A jackhammer might be overkill for a tooth cavity but for people like me it’s also a bit cumbersome for its intended purpose: breaking up concrete, pavement, and whatnot.
Most of my life I used tools which were more for the average Joe Do-It-Yourself who doesn’t have any heavy construction industry implements of destruction, so when I actually grew some muscles and matured into the realm of heavy equipment, I came to a sudden, stark realization: I didn’t actually know how to use a jackhammer!
For me, knowing how to use what is essentially a huge electric or pneumatic power drill isn’t really a big issue because 1) I like figuring stuff out and 2) I am already familiar with many types of tools. Therefore, figuring out the ins and outs of an electric jackhammer for home use didn’t seem like such a big task for me personally – although I will say that when I got my hands on one, for a moment I felt that perhaps I was wrong (just for a moment).
After spending a wee bit o’ time researching it, I gathered what I found and put together this little article, just for you! Well…just for everyone who’s looking for it.
Introduction to The Jack Hammer!
Having seen the demo hammer used to demolish old concrete, pavement, and a variety of other surfaces throughout the construction field, it’s easy to see that it’s a useful and powerful tool. Please allow me to first give you a bit of information about what it is and what it can do.
You could call some of these bad boys glorified air hammers, as they run pneumatically (on air) but they are much bigger than that—and more powerful. It is typically rather heavy—especially in larger/more powerful configurations–and some types are only appropriate for professional personnel (not like me) to handle them to cut down the risk of…well…events you don’t want to happen. They require connection to an air source—an air compressor, of course.
Unless you already a bit familiar and experienced with similar heavy tools, even a lighter one will probably feel a bit cumbersome and awkward at first, but there’s no need to worry because as long as you’re safe and you aren’t harming the tool, then you’re good to go. Why? Because you don’t have to worry about damaging the ground you’re looking to break-up—that’s what you WANT to do!
Useful Tip: Remember also that jackhammers have different, interchangeable tips and blades which can be swapped out, so this will change depending on the type of job you’re looking to do.
The first time you use a jackhammer you could easily hurt yourself because the tool’s vibration is something else, even if you’re expecting it. Hopefully, I can save you from having any issues just by letting you know now, in advance! After all, if you want to work efficiently and safely, then adequate and precautionary care is required, no?
If it’s going to be your first time using it, then you may want to tap an experienced friend or acquaintance (again, not so much like me—I’m still a bit green—but I’m also probably not close enough to be of much help, anyway!) for a bit of help if it seems too cumbersome and unruly for you. If this is your own personal DIY project, then remember that the overall success—and safety—of your project is going to be in YOUR hands.
With this all in mind, you need to start off first by determining whether the tool is actually in proper shape before you begin using it.
Important Tip: Just because you may have purchased a new jackhammer or picked up a Home Depot jack hammer rental doesn’t mean that it’s in perfect working condition. Check it closely before each use!
All of its components should be tightly secured and in prime working condition. Age isn’t really an issue (I have seen some really old jackhammers) but condition definitely is. For example, accompanying, required accessories or parts must also definitely be free of any type of unacceptable damage, such as cracks in the metal or breaks, cracks, or leaks in the hose, or even frayed/shorted electrical cords.
Last, I would ask you what type of job you’re looking to complete, because you should make sure that the rating on the jackhammer you’re intending to use can actually finish up the task you are planning to do.
A few key points to remember while using a jackhammer
Keep the jackhammer cord or air hose secured.
As you’re pounding away at that those annoying slabs with your electrical fun tool, I advise you to have the power cord placed in a position that is far removed from the area around the impact point. I also advise this for a pneumatic jackhammer, but it’s even more important for the electrical because there is the added risk of electrocution.
Good form with a jackhammer: “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
Before you actually begin hammering the ground, take ahold of the handles and lean it to a slight angle toward you. This is the best way to use it for both better control and results, as it keeps it steadier and avoids the possibility of it getting stuck in the work surface.
Safety first! Or safety on?
It may seem like an obvious statement to make but I’ll say it anyway, as I’ve noticed that a LOT of people miss this with even the simplest of tools. When you are wrapped up with what you’re doing—whether it’s for a break or for the day—be sure to unplug and/or disconnect the jack hammer.
This simple step will protect anyone from an accident just in case the hammer’s power button is flipped on. The tools normally also have the extra safety-lock feature, so be sure to flip that on because it definitely helps to eliminate unexpected triggers and accidents.
Maintain your hammer, Jack!
Again, it goes without saying that you should immediately replace any defective, worn, or broken parts as you spot them. Also, if it’s not a part that is meant to be easily detached, such as the interchangeable bits, then you should take it to a certified dealer or shop in order to have them take care of it. If you happen to be a certified tech yourself, then I suppose you can get to it yourself but, if you’re reading this article, I somehow doubt the possibility of that.
Do these work clothes make me look fat?
Personal safety while using a demolition hammer isn’t limited to just the use of the tool—it also requires quite the fashionable attire.
Don’t worry, you don’t need anything from Armani, but you do need to dress in proper attire. These will include at least the following:
- Safety Accessories for Using a Jack Hammer:
- Sturdy gloves
- Steel-toe boots,
- Sturdy, long-sleeved overalls
- Safety eye protection
- Noise-cancelling hearing protection
- Breathing respirator/filter
Important Note: Powerful, sustained vibrations can result in a condition called Raynaud’s Disease, which causes a problem with blood flow to and through the hands. Better to spend a few bucks for the right equipment than hurt your hands permanently.
Kickin’ up some Dust
Your intended symphony (surface) of destruction may be clean and free of dust and dirt, but rest assured that it house a good deal of it inside and will begin to “share the love,” so to speak, after you start hammering.
A simple way of combating this is to simply douse the surface first with some water—once you have done this, you can better do your work because the initial dust is immensely reduced, thus giving you a more favorable experience for breathing. Not only that, the decrease in dust also increases visibility and lets you work more efficiently and not have to worry about harming your health by breathing any of that junk!
NOT a breath of fresh air!
Here’s something that a lot of people, myself included, may not think about before cutting into or breaking any form of rock: be aware that most rock types such as clay, sand, and masonry can contain an element called crystalline silica (also known as quartz).
These microscopic particles are dangerous to uncovered, unprotected eyes, and are even associated with several health disorders, some of which are even fatal! For example, silicosis is a health disorder associated with crystalline silica. The disorder is symptomatic has no known method of curing.
Fortunately, the good news is that these health disorders can be stopped before they even start by simply following some good safety protocols and understanding what you’re hammering BEFORE you hammer it.
Basic tips for using a jackhammer
Get your mind in the game before you start!
A jackhammer is a gigantic machine compared to most tools we common dudes or dudettes use, so before you operate it you must bear in mind that you are not handling a toy. Understand and accepte now the seriousness and carefulness this baby demands, you will be mentally prepared, and more focused as you use it. Remember that it can weigh up to 70-80 pounds and requires quite a good bit of beef on your part to move it around. Be physically but also MENTALLY tough before you grab one and get to work!
Following the rules is cools
I know that following rules is often lame—but that’s okay because what I’m about to say is also going to sound lame: read over the user’s manual first.
Have you ever thought about the safety guidelines of a construction site? No? Yes? It doesn’t matter. The point is that sticking to the rules is important and by not being sufficiently familiar with them, you run the risk of causing avoidable damage to a range of unintended targets, including yourself or others.
One of the other things that best-practice companies do is regular tool inspections, which is something I mentioned earlier. Like my old university teacher said, if I mention it twice, then it’s probably important and it may be on the test. Your project is YOUR test! It should be noted that no safety precautions should ever be shorted or skirted in an attempt at increased effectiveness or efficiency.
Take a break and change it up
Take a chill pill, bro. Seriously—you should definitely take some regularly-timed breaks from these huge and powerful tools. These breaks in the monotony allow you to sip a spot o’ tea or chug some coffee, which not only makes the mind a bit refreshed and more focused but also gives your body a much-needed recovery.
Refreshments and breaks are necessary to avoid your overall mental and physical fatigue, especially if project has to keep going for a long time. If it is a long project, then you may need another person to rotate with you in order to reduce muscular fatigue. You and another operator or two can set up a timing schedule to keep your project running steadily and smoothly.
Just a little bit?
I didn’t know this until I first set out to understand how to use a jackhammer but they actually do have a few different types of bits which can be used in a variety of purposes.
- If it has a broad-tipped bit, it will distribute the hammer load onto a concrete slab because the pressure is inversely proportional to the area.
- The pointed-tip type exerts concentrated pressure directly on the area being worked on.
- Pointed bits are suitable for digging through rock whereas spade performs well on asphalt.
How to choose the Best Jackhammer?
Most of us know about the brand names that are selling out there but actually have no idea which one we should choose. I know I didn’t.
I think that the most important thing to remember is that each task requires a specific type of jackhammer in order to complete it, so logically this is a good first place to start.
If you are in need of something larger, more powerful, and professional, then you may want to consider consulting a contractor or a rental store with relevant knowledge to help you pick the appropriate tool.
For homeowners or do-it-yourselfers, a basic electric jackhammer is quite affordable and there are quite a few out today which can get a variety of jobs done on a budget. You can get one that is capable of breaking through a concrete floor for less than a hundred bucks!
Compared to large industrial jackhammers, an electric jackhammer is lighter and more comfortable to handle. Electro-pneumatic jackhammers have an internal air compressor that allows it to do almost the same task as those with external compressors, and there are a few gas-powered options available if you want to go that route.
For the home body around the house, electric jackhammers are probably the best because if you need it a few times in the coming years, then you won’t have to spend more rental money.
If you think you may use it again, then you can buy a cheap one, and you need it for a one-time use, then you could simply rent. After giving this a bit of consideration, I believe that you can easily make the best decision!
Exactly how does a jackhammer work?
Well, jackhammers are basically powered by electricity, gas (maybe diesel), or air.
- The compressed air types have air delivered to the jackhammer through a high-pressure hose, and by pressing down the jackhammer, the valve is engaged to cause the compressed air to push down the pile driver which forces the drill bit downward with incredible force—enough to break a concrete floor.
After this initial start, the second valve is actuated causing the pressurized air move the opposite way, which pushes the bit back up. This up-and-down motion occurs, amazingly, between 20-25 times per second, resulting in a rate of up to 1500 rock-pounding beats per minute—and that’s something to rival Dr. Dre.
- The pneumatic jackhammer remains powerful and popular, but now resides mostly in the commercial industry due to the invention of the electro-pneumatic jackhammer, which is more accessible, practical, and easier for home users and small construction companies.
These types are less expensive and a bit more versatile compared to those which use air compressors. An electric model uses a motor which drives a reciprocating piston which moves back and forth, compressing a small cushion of air that pushes the second piston up and down. This movement is the same as using valves to channel compressed air.
Also like the pneumatic jackhammer setup, the rapid up and down bit movement is enough to break rock or concrete and asphalt very quickly and efficiently.
A jackhammer has multiple bits available in its arsenal, as stated above, and the most common is the sharp bull point bit. This type of bit rapidly beats a series of holes into most surface types causing them to break apart relatively easily. The wider chisel bits are used to break long lines, which is purely done to create square shapes and remove larger sections piece by piece, rather than breaking them up into debris.
Once you finally select the right jackhammer for your dream job, you can finally get hammered, right? Just make sure of a few things, first, okay?
Final jackhammer checklist:
- Check that the distance from the compressor to the impact spot is enough to reduce the noise level sufficiently.
- Keep in mind and expect that jackhammers are weighty and lifting them demands skills.
- Different types of surfaces demand different drilling points. For example, chisel points are used for concrete while rock points and spade points are used for rock.
So long for now, best of luck, and have fun with your project! Once you have the right tool for the job; you can break any surface and, speaking of surface, get out there on the dance floor because it’s hammer time!