20 ways to swing a hammer
About the time of my first Red Wings, I watched a chain-smoking Master Plumber mucking around half a dozen feet below the sidewalk. He was looking for a pipe. Everything in the hole looked the same to me. My first lesson in plumbing: the most important thing is knowing what you are looking at.
After a bit, he asks for a hammer. Naturally, I cross-examine him while he’s ankle-deep in mud, dirt dropping down his trousers, knees caked solid with clay. No, a hammer is what he wants. Really.
I went on to discover there are 20 ways to swing a hammer, at least. On that day, the plumber scraped compacted soil with the straight claw from under and around a leaking water service. I’d seen him break the bell of one piece of cast iron soil pipe while leaving an adjacent piece whole. Nailing? Almost never, in our trade. But I did learn the difference between tapping and smashing!
The Code Book calls for an 8 ounce ball peen hammer for caulking lead joints. Sorry, every tool has to multi-task. You can hold a 22 oz. hammer further up the shaft to reduce a swing’s force, something Galileo famously observed in 1582 – which led to his forgotten pendulum theory.
In a hurry to expose a leaking pipe behind a plaster wall? One can operate the hammer with both hand, punching a clean line through sheet rock with the claw, like a sewing machine. Not exactly like a sewing machine, but that is a similar image.
The pictured framing hammers? One is an Estwing E3-20SM. I’ve had it 20+ years. 13 ½” length, 28 oz overall weight, but called a 20 ounce hammer. (The other, a similar 22 ounce model). This is the perfect hammer to buy your favorite tradesman. Or an accomplished do-it-yourselfer as a supplementary wedding present. He/she may have it forever.
I could write 2,000 words on the various uses of a hammer. Hammering, prying, digging, cracking, slicing, driving, chiseling, cutting, pulverizing. From tapping the handle off a fine china teacup to knocking the lock off a security door without breaking the glass. It’s all in how you swing the hammer.