How to use a hammer the right way

Thanks to childhood toys, a standard hammer is generally the first tool we learn to use. But did we learn the best way to use it? Here are some pointers from the pros on how to better use the humble hammer:

  • Hold your hammer near the end of its handle and strike the nail squarely on the head. While you're swinging the hammer towards it, hold the upper part of your nail between your thumb and forefinger. Holding the nail higher up like this, instead of at the base, means that if you miss the nail head your fingers will just be knocked away rather than crushed.
  • Start your hammering with a few small taps, then once it's securely in the wood, drive it in with heavier strikes. For bigger nails, keep your wrist stiff and swing your hammer from your elbow.
  • On rough work, hammer the nail head in flush. But when you're aiming to have a neater finish, leave the nail head just above the surface so that you can use a nail punch to drive it below the surface.
  • Drive nails in at a slight angle for a more secure fastening, when there's enough room to do so. For double nailing, use a different angle for each nail.
  • If a nail bends as you drive it in then just pull it out. To do this without damaging your work put a piece of cardboard or thin wood on the side of the nail closest to you. This bit of scrap will also support the hammer once you set it on top. Then fit your hammer's claw under the nail head and pull your hammer's handle towards you to bring out the nail. Try to keep your hammer's handle as vertical as possible while you're doing this to avoid widening the nail hole.
  • If you need more leverage to pull out a nail, then set your hammer's head on a block of wood. The wood will give you the leverage that's necessary to pull out the nail.
  • If you have only one hand free, then put the hammerhead in your fist and hold your nail between your fingers and against the side of your hammerhead. With the hammer and nail in your grasp like this you can just rap the nail point against the work to start the nail.
  • For a quick makeshift mallet, put a rubber doorstop or chair-leg tip over the end of your hammer. With this cap on, your hammer will make a good mallet stand in and that rubber cap can be easily taken off.
How to use a hammer the right way
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