This post is in response to another request from my long distance friend Erik via email.
The hammer - it was probably one of the first tools ever used and to this day it is an essential part of many trades. Think about how many depend on this humble but essential item. Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Stonemasons and other craftsmen….they all rely on hammers to help shape, build and persuade objects into place.
I mean, what else could you use to do these tasks? A stick? A rock? Or maybe with………………….
For being such a simple thing, there sure is a staggering selection of hammer types and purposes. It makes you realize that hammers can be as specialized to a specific job as modern power tools. And I don’t think there is another trade that relies on as many different hammer types more than Stone Masonry does.
Here are some that I use on a regular basis.
Lets start from left to right….
1) 4lb Hammer. You’ll see several different names for this type of hammer depending on the region : Hand, Drill, Mash. This type of hammer is used for striking chisels while cutting very thick stone, especially granite. I need the extra weight to send a deep message into the stone with a carbide chisel. This process is explained here - Cutting stone with chisels. Unless, you are cutting quarry block, 4lb is about as large as you need to efficiently cut stone with a chisel.
2) 3lb Hammer. I have referred to this hammer as a cutters hammer in the past because that’s the only thing I use it for. This is without question my primary hammer when I am chiseling or splitting stone with feathers and wedges. I have cut stone up to 12″ thick using this weight, but generally, stone used for veneer isn’t any thicker than 8″.
3) 2lb Round Hammer made by Trow & Holden, also called a Dummy Hammer. I started using this one a couple years ago. I noticed that a few stonemasons were using them and thought I would give it a shot. The round hammer is mainly used by carvers and I can see why. You get excellent contact even if you don’t strike the center of the chisel and it is a very comfortable hammer to swing. One mistake made by some that use it would be trying to cut stone with it. I was even told by T&H that the heavier handles tend to split if they are used for heavy striking. I limit using this type of hammer for finer chiseling like clean up of relief cuts or when I need to finesse my hits.
4) 2 lb Masons Hammer This type of hammer is used for brick and block masonry but the 2 lb weight makes it great for chipping problem areas off stone, or knocking off chunks were it wont be seen. Used for rough work only..mainly when building drystone walls with rounded stone.
5) 2.5lb ‘Stinger’. This is a specialty hammer developed by Trow & Holden. I saw it as a companion to my Mason Hammer when doing dry stone walls. So I took a chance on it a couple years ago and I’m glad that it is in my tool box now! The chisel end works awesome for chipping off troubling edges and the point devastates those pesky snouts and bumps. Both ends have carbide, so treat I treat this hammer with the same care as one of my chisels. Mine has a horizontal cutting blade but it is available with a vertical one too.
6) The picture below is a 2.5lb Cutter’s Hand Hammer also made by Trow & Holden. I must say, I ate some crow when I started using this hammer. If you notice the difference between the driller and this one you may understand why. I thought that the handle was a bit wimpy and that the angle of the head wasn’t what I wanted. WRONG! I got a great deal on this at a local supply yard so I gave it a shot. Well balanced, solid and comfortable are a few words that describe this great hammer. You can really tell it is a fine tool on the first strike and I should have known better, having about half the T&H catalog and every tool I own from them is quality.
7) This next one is a 1.5lb Carbide Tipped Bush Hammer and another T&H specialty hammer that I added to the quiver. I use it to flatten out bumps, powder off chisel marks, soften sharp edges and texture stone. It’s awesome little finish hammer that I am using more than I originally thought . Stay tuned for an upcoming post about using Bushing Hammers & Bits to texture stone.
So there you have it. These are just as sample of the variety of hammers available to a stone mason and just a few that can get you through almost any project. And yet, there are always more! Check out this video to see some of the larger hammers that are used to shape blocks of stone into quoins, lintels and molding.
Remember, you wont always use exactly what the other guy uses. Find something you are comfortable with and pick a weight that you can handle safely until you get used to striking chisels or stone. Controlled hits combined with practice will give you great results!
Just make sure you don’t use a herring…..otherwise you risk a nasty taunting!!