A hammer is a basic tool like the hand saw. You pretty much can’t do anything without a hammer and a saw. But there is no one hammer that fits all requirements. Below are types of hammers you should get in your tool collection, and I’ve listed them in a suggested order of usefulness from the top down in case you can’t buy them all at once. Pro Tip: Don’t keep your grip up high on the handle, keep it in the back third as this gives you more power in your swing.
Start with a general purpose nail hammer.
This hammer will get the job done for you 99% of the time. They come in two styles: classic and modern. In addition to that they both have two different claw styles of a curved claw vs. a rip claw. It’s just like beer, it comes down to a matter of preference. Usually you will want a hammer head weight between 16 and 20 ounces. You can also get smaller lighter weights in 7, 10 and 13 ounces for small nails used in cabinetry work. Handles can be wood, fiberglass or steel, some of which have anti-vibration features. Try them out for feel and balance in your hand. Here a just two examples.
Framing hammers usually have the rip claw as it is ideal for demolition work. Head weight should be from 20 to 32 ounces. The extra weight helps in demolition and in driving larger sized nails used in framing. Waffled or milled faces help to reduce glancing blows. Framing is the wooden skeleton of a house. The innards of the floor, walls and roof.
Finishing hammers are the lightweight version of the general purpose nail hammer and have a smooth striking face to avoid leaving marks on your nice cabinets, trim or furniture. Weight is usually around 7 ounces or a little higher.
Tax Hammer (don’t you wish! actually it’s spelled Tack Hammer)
Used for small upholster tack and to drive small nails such as would be used to hold a picture on the wall. Often one end is magnetized to easily pick up tacks and small nails.
Ball Peen hammer
Key feature is that instead of claws, one end is a rounded half ball. Sizes range in a wide variety of weights with 12 and 16 ounces being the most popular. Ball Peen hammers are used with cold chisels for riveting, center punching and forming unhardened metal.
Soft face hammer or mallet
The heads of these can be made of plastic, rubber, rawhide or wood and often have weights inside the head since the soft material is often too light to be used by itself as a hammer. These also come in varying sizes and weights and are used for assembling furniture, pounding dowels into dowel holes to join furniture pieces without the risk of marring the furniture pieces which would happen with a metal head. They can also be used to drive chisels or hammer joints together. Sometimes the head has a wide face and sometimes not depending on use.
These have long handles up to 36 inches and heads weighing from 2 to 20 pounds. Sledgehammers are ideal for busting up concrete or driving heavy spikes.