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DO IT YOURSELF : Tips on Nailing the Right Hammer

November 24, 1990|From From Reader's Digest

Almost any job you do around the house involves a hammer, so choosing the right one and using it correctly can increase your efficiency.

Here are hints and tips to help you get the most from a hammer:

Curved claw hammers are used for general carpentry. The bell-shaped striking surface found on the most common models minimizes marring when nails are driven flush and reduces nail deflection from off-angle blows. Hammer weights, based on head weight, are commonly 7 ounces for very light work, 13, 16, and 20 ounces for general carpentry. Sixteen is the most popular.

Ripping hammers with straight claws are designed for rough work and dismantling, such as removing floor boards or opening crates. A good general purpose weight is 20 ounces, though 28 and 32 ounces are becoming more common. The heads of both ripping and claw hammers should be drop-forged steel rather than brittle cast iron which can chip or shatter. The handle should be steel or fiberglass if the hammer must withstand excessive heat or humidity.

Tack hammers are made expressly for tacking. One end is magnetic and holds the tack point-out to start it. The other end is used to drive it home.

Ball peen hammers are made for metalwork.

Sledge hammers weighing from 2 to 20 pounds are for heavy work such as wood-splitting.

Wood or plastic mallets are used to drive chisels.

Caring for hammers:

A good-quality hammer can last a lifetime if used properly and given reasonable care.

Don't use a hammer for work it was not intended to do.

Strike only with the striking face of the hammer (never with the side cheek).

Don't use a hammer to hit anything harder than the hammer's striking face.

Keep a wood-handled hammer in a living area of the house, since high humidity, as, for example, in a damp basement, can swell the wood fibers inside the handle's head. Extreme dryness, as on a shelf above a radiator, can shrink the handle and make it loose. Storing a hammer in an unheated area exposes the metal to condensation caused by temperature changes. This can produce rusting. Protect the metal with a film of light oil, such as engine oil.

Hammering tips:

Grasp the hammer near the end of the handle. To get full advantage of the weight of a hammer's head, hold the handle as far from the head as possible without sacrificing a firm grip. After the nail is started, swing the hammer from your elbow.

Hold the nail between your index and middle finger with your palm up. If you accidentally miss the head, you'll strike the fleshy part of your fingers, which hurts far less than hitting your thumb or fingernail. Tap the nail in lightly until it stands up in the wood. Then take your hand away and drive the nail flush.

If a nail is too small to hold with your fingers, stick it through a piece of thin cardboard and hold the cardboard. Or, use a bobby pin or a pair of needle-nose pliers to hold it.

Use two hammers to clinch nails. After driving a nail through both boards, hold one hammer at the nail head and use the second one to bend and flatten the nail.

To avoid marring a surface when pulling nails, place a thin piece of wood under the hammer head. (A thicker block gives you better leverage on longer nails.)

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