How to use a hammer safely – the complete guide
When using a hammer it’s important to be aware of more than just what you intend to use it for. How to use a hammer safely may seem like a simple issue of “grab and go” for most but the truth of the matter is that while any do-it-yourselfer can use a hammer, taking the time to actually consider the ins and outs of this seemingly simple tool could actually save you time, money, and pain!
There was a time (long ago, okay?!) when I just couldn’t get my hammer to stay on the nail head and it just kept dangerously glancing off to the side, eventually smacking my hand and causing me more than a minor bit of hurt! Here, I’m going to explain why and how you should safely use a hammer and what just might happen when you decide not to!
The best way to become familiar with hammers and their proper, and therefore safe, use is to accustom oneself to the different types and their intended uses.
To that end, I will also answer the question What types of hammers are there? as well as the reasons for the differences in their designs and useful information about each one.
If you’re interested in skipping ahead to that part, you can simply scroll down!
Why you need to use a hammer safely
When you pick up a hammer you may just think that considering a proper or more “professional” level of knowledge is rather pointless. After all, you just grab the handle of the hammer and hit stuff, right? It seems rather straight forward: go to the store, buy a hammer, take it home, hit the nail or pry something up and off.
Why do you need to take a moment to think about hammer safety?
Buy a brand-new hammer and strike your first nail and you might quickly learn why. If you buy one similar to what I got one day, then you’ll notice that the head seems too slick for a hammer and wonder about the people who designed it. In the worse-case scenario, that slick hammer head might glance off and smash or break something – you or something else – causing some damage to stuff you don’t want to cause damage to.
Another type of hammer might leave you scratching your head as it doesn’t seem to pull nails out of the wood as easily as you think it should. This is also dangerous and could cause a problem because the tool isn’t being used as it was intended, which can lead to different types of accidents.
The main reason for becoming more familiar with various hammer types and their proper use to keep yourself from getting hurt, but the other main reasons are to do the job properly and to keep from damaging the work surface.
How to use a hammer safely
In order to use a hammer safely – without smashing your fingers or work surface – ask yourself these questions below and then become familiar with the steps.
What hammer is best for the job?
Here, we’re not really talking about what hammer brand is best (though we do like the Big Blue hammer, which you can read about here). Rather, you should determine type of job or jobs you need the hammer for, and then choose the appropriate hammer type to match-up with it.
If you choose the wrong hammer, then your job could become inefficient, take longer, harder, and even damage your surface, the hammer, yourself, or innocent bystanders! For example: if you try to use your general use hammer (or claw hammer) to drive nails on a thin, metal surface, then you could leave unwanted, ugly dings in the metal. It’s also possible that the claw hammer could puncture the thin metal, so in areas where you want it to basically be airtight or watertight, it’s best to choose the rubber mallet instead.
Do I need one hammer or different types?
Once you have learned which type of hammer or hammers would be best suited for your intended use(s), then you can think about whether or not a specific hammer, a general use hammer, or multiple hammers would be the best choice for you.
For most people who just dabble a bit in DIY around the house, a simple claw hammer is enough. However, sometimes a more delicate touch is needed and you may find having a mallet handy is useful, but that’s kind of up to the individual and what he or she is willing or desirous to take on. After you’ve considered what you’ll be doing on a regular basis, you can decided on one or multiple hammers.
Does a hammer need any prep before using?
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but some hammers could actually use a bit of prep work prior to using.
I purchased a framing hammer many years ago and as soon as I set to using it, I couldn’t get it to properly drive in a nail to save my life! It glanced off again and again, destroying many nails and damaging the surface in the process, not to mention hurting my hand.
Some hammers have a special crisscross design or some other head texture which essentially gives the hammer “grip” so that when it strikes the nail, some degree of non-slippage is achieved and it drives the nail more consistently, even when the hit isn’t “on the head.”
Other hammers, however, have a rather smooth striking surface on the head and will glance off easily, especially if it’s striking the wrong type of nail or being used by an inexperienced user.
How can I keep my hammer from glancing off the nail?
Well, if you find yourself in this situation, you can simply scratch-up the striking surface of your hammer with rough sandpaper in order to give it more grip and keep the hammer from glancing off the nails as you work away.
Do I need to wear any safety gear while using a hammer?
The short and simple answer to this question is that you should be sure to wear proper safety gear, such as glasses and gloves, while using a hammer.
Why do you need to wear safety gear with a hammer? Well, there are actually a variety of accidents which can cause some damage to you when using a hammer, so by protecting yourself with the right gear, you can greatly decrease the chances of ever getting hurt, if not eliminate them altogether.
What safety gear should you wear while using a hammer? A pair of gloves will definitely give you a degree of protection while using a hammer, but not as much as we would like. However, there is still some benefit to do so, and it’s much better than leaving your hand exposed.
Obviously, it’s a bit difficult to wear just any type of glove while using a hammer, so consider this when you’re picking up a pair; holding or grabbing nails can be quite difficult with gloves so you’ll have to think about and do what works best for you.
The second and main safety gear you need while using a hammer is safety glasses. Whenever you’re using a hammer, there is a very good chance that something will fly out, up, willy-nilly, and where it stops, nobody knows. Nails, wood, metal chips, whatever – these things can strike your eye or those around, so if you’re nailing something or someone nearby is, then you should definitely be protecting your eyes.
Is there a right or best way to hold a hammer?
In order to make sure you’re properly holding the hammer properly, or even the nail or material, you need to consider what you’re trying to accomplish. Also, you should consider the repercussions if you were to miss your mark, because to do so could mean a bounce-back, glancing blow, or you could send a nail or other material flying.
For most standard hammering, you can hold the hammer about a third of the way up from the bottom of the handle, which is generally about the common gripping point of balance. If a hammer is well-balanced from the manufacturer, and it should be, then you can hold the hammer and move it up and down in your hand to get a feel for this spot.
- For light tapping and delicate strikes, you can “choke up” on the hammer and move your hand closer to the top. You’ll lose power by holding the hammer higher but will gain more control and the ability to be delicate.
- For stronger strikes, you can hold the hammer near the end, which will result in a faster head movement and momentum due to a type of pendulum effect. This would be most useful where not a lot of accuracy is needed but power is required, such as with a sledgehammer to break apart concrete.
- For using the harder, strong strikes, you must take extra care while swinging because some control is lost, and there is also a possibility of losing the hammer as it slips from your hands, so keep this in mind while you’re making your best Babe Ruth impersonation.
How can I become better at using a hammer?
Some people just don’t seem very cut-out for using a hammer well, but don’t feel bad about that if you are a part of that group. You can become better at using a hammer simply by proper practice.
First, using a hammer on your project before getting a good feel for it could be frustrating. Bending nails, striking and marring the surface, or even hurting yourself—these will quite possible make you want to give up altogether. Instead of going straight to your project first, you should opt to test the hammer out on other material, to get a feel for it.
Gather together some spare or similar material and the same type of nails you’ll be using. Practice not just hammering them in, but perhaps a couple of different types of hammer, if you have them, as well as alternating where you grip the handle. After doing this for a while and feeling more comfortable in your ability, then you can move on to your project and do better than before.
What do I need to keep in mind while using a hammer?
Using a hammer, while easier to pick up and put to use than a bike, is just as easy to use again and again. However, the important part is that while using the hammer on your intended task, you should refresh yourself on and keep the previous steps in mind as you go.
It doesn’t hurt to look back over these steps or think about them each time you pick up a hammer, but if you don’t, the outcome certainly could hurt, right? Better to be safe than sorry!
How can I hammer faster?
Listen, there are definitely some pros out there who seem to be able to hammer away without thinking and smack-in nail after nail with one strike each. However, it is definitely recommended that while you can work steadily with a hammer, you should never try to rush—it causes accidents to you, others around, and even the work surface or nails. If you are interested in hammering faster because of some competition, then perhaps you can check out some hammering contests on YouTube instead!
Most of us here are looking to become better DIY’ers so with that in mind, I’ll tell you like my Tae-Kwon-Do teacher told me: “Don’t rush and put so much power in at the beginning, because you’ll sacrifice your control and accuracy. Instead, focus on being right every time and do this repetitively, and eventually you’ll become faster and faster, but retain your accuracy.”
Great advice, right?
Should I take breaks while hammering? How often should I take a break while hammering?
It is absolutely important to take breaks and change positions regularly during long projects, and that includes hammering.
Mental or physical fatigue can easily set-in and, when it does, will cause your ability to think clearly to decrease, as well as your motor skill functions. When this happens, you are much more likely to make a mistake while hammering, and we already know what a mistake while hammering can mean, right?
The bottom line here is that while doing any type of work, you should get up, move around, stretch, look somewhere else or go outside (if you’ve been working inside), or grab some water or a snack in order to refresh yourself.
If you are in a stressful position for extended periods of time, then it is recommended that you get into a different position at least every 30 minutes while using a hammer. This will keep your body from suffering short and long-term side effects.
What types of hammers are there?
There are less than 10 common types of hammer, of which the most common or popular being the claw hammer. Below, we have a larger list of the different types, with the more common ones being listed near the top.
Types of Hammer:
- Ball-Peen Hammer
- Claw Hammer (General Purpose)
- Dead-Blow Hammer
- Drilling Hammer
- Framing Hammer
- Blacksmith Hammer
- Double-Face Hammer
- Engineer Hammer
- Demolition Hammer
- Tinners Hammer
- Splitting Tool Hammer
- Rock Pick Hammer
- Bricklayer’s Hammer
- Magnetic Hammer
- Lathe Axe Hammer
- Welder (Chipping) Hammer
- Magnetic Double Head Hammer
- Milled-Face Hammer
- Anti-Vibe Hammer
What materials are hammers made of?
Hammers are made of a variety of materials which result in different weights, performance, and feel. Most every hammer has some type of metal or steel for the head, but can differ greatly in the handle and grip. However, some special hammers have a type of rubber or wooden head meant for a lighter, softer material other than things like nails.
Types of hammer materials:
- Forged Steel
- Forged Steel
It’s hammer time: the final word
That’s about all we have about hammers for now and we hope that it’s been useful for you. If you are interested in reading more of our free guides, you can check them out on this page. If you’d like to view a list of power tools (complete with names and pictures) then you can do that here.
As always, be safe and enjoy whatever it is that you’re going to do!