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THE OLDEST TOOL IN THE SHED Hammers have been around as long as man has. In fact, stone hammers pre-date stone axes and knives. It was only after bludgeoning small prey to death with an early makeshift hammer that stone-age man figured he'd need a way to cut it up and skin it, so the stone axes and knives came about out of necessity, but as an afterthought. In the early scenes of the Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, we see one of our primate ancestors pick up a long bone and, probably out of boredom, he smashes it down on a pile of other bones which break apart and fly about. An idea is born. This bone – an early ham- mer, if you will –- would be good for bashing in the skulls of enemies, thinks the ape, which is indeed what happens a bit further on in the movie. Hence, the earliest hammers were used as weapons before they were used as tools. In Norse mythology, Thor, the Viking god of thunder, was a hammer slinger, too, and he was  popularized in the movie bearing his name. Thor wielded his mighty hammer, named Mjölnir, against giants, monsters, trolls and other nefarious beings that threatened the common good. So, indeed, hammers have been around a while, and they've undergone a lot of evolution and development along the way. There are liter- ally hundreds of individual hammer types current- ly available, but they are all used for pounding things and all basically fall into these main categories: CLAW HAMMERS The claw hammer is the most well known of any hammer and also the commonest, ranging in weight from 8-oz. up to 28-oz. Claw hammers have a standard driving head, which is either round or octagonal and the claws have a sharp radius that gives you higher leverage and makes pulling nails easier. Claw hammers always have a
smooth striking face, so they can be used for finishing work. A variation of the claw hammer is the framing hammer, which tends to be longer, heavier and the claw radius is shallower. Framing hammers range in weight usually from 16-oz. to 32-oz. and they can have either smooth or milled striking faces. The idea of the milled face is that it digs into the head of the nail to prevent the hammer from slipping off it and the straighter radius claw is beefier for pulling larger framing nails. Framing hammers usually have some form of shock absorption to reduce fatigue and injury caused by repetitive blows. Claw hammers and framing hammers are never used for automotive or mechanical work. Their purpose is for construction and wood- working, but they’re included here for the sake of completeness and to make that distinction of their purposes, besides the fact that just about everybody owns one. PEIN HAMMERS The most common metal working hammer is the ball pein (frequently spelled ball peen), also sometimes called an "engineer's hammer" or a "machinist's hammer". This hammer has a standard flat face and a semi-circular concave face called the pein. These hammers were designed for shaping metal and for setting iron rivets by peining over the edge. The steel head of a ball pein hammer is harder than the head of a claw hammer, so it's less likely to chip on contact, which is why it is used for automotive and machine work applications. A cross pein or machinist's hammer has a flat face that is either square or octagonal on one side and wedged-shaped on the opposite side. These hammers are often used for blacksmithing and metalworking where the wedge or cross pein face is used for shaping, cutting or folding the metal.