Ten Tips for Hammering Nails

Woodworking Workshop
Ten Tips for Hammering Nails


Hammering nails is an ancient and tricky skill. It involves a floating arm that’s moving at high velocity, leaving a lot of room for error– not to mention that the target is quite small.

There are also concerns about the material you’re driving through. Its hardness, grain, and knottiness are all things to take into consideration.

Some might think that bolts and screws are the way to go all the time, but this just isn’t true. When framing a building or making something that requires a large amount of fasteners, nails are often the way to go. Also, the use of finish nails on a piece makes for a very clean, polished look.

Here are some tips to help you out when hammering them home.

20 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Hammering Nails

  1. JMAW Works says:

    A couple more related are:
    -Scuff sanding a smooth face hammer gets you more grip without waffle marks in your trim work (you can always wax/oil your buddy’s hammer for a joke…)
    -Never bang 2 hammer faces together (both hardened, could shatter)
    -Switch grips hi/lo (bulges) for precision/power switches
    -When learning control, try to focus on articulating only one joint (elbow for power/ wrist for precision) once mastered use both for lots of power
    -Adding a block of wood under the claw protects the work and provides more leverage

  2. Michael Colombo says:

    Excellent tips! Thanks! BTW, I have a carpenter friend whose boss would challenge his workers to smack their hammers against his to see whose would survive. Apparently this guy had a seemingly indestructible hammer, until my friend came along… one of his hammers is made by a company from New Jersey started by ex aircraft engineers. The hammer was made of exotic alloys and the tempering varied along its length. You can probably imagine who won that contest. :)

  3. Taylor Michaels says:

    I decided that neither a flat nor textured hammer head was the best and made mine slightly concave with a grinder.It seems to work better.

  4. woodshopcowboy says:

    Always go for wood handles. Scientifically proven to lesson shocks to your elbow joints. They are cheaper and healthier.

    There are different hammers for different jobs, and not every one is made to drive nails. Choose the hammer for the job – Lowe’s has a pretty good guide here: http://www.lowes.com/cd_Hammer+Buying+Guide_911203847_. For most hobbyist applications, I’ve found a 12 to 16oz oz claw hammer to cover my needs. I have a 7oz for light finish work, a framing hammer, sledge and mallet, but truly, I reach for the mid-size the most. I wrote about mine here: http://woodshopcowboy.com/2011/04/23/the-things-they-carried-cool-tools-everyday-carry-contest/

    Claw versus rip: Claw hammers are made to remove nails. Rip hammers are made to tear apart 2x4s once they are nailed together. Along with other things: http://www.familyhandyman.com/tools/hammers-aren-t-just-for-nails–101-ways-to-use-a-rip-hammer/view-all

    I am beginning to think I’ve thought about hammers too often…

    Last two tips:

    Pilot holes for nails are always handy, especially trim nails (and try this brand at the big box and never go back…http://www.lowes.com/pd_59345-937-HT150112_0__?productId=3370374&Ntt=maize+nails&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dmaize%2Bnails&facetInfo=)

    Don’t use a metal hammer on a plastic or wood handled chisel/screwdriver, you’ll destroy the chisel.

  5. Chase says:

    Before my Dad hammered a nail he would run it through his hair to “lubricate it”. He claimed it helped him “get ’em in and keep ’em straight”. I don’t have the hairline to try it out, but it would be an interesting experiment.

  6. Eric says:

    Nail guns are wonderful, but are pricey and take special nails. If you have a lot of nails to drive, consider a palm nailer.

  7. Dan says:

    By the way, another tip is to hold small nails between two fingers with your palm up. That way if you hit your fingers it will not be as painful as hitting ones fingernails.

  8. Bob White says:

    Poke tiny nails into a piece of paper if they are to small to hold with for fingers.

  9. iff says:

    SCREWS is the magic word..

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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