Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Hammer time
Head, handle, grip...which is right for you?
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

The latest hammer technology is a vast step beyond your dad's hand-me-down

More from Mag Ruffman:
Screw it all
Tool school

We all have our secrets. I have 47 hammers. There, I said it.

Most of us inherit our first hammer from a parent or a weird uncle.

Your hand-me-down hammer may be peppered with teeth marks or covered in what could be petrified engine oil or rotting sausage. We won’t judge.

There's nothing wrong with owning an inherited hammer. But that hammer may never fully meet your needs.

A hammer should serve you like a dedicated butler, with a comely appearance, good balance and an excellent grip.

Whacks poetic

If you got ripped off on your hammer inheritance and are considering buying one of your own, you’ll want to know about the advances in hammer construction.

Let's start with the compact models. If you live in a condo, or you only use a hammer for hanging pictures or tenderizing steaks, the rubber-handled 6-ounce shorty is an automatic classic.

Fact is, people with small or tender hands tend to choke up on their grip anyway, so why not own a sawed-off hammer? This little gem is so cheap it doesn't even have a brand name, but I've seen it in hardware stores all over Canada for under $10. It fits nicely in a drawer, purse or garter.

The next hammer is also 6 ounces and features an ergonomic hickory handle. It's called the Pocket Hammer because it travels in a hip pocket without any sharp edges protruding into your underbelly. It can be had for about $12 at Lee Valley Tools.

If you're looking for a hammer that will take you through a deck-building project or a neighboUrhood fence-construction effort, you'll find a couple of entries from Stanley that will serve you beautifully.

The Stanley FatMax jacketed graphite hammer is a 16-ounce hottie ($30), with the added invention of a new, flared 70% larger head, which reduces your chances of missing the nail and leaving a big nasty hammer-track on the wall.

Graphite is lightweight, beautifully balanced and really cuts the vibration that normally runs up your arm when you strike a nail.

You can take a further step up the cool ladder with the FatMax Extreme Anti-Vibe hammer ($35). This model also has a flared head that’s 75% larger than traditional models and is constructed to cut the vibration and fatigue that overtakes your forearm during prolonged pounding.

Lost and pound

I’ll just take a moment to say that all of my advice is useless if the hammer doesn't feel good in your hand. Pick a hammer that feels great and is tapered to fit your grip size. The dumbest tool I ever bought was a huge 32-ounce framing hammer because I didn't want the guys on the construction site to think I was a weenie (which I was).

Some experts say to choose a heavy head, allowing momentum to do most of the work. Other experts say that a lighter head is better because you generate more speed in your swing, which is why I'm partial to the final entry in this little compendium.

Titanium is as strong as steel but 45% lighter. It makes a gorgeous hammer head. Stiletto Tools (est. 1849) is currently producing what I consider to be the finest titanium-head hammers on the market.

Their latest model is a 10-ounce titanium hammer with a hickory handle ($99). Hickory is traditionally used for striking tools because it disperses impact throughout the handle, instead of transmitting it into your arm and giving you a repetitive-strain injury. This is a high-end hammer with gorgeous balance and sculptural pizzazz.

So there you have it; choose from the no-name rubber-handled condo hammer all the way up to the premium Stiletto. Choose for posterity, but above all, choose for you. Your descendants will thank you.

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at

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