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Which hammer handle is the best?

When we think of tools in general, one of the first names that pop up in our heads is a hammer. It is one of the oldest tools with a variety of roles, even beyond their work at simple constructions. Since the hammers have varying roles in varying places, there are many kinds available in the market.

A hammer is one of the most common tools you are likely to find in almost every home. The many different types of hammers each serve a specific purpose.

When purchasing a hammer, always consider what purpose it will serve first, so you can make a more informed decision on which type to buy. Below are some of the different types of hammers.

These are hammers that you’ve probably seen before and likely even used. You may want to consider purchasing some of these, though it depends on what projects you’re regularly doing.

Hammer handles come in a variety of designs and are made from varying materials. So which is best?

Which hammer handle is best?

The three most basic handle options are fiberglass, Wood and steel. Hammer handles come in a variety of lengths and most are available in either a straight, curved, or hatchet style configuration. Find out which one is best for you.

Fiberglass handle

Alright so in between the wooden and steel handles we have fiberglass. Fiberglass handles are still fairly new to the market but have been quickly replacing wooden handles left and right. Some stores have even gone as far as not even stocking the wooden handles anymore. Price wise fiberglass comes in just a little bit higher than wood but the fiberglass handle will end up lasting you longer than your standard wooden.

Fiberglass handles will not shrink on you and the head will not come loose after periods of use like their wooden counterparts. While fiberglass hammers are mostly not one piece construction they are more durable than wooden and will usually last much longer than your typical Hickory handle. While they are more durable it is worth mentioning that some people have experienced brittleness on fiberglass hammers that had been left out and exposed to ultra-violet light over a period of time. I don’t see this being a problem as I can assume that most of you keep your tools in your garage or in a steel toolbox in the back of your pickup. If your fiberglass handle does break you will find it is much more difficult to replace than your typical Hickory wedged hammer. The toughness of the fiberglass makes it difficult to unwedge the remaining handle. The last thing I’ll mention on the handle is that some people like to mold and modify their hammer’s handles so that it more closely fits their grip. This is easily done with a Hickory handle but is practically impossible with a fiberglass.

Fiberglass handles have slightly more recoil than your wooden handles but significantly less than your steel hammers. I would describe it as your middle of the road option. If you want the increased durability but don’t want to put your body through the extra shock of using a steel hammer than this would be the hammer for you.

Fiberglass handles transmit less vibration than steel, but still more than wood. Electricians love fiberglass handles because they are non-conductive. Plumbers and mechanical guys like fiberglass because a decent one can be had for not a lot of money.

All I really use a hammer for are small jobs like tacking up pipe hangers and tapping on a putty knife or screwdriver. And my hammers tend to get left at jobs, stolen, or lost behind walls, so I tend to carry an inexpensive one.

Wood handle

It’s always best to start with the classics and that my friends would be the wooden hammer handle. The tried and true. I can guarantee that most of you already have one of these hanging in your garage. Hopefully, you weren’t like me and left the darned thing outside over the weekend during a rain storm. Now the wood on my only two year old hammer is starting to rot and warp. Whenever I get around to it, or if I do, I’m going to have to swap handles out for a new one and try not to make that mistake again.

That short tangent brings me to my first point on wooden handles. They rot. They warp. They break. All of this will eventually happen to your wooden handled hammer. It’s a fact. It’s just a matter of time. Now, if you take care of your wooden hammer and keep it in the garage and use it with care you very well may see decades of use out of it but if you’re a little rough with your tools like I am then you may end up swapping handles out pretty regularly.

The other downside of wooden handles besides the rot and wear and tear is the two piece construction. If you go for the steel or titanium handles you’ll find that most of them are one piece construction units. This is done so that you don’t even have a chance of the head separating from the handle. With the wooden handle the head will loosen over time and will have to be rewedged and you also have the risk of the handle snapping in half on you over extended use.

Wood handles transmit much less vibration than either metal or fiberglass. Wood is also the lightest handle material, which means most of the weight is up in the head (where it counts). Wood handles can be replaced if they are damaged and can even be customized for those hammer connoisseurs out there. Wood handles are strong, but not as strong as steel, so not the best option for demo work.

If a hammer is going to hang from your pouch all day long, you probably don’t want it to be super heavy. And if you pound on a whole bunch of nails, a low vibrating wood handle is just the ticket. So, naturally, wood handles are typically preferred by framers, trim carpenters, and siding installers.  

When it comes to less vibrations, wood handles are by far the best. And when it comes to the best type of wood, hickory is the only way to go.

Steel handle

Wooden may be the most popular hammer on the market today but their steel counterparts are quickly giving them a run for their money. Going back to my baseball analogy I can say that right off the bat that steel hammers are extremely durable. Most of the time when you are looking at a steel handle you’ll notice that the head and the handle are one piece forged construction. This baby isn’t going to break on you. The head and the handle are forged together so there is no risk of the thing flying off during a swing and striking you in the shoulder.

Another pro for the steel hammer is that they are really about the same cost as a wooden one. You would think they would be a bit more since they are one piece construction and you never worry about replacing handles but they are right around the same price.

Steel handles are the strongest of the bunch. It’s tough to beat a solid or welded piece of steel when it comes to overall strength. But steel is also the heaviest option, and that extra weight doesn’t necessarily mean that steel-handled hammers pack more punch. A lot of the weight is down away from the strike point, so it doesn’t actually affect swing-power. Steel hammers are the worst offenders for causing vibrations that impact the user. Heavy vibrations can lead to repetitive strain injuries and other ailments.

Because of their strength, steel-handled hammers are a favorite among masons and demo crews.

Here’s what Charlie Vaughan, president of Vaughan Manufacturing, had to say about steel hammers:

With all the nailing guns out there, most guys these days use their hammer for “destruction” rather than “construction.” So, it really depends on what you’re going to do with the hammer. For demolition, steel would be the best choice.

Which hammer handle is best?

Length and contour

Most hammer handles are 14 to 18 inches long and are available in either a straight, curved or hatchet style. Hatchet style hammer handles are a bit narrower than straight handles.

Some remodelers like 16-in. handles because they can use them as a quick guide to locate (not layout) a stud behind drywall or sheathing if they know the location of an adjacent stud. There are also siding installers who spend a good portion of the day climbing up and down ladder and don’t like long hatchet-style handles or curved handles, because they tend to protrude forward just far enough to catch on the rungs when climbing.

Many plumbers, electricians and mechanical workers often find themselves crawling around in tight spaces and therefore prefer short hammers, because they’re less likely to get hung up.

Each hammer is different and each handle has their own benefits. The question is what is best for you and what type of application are you looking for? Are you the handyman who uses their hammer daily? Are you the Do-It-Yourselfer looking for an ever-last hammer? Or, are you the professional who is looking for a top grade wood handle hammer? The choice is up to you my friends.

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