea is that when the hammer strikes, the face drives back into the rubber pad. The pad compresses, and the bolt moves back a tiny bit, all absorbing shock and vibration. I attempted a soft science, side-by-side test in which I'd drive a few nails with the Craftsman, and then a few more with another hammer of comparable weight and length. To be fair, my arm is probably pretty numb after swinging a hammer for 30 years, but I couldn't feel any real difference with a hammer this heavy. In fact, it was the heaviest hammer in the test. The Craftsman is a quality hammer and a formidable nail driver. If you like it, buy it, but I can't promise you that your arm will ache any less at the end of the day.
S2 Split Head Hammer
The 18-ounce-head S2 Split Head Hammer (17-5/8 inches, 30 ounces) by Vaughan is a good all-around framer with a nice striking surface and great balance. It has that classic wood-handle feel made even better by rubber gaskets between the metal head pieces and handles. The shock-isolating design gives this hammer the least-felt vibration. The head and claws bolt onto the handle in a novel way that anyone could repair quickly and easily.
Dead On's masterpiece of cool, the Ti7 Titanium (18 inches, 27 ounces) is a high-tech favorite. "A beautiful swing, I felt like I was 21 again," said one of the guys. The steel head weighs just 15 ounces for the best combination of weight and velocity. And whereas a round head will often skip off, the Ti7's square head grabs the nail and lets you sink a toenail deeply. The curved carbon-fiber and titanium composite handle fits my hand like a dream, and its lightweight cellulose core eliminates all vibration. Everybody loved this hammer. The only complaint was that the handle gets slippery when wet, and the head isn't refaceable when worn. Take a picture when you get it, because our Ti7's gray-coated head was pretty worn after a couple weeks of use.
Stiletto TiBone II-15
Everything about the Stiletto TiBone II-15 (17-1/8 inches, 31 ounces) is a notch or 10 above the rest. This titanium hammer has an interchangeable steel face, a well placed nail holder, a handle that just molds to your hand, and a perfectly positioned thumb indentation on the back of the handle for greater control in tight spots. The 15-ounce head hammer becomes an extension of your arm. Every bit of the force of the swing seems to transfer to the nail with almost no residual vibration going back up the hammer to your wrist and elbow. By far, the fastest, most accurate, most comfortable hammer in the group.
Michael Davis is a contributing editor of Tools of the Trade.
Source of Supply
FW Tools Inc.
Redback Tools Ltd.
maxistrike "the Don"
+61 2 9966 5554, redbacktools.com
Pull'R Holding Co.
Dead on steel hammer
Estwing Mfg. Co.
weight forward hammer
Replaceable Cap Framing Hammer
Vaughan & Bushnell
S2 Split Head
Pull'R Holding Co.
Stiletto TiBone II-15