hammers vs mallets - what is the difference

Hammers vs. Mallets: What’s The Difference?

After creating a shopping list for some tools I needed to replace in my home tool kit, I stumbled upon the question of what the difference is between hammers and mallets. To get some more information on the comparison between these two tools, I did my own research to lay it all out on the table.

What’s the difference between hammers and mallets? Hammers have a smaller metal head that is meant to output blunt force. Mallets, on the other hand, have a larger round head that is made of wood, rubber, or another softer material.

Aside from their differences in shape, hammers are used for applying force to objects, while mallets are meant for a softer impact on the surface in question.

Although they both carry out similar functions and look almost identical in structure, hammers and mallets both possess different characteristics that make them both unique tools. Keep reading to get the full comparison on “Hammers vs. Mallets.”

What’s the Difference between Hammers and Mallets?

While hammers and mallets are both in the same family of tools, and can be mistaken for one another often times, they are actually very different. Both fundamentally and physically, hammers and mallets have plenty of differences.


  • Heavy metal head
  • Slender head
  • Flat surface at the front of the head
  • Angled back


  • Large rounded head
  • Usually made of wood
  • Flat surface on both ends of the head

The first and most recognizable trait about each of these tools is the size and shape of their heads. Hammers have a very slender, metal head that is very dense and heavy.

Since hammers are constructed to be able to apply large amounts of force to different objects and surfaces, their metal heads can cause a lot of damage when put to use.

The slender head has a flat, round surface on the front of the head, which is the piece that will come in contact with the objects that are receiving the pressure on the other end.

The back of a hammer head is angled, usually with two additional pieces protruding out of it in the direction of the user. These angled pieces are usually designed at a 90 degree angle.

Mallets, on the other hand, take a very different shape and size on the head of the tool. The head is large and rounded all the way around, very similar to the look of a soda can placed on its side.

The cylindrical head has a flat surface on each side, both the end that will come in contact with the surface, as well as the opposite side that is facing toward the person who is using it.

These heads are usually made of wood instead of metal, but can also come in even softer materials like plastic or rubber in some circumstances.

The next section will go more into detail about the purpose of each tool, aside from the physical properties that are displayed on the outside of each one.

What Are Hammers And Mallets Used For?

Now that we’ve established the aesthetic differences between hammers and mallets, more specifically the shapes of the heads and overall durability of each tool, you might be wondering what purposes each one is used for.

What do hammers and mallets do? And when would I be likely to come in contact with one of them?

This section will outline the purposes of a hammer and a mallet.

Purpose of a Hammer:

  • Pounding nails into a surface
  • Remove nails (back of head)

Purpose of a Mallet:

  • Knocking wooden pieces together
  • Driving dowels or chisels

The main, and most common, purpose of a hammer is to pound nails and similar objects into other surfaces. This is done with the front part of the head, as mentioned in the previous section, with the flat, round surface that sits on this area.

With the use of the head of the hammer, the user is able to evenly and forcefully push metal nails into almost any other object.

The back of the hammer’s head is also used for a few things, along with the front. The pointy angled section of the hammer serves the purpose of removing nails and foreign objects from flat surfaces.

Used in a similar fashion to a crowbar, the hammer can be flipped around and used to dig out secured nails, removing them with some force.

On the contrary, mallets are used for the purpose of knocking wooden pieces together instead of directly driving small nails into the surfaces.

Due to the wide characteristics of the head, the user of a mallet can exert force from behind the mallet to move objects in another direction. Mallets can also be used to drive dowels or chisels into other surfaces.

With all of that being said, you might now be wondering when you would ever have to use a hammer or a mallet.

The rest of this section will describe some common situations and projects where you would need to use a hammer, as well as when mallets are the ideal tool for certain tasks around the house.

When Hammers Are Used:

  • Building a wooden picture frame
  • Assembling a small jewelry box

When Mallets Are Used:

  • Breaking down wood with a chisel
  • Making kitchen cabinets from scratch

Some common examples of when you might use a hammer include building a wooden picture frame or assembling a small jewelry box. Since hammers require blunt force to be applied by the user, hammers are usually used for minimal tasks like these that do not require much effort.

Mallets, on the other hand, are used to apply more general force. They can be used to break down wood with a chisel. For example, if you cut down a tree in your back yard and needed to break it up for firewood, you could insert a metal chisel and push it in with your mallet in order to separate it into several pieces.

Additionally, mallet can be used to make kitchen cabinets from scratch. During the process of doing this, something called a dowel will be required. The mallet will be able to apply the correct amount of pressure to the dowel in order to begin the construction.

All in all, hammers and mallets are relatively different in structure, but they also have a few similarities. Read on to the next section to find out something you might not have known about mallets and hammers.

Is a Mallet Considered a Hammer?

While it is true that both hammers and mallets have very different characteristics, and are not the exact same thing, they are even more closely related than you might think.

In fact, a mallet is actually classified as a hammer. To be more specific, a mallet is not identical to the traditional hammer, but it is considered a type of hammer.

Putting all of their fundamental differences to the side, you will find that the two tools actually have more similarities than one.

Similarities between Hammers and Mallets:

  • Both used to apply force
  • Both have a slim handle attached
  • Handheld objects
  • Require action and movement from the user

Both hammers and mallets are used to apply force in one way or another, using a head attachment that is held by a slim handle at the bottom.

In addition, they are both handheld objects that must be manually put to use by he user, requiring various movements and actions.

Either way, both of these tools are technically considered to be hammers, which is the most striking similarity between the two, above all others.

To conclude, a hammer and a mallet have a wide range of differences, from their overall shape, materials, and aesthetic properties, to the exact purposes they are used for.

Each tool shines in its own way, and is able to offer its own type of solution to the problem that the user is facing. While they are different, they are both classified as the same kind of tool, which makes them related to each other.

Hopefully after reading the information in this article, it was able to answer your question of the differences between hammers and mallets. Although they are used for separate purposes, they both still belong in every home tool box, and they certainly have a place in mine!

Related Questions about Hammers and Mallets

What are the different types of hammers that exist on the market?

There are several different types of hammers, including the claw hammer, ball peen, club hammer, sledge hammer, and many more. The claw hammer is the most common type of tool that you have probably seen before, with the flat end on one side of the head and the “claws” on the opposite side. There are hundreds of hammers overall.

What types of hammers and mallets are the best for shaping metal?

In order to shape metal with a hammer, you will need to acquire a tool of a certain shape and level of durability. In general, you can go with a cross peen or ball peen hammer, as well as a wooden mallet or rawhide mallet.