Hammers, mallets and the axe are considered tools of percussion, allowing you to focus intense energy in very specific ways. These are very personal tools, so their selection should be carefully made by sampling a variety of lengths and weights. It is likely you will be using a hammer for intermittent periods throughout the day if you are getting into bench woodworking rather than carpentry, so you will not require a tool that looks like a left over prop from the film Alien. If you are thinking about doing a lot of hand-tool joinery, a nicely balanced and comfortable carvers mallet will become quite familiar to your hand. The introductory post illustration of a loaded tool cabinet shows only two steel hammers, but I believe that you will also want a wooden mallet.
Both a Claw Hammer of 16 ounces weight and a lighter weight hammer perhaps 8 ounces or so for driving smaller fasteners are useful purchases.
A lathe-turned Carver’s Mallet and a two-piece Joiner’s Mallet can both be home-made and usually nicer than any item that you can buy.
Screw Drivers – Screwdrivers are described as tools of impulsion, since they “drive” screws in or out with your direct and focused physical force, like the hammer; joining pieces of wood together or pulling them apart. I have about 8 screwdrivers and three hammers that I rely upon in the shop:
The first hammer to purchase (if you do not already own one) is a Claw-Hammer, a type that you are likely familiar with. Mine is an old 16 oz. True Temper . Used intermittently, but a must-have. In my area of woodwork, it is unusual to need anything larger than this. There are so many of these available on the second-hand market you should have no trouble finding one that fits your hand agreeably. Go familiarize yourself with the new ones on display at your local big-box store and see what weight and length you like best. Use that experience to help you find a proper second-hand model.
My second hammer is a Stanley No. 462 Tinner’s Riveting Hammer, I believe it to be about 8 oz. in weight and it is about 13 inches long. This is my main hammer and it is in use daily. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many similar sized hammers; British, Continental and American, but this one fits the arc of swing particular to my arm with just the right heft. This is a very personal tool, and you must try several out to find the one that “fits” you. This is, of course, a specialized hammer, and I don’t use it for it’s intended purpose, but its design is ideal for my area of work. Don’t get locked into names or designations on hammers: it either works for you or it does not.
My third tool is an Upholsterer’s hammer, a Stanley No. 54-602. Because of the curvature of it’s head, this tool excels at getting small fasteners into tight spots. I’d consider this an optional tool, but boy it does what it does very well. You will on occasion have to remove upholstery to reach concealed damage, and then replace the covering, so this does get used for its actual purpose every so often.The are models of Upholsterer’s hammers with straight or flat heads, and I find no use for these.
I have a Carver’s Mallet that I use not only to drive my carving gouges, I also use this tool when I am dovetailing. I use shorter chisels for my dovetail work and that, combined with the shape of this mallet suits my stature. I turned this item on the lathe when a chunk of cocobolo came fortuitously to hand. I was able to take it off the lathe at intervals and check its heft and swing. Someone must be selling very similar articles out there, but be prepared to spend dearly for a mallet made of tropical hardwood. Some come heavily coated with wax. I have seen this wax quickly removed after purchase and the mallet soon afterwards split. At least leave the wax on the end grain until the mallet acclimates to your shop. This may take longer than you’d like.
The other mallet (which is also home-made) is a typical Joiner’s Mallet. I don’t use it that often, and frankly, I made this one too small, so I’ll need to make another. It is used almost exclusively for chopping a mortise or other operations that require a more substantial whack than my carving mallet can deliver. I don’t do much of that now, so it just hangs out. Of course, if you are going all hand tools in your shop, you will want one of these and you don’t need a lathe to make one. Just choose a hard, durable wood for the head, ideally a heavy tropical one. I have thought that Ipe, the wood that they use to make decks would be ideal. When I find a chunk large enough, I will make a another mallet to test my notion.
A Dead-Blow Hammer is handy for driving apart the joints of old furniture brought into the shop for repair, and of course for driving those joints back together. If you will be doing any repair work, this is a must-have. They are available in differing weights and though I have only one, it would certainly be advantageous to have a variety of sizes.
A veneer hammer is a curious tool; you do not strike blows with it, it is used as a squeegee when applying veneer to its ground. I have had two, one that I had purchased and one that I made for myself, and I can find neither to photograph, So I include this illustration. The picture does not do a great job of conveying how wide the “squeegee” part is; it was about 3+ inches wide on my model, and depending upon the make and model varying in width. The “face” of the hammer, that bit that you might strike a nail with, is used as a handle to apply pressure on this tool during use. These are used replace or to re-set de-laminatined veneer on a project; often drawer fronts and table tops.
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