In Chris Schwarz Blog

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At the Lie-Nielsen event we had in our offices in May, I gave away hammers. A lot of hammers. (No, this isn’t the “making amends” portion of a 12-step program. Aw crap, I just offended all the addicts. Sorry addicts.)

Instead, I wanted to share the joys of cross-peen hammers. Think of it as giving away the first rock of crack for free. (Sorry to my readers who are hubba pigeons!)

During the last few weeks, however, my hammer collection has ballooned again, and it has me thinking a lot about the shape of their handles. One of the hammers that made it into my hands is a strapped C&S upholsterers hammer. It’s a beautiful specimen that no collector would want because it was “cleaned” by a previous owner.

What’s interesting about this hammer is the handle. Like many early strapped hammers, this one has a beautiful swelling (Megan, can I really write that?) at the base. As a result, when you pick up the tool, your hand automatically slides down the handle to grasp the swelling (no really, HR is gonna have my head on a stick). The problem with this form (for me, at least) is that it is not really comfortable to  choke up on the hammer to take light taps. The handle is a little thin there.

Today, a too-kind reader sent me a Soviet-era hammer still sealed in the packaging. The hammer is labeled as the “Stankoimport” brand, which I’m sure is a noble name in Russian. The hammer is wonderfully graphic, rugged and has a bright red (naturally) section at the bottom. The handle is basically rectangular in cross section, and we all agreed that it wasn’t very comfortable. Ah, the price of revolution.

The most common hammer handle shape is the one on our shop’s Plumb hammer (which also is red, like the blood of patriots, I suppose). It’s ovaloid in cross section at its base and evolves into something with a few chamfers at it goes into the head. This is the handle shape I used for many years, from the time I was a boy really. And I thought it was the best.

Several years ago, however, a friend sent me a Hamilton hammer (above) that has an octagonal handle. This is, hands down, my favorite hammer handle. The flats on the front and back of the octagon are small (about 3/8″ wide). The four chamfers that are 45Ã?° are about 1/2″ wide. And the two wide flat areas that are parallel to the cheeks of the head are 3/4″ wide. The octagonal shape extends up the handle about 6-1/2″ where the shape becomes more ovaloid at the neck.

If I had to have one hammer for nails, this 16-oz. hammer would be the one. If I had to have one hammer for crushing in the skulls of the aristocracy, I’d say: “Fetch me my Stankoimport!”

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 8 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz

    Sounds like I need to take up fly fishing.


  • Old Baleine

    No pun distended, but your references to the "swelling" in the handle are nothing to those of us who collect and fish bamboo fly rods. It is not unusual to read about a golden-blonde cane having "slightly stiff mid-section", a "naked winding check", and "a nicely swelled butt".

  • Bob Demers

    When I saw that Russian hammer’s picture (the one on the top of this blog entry) I immediately thought of the ones in Pink Floyd’s The wall video, the one where all the hammer are marching..Uncanny 🙂

    Bob, back from vacation

  • Ahh, Marxist Communism…*Sniff* I miss *sniff* the Proletariat…

  • Jeremy

    Did anyone else notice that Chris posted a link to urban dictionary? I have a funny feeling that the inoccent people who clicked on that link are still there.

    Chris, how many inoccent lives have you just ruined?

  • AAAndrew

    I love the Soviet hammer. Square is logical. Square is easy. Square is fast to make. Square allows us to make out quota.

    I do like the slight edges on an octagonal hammer for something like the hammer you showed. Anything that requires some gripping strength is definitely improved by a few *slight* ridges. (not square, thank you)

    But for real detail work, where finesse is more important than good gripping strength, then oval works best for me. I have a small jeweler’s hammer, and a small Warrington hammer and both of them are definitely not for big ol’ nails. These work very well with oval handles.

    I think the difference is the Hamilton hammer in your post is held with your whole hand. The little jeweler’s hammer and the extra small Warrington are held by, or at least guided by, mainly your fingers. For that, a strong oval gives me the best feedback for the orientation of the hammer.

    Oh, and it’s thanks to you, that I began my experimentation by picking up a Warrington one day. Yeah, the first one always starts out as a "Hey, why not? It’s not too expensive for just one, and I can stop anytime I want." kind of moment.


  • Dave Schwarzkopf


    Long time fan/reader, and I have to say this was one of my favorite posts. Laughed out-loud; love the irreverent and off-color humor. By all rights I think I should have been attending some form of Anonymous meetings for awhile now, but I can’t figure out to attend the one for planes, hammers, marking tools…..and I’m still searching for the elusive Slope everyone keeps talking about.
    Keep ’em coming!

  • Sean

    My Bluegrass has an octagonal handle. I agree the octagon in better than the ovoids.


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