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Get a Bigger Hammer

Professional Tools. Professional Facts. You Ask The Questions, We Get The Answers.

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Question:

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I’ve heard that there are techniques to properly using a hammer. Is this true, and what kinds of hammers do you recommend for mechanics?

Answer:

Hammers are a great subject, and actually more in depth than you may think. There is a science behind using one and it is primarily related to physics. Hammers should be gripped at the base of the handle. This not only gives you the most leverage, allowing the weight of the head to do the work for you, but it also balances them better. In addition, it gives you more control of the angle in which you are striking an object.

Holding a hammer near the head is called “choking up” and this is a technique that you will use at times when working in tight quarters as it allows you to control the impact of the hammer and prevent hitting other objects nearby. It is, however, physically more demanding, requiring you to move the weight of the head versus allowing physics to do the job.

Keep only a medium grip on the hammer handle — don’t strangle it. If you grip too tight, you will find that you are forcing the weight of your arm and shoulder into the hammer and the object being struck. A lighter grip will allow the hammer to bounce back, utilizing physics once again and making your job easier.

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Let the weight of the hammer do the work. The more force that is required for a job, the heavier the hammer. If you find that you are exerting too much force in an attempt to get results, you should be using a heavier hammer. Even the heaviest sledgehammer, when properly used can be done so with relatively low stress to your body.

Mechanics can benefit from a number of different types of hammers designed for different jobs.

In addition to the basic hammer, the most common one for a mechanic is the ball peen hammer. Ball peen hammers are designed for striking and shaping metal and are hardened accordingly. Most mechanics have about five or six different sizes of these and use them for striking punches and chisels and for all the heavy work.

Handle type should be considered when you buy a hammer. Wooden handles are less expensive and generally lighter, but they don’t absorb shock like a fiberglass or composite handle, so to reduce long-term wear and tear on your body, better handles are worth consideration.

Hammer heads are available in a variety of materials for many different applications. Plastic-tipped hammers eliminate scratching and damage caused by metal-to-metal contact. Bronze- and brass-tipped hammers are commonly used in transmission work for gears, bearing and bearing race installation, or any other application where the force of metal-to-metal is required but critical surfaces cannot be damaged; the softer metal will mar before causing damage.

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Soft-blow hammers and rubber-head mallets are used to prevent damage and dents on items such as hubcaps.

Dead-blow hammers, which are available with many head styles, have an internal chamber that is filled with shot. As you swing the hammer, the shot travels to the rear of the chamber and when the head of the hammer strikes the object, the shot immediately travels to the front, reducing the rebound of the hammer, creating a “dead” blow and transferring more force into the object. Dead blow hammers are not designed for repetitive striking as they eliminate the advantage of physics associated with a regular hammer, but they work great for things such as seal installation, oil pan removal and brake rotor and brake drum removal.

A good selection of hammers makes up the essential tools of a mechanic, and they’re always on the tool truck.

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