Boulder Creek Hardware

Doug writes a column for the "Boulder Creek Bulletin"

This was for Issue 1:


Because our new newspaper is still in its first year, I thought I should write about a first basic tool: The Hammer.

One of mankind's first tools and maybe yours too, the hammer comes in a multitude of shapes sizes and types. When I went to go pull some old information I have on tool history, I found it funny that the hammer is so basic that it appears in Chapter One of my reference materials and that it is the first item listed in the old hardware salesman's catalogs. Back when I used to work for a large hardware store chain, we always put the hammers display near the front of the tool sections if not the front of the stores. So I'd say the hammer is worth an article.

The Claw is the most common, standard hammer. With a flat face for driving nails, and a claw on the back side it is also known as a Carpenter's, Nail, Rip Floor, Curved, or Straight Claw Hammer. Usually Claw Hammers are about 16 oz sometimes more sometimes less. Casing Hammers are another type of Claw; they are light at 8oz and are used by cabinet makers. Handles can be made of wood, steel, fiberglass or even carbon fiber. Claw Hammers are used for driving and pulling nails, the rip style is handy in demolition work, and the straight claw can be jammed into the roof if you start to slide off. Don't ask how I know that one.

One hammer that hits home with me is the Framing Hammer. Good pun huh? I love this hammer because my old favorite boss, John, back in the day helped it come to market. After World War II the housing boom was on here in California, San Jose was no exception. Houses were being framed quickly all over the valley and these framers would walk into the old store in downtown San Jose and ask to buy the heaviest Straight Claw Hammer and an Axe with a long curved handle. They would join the two tools together creating a new style claw hammer with a long reach and ergonomic handle. Working with suppliers, John created what we now know as the California Framer. Framing hammers now days are still made for rough carpentry but come with many options, a Milled Face is a common one. The mill face or checkerboard pattern is added to the hammer face to reduce the chances of glancing blows and flying nails. Now days there are vibration and arm fatigue reduction systems, magnets for nail holding, and even side pull claws.

Fun as a kid because it has a built in magnet for holding guessed it the Tack Hammer! Light and narrow with a square head, one face is split and magnetized. The magnetized face makes driving small nails or tacks easy because the hammer does the holding. When it has a round face it's known as an Upholsterer's Hammer or in my house growing up it was Mom's hammer - so that meant don't touch it! It's entertaining to watch an experienced Upholsterer use this hammer. The magnetized end is to pick up and set the tack or nail, and then it's flipped over to drive it home. Don't use this one for big nails, you might damage it.

Potatoe or Potato, Peen or Pein...It's the Ball Peen hammer, also known as the Machinist's Hammer.  It's a funny looking one commonly with that rounded head on one end and a flat surface on the other. The Peen is used for driving metal punches, working with sheet metal and old style rivets. From a tiny 4 oz size to a huge 30 oz size the ball peen is still funny looking and sounding.

Musician Peter Gabriel comes to mind when I hear this one...Sledgehammer! With an extra heavy double sided head usually about three pounds, the Sledgehammer is used for driving chisels into brick or stone, driving rebar or heavy spikes, and breaking up concrete. Some of my old school customer's still call this one a blacksmiths hammer and some of the younger folks call it a small maul. The Maul or Log splitter is its big brother, usually with a long handle and weighing in at 8 to 12 pounds. Easterners will call it an engineer's hammer; this relates back to railroad days when this was a tool common on steam locomotives.

There are lots of hammers out there, like Drywall, Shingler's, Warrington, Cross Peen, Mallet, Deadblow, and many many more. Just be sure when you go to buy a hammer it's the type you need for the job, and the weight and handle type feel good when you swing it. Like a mouse trap someone is always trying to invent a better one. Be wary of expensive gimmicks, try to buy US made and quality steel. When done with your hammer it's a good idea to wipe it down with a light oil to prevent rust in our moist forest environment. My dad was always religious about oiling the wood handles with linseed oil; it's a good idea.

No huge funny looking parachute pants needed for this Hammer time! But like Norm Abrams says..."Take a moment for shop safety". Hammers should be used with safely glasses or goggles. Hammers can send chips flying right into your eye. Never strike another hammer or striking tool they can become damaged and chip when you least expect it. Make sure to never use a hammer with a loose head. Sometimes it might be temping to use the side or cheek of the hammer to strike, don't as this might damage it.

Well let's hammer this home. I covered the most common types, bit of safety, care and resisted a bunch of puns. Oh yea...Don't hit your Thumb!

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Doug Conrad, owner of Boulder Creek Hardware worked at the corporate level for a large nationwide hardware retailer until about ten years ago when he bought Boulder Creek Hardware. He loves tools! He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 8-6833.