In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Some day I expect one of my little girls to tell a school counselor (between sobs): “Daddy has a hammer problem.”

My, ahem, problem started innocently enough years ago. I got interested in David Maydole, the father of the legendary adze-eye hammer. I read James Parton’s 1884 article about Maydole and thought: Wouldn’t it be cool to own one of his hammers?

So I bought one off eBay for $20. It had a cool bull’s eye cast into its face. Its handle was worlds better than the rubber-wrapped hammer-shaped object I’d had since childhood. I even think that Maydole drove nails a little faster. So I bought a 16-ounce Maydole for my shop at home.

Fast forward about five years. I’m looking for a plane at the bottom of my tool chest. I pull out a few hammers. Then a few more. Then a big Cheney. My bench has a heap of hammers on it. How many dang hammers have I bought?

Fourteen, as it turns out. And probably another seven at home (I can’t bear to count).

You don’t need this many hammers. However, I do think you need more than one. If someone put a nail gun in my mouth and made me choose my three essential hammers for making furniture, here would be my list:

1. A 16-ounce hammer for all-purpose nail whacking.

2. A Warrington-style hammer with a cross-peen/pein/pane. I use this hammer to tweak the lateral adjustment on my metal-bodied handplanes. I use the cross-peen/pein/pane to start short brads. And I use the striking face to finish small brads.

3. A plane-adjusting hammer. I have one from Chester Toolworks. It has a brass face and a wooden face (Lee Valley makes one like this). I use this tool for adjusting my wooden-bodied planes. The brass face is for tapping the iron. The wooden face is for tapping the stock and the wedge.

If you are similarly afflicted, I warn you there is little hope. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks just started making Warrington-style hammers. I ordered all three, however I don’t remember how that happened. It’s a bit of a blur.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 20 comments
  • Greg

    Chris,my boy, you have much "acquiring-of-hammers" to do. I counted 340 & I haven’t even looked in my tool drawers or boxes. Actually, it’s nice to know I’m not as weird about tools as my ex stated so many times!

  • k jones

    Since when has owning a few different hammers become a problem? When I come from it is a real a function of what you like and take less room than a easy chair. I ended up with ones for wood (finish work and framing), leather work, blacksmithing, tin work, auto body work, and there are at least tree or for different looks for antiques ones and sizes. Then there are grandfathers hammers I have. And if anyone asked me to get rid of them I would look like some one asked me to part with a favorite dog. No problem, I like hand tools and find projects to use them on. If some one does not like it they don’t have to open the doors to my shop.
    Silly Ken.

  • Ken

    There is no way in heck you can own too many hammers.
    This is basic stuff, pick up a rock and hit something or hit something with a stick. Beyond this, there is no greater satisfaction than using the right hammer for any given task.
    I never count my hammers its safer that way.
    On a side note. My answer to someone trying to solve a problem has been, you need a bigger hammer.

  • J.C. Collier

    For years I thought it was just me… hoarding hammers and mallets away from the preconceived notions and wagging fingers of those who just don’t understand… and now… well, let’s just say that I’ll have to develop some other neuroses to fill the place where I believed I once dwelled alone. Thanks guys.

    Maybe I’ll concentrate on bench stops or tenon cutters. Hmmm…


  • Haika

    A couple of interesting resources courtesy of Google Books:

    "Tools and Machines" By Charles Barnard (1903),M1

    "The Art of Fine Tools" By Sandor Nagyszalanczy (1998),M1

  • Tony Francis

    What? No German (French?) pattern cabinetmakers bench hammer? Chris you ought to be ashamed!

  • Kip

    Anyone have any metalsmith friends? Ask them for a tour of the hammers in their studio and you’ll see some beautiful tools. There are dozens of styles of planishing hammers that metalsmiths or jewelers use that also perform woodworking tasks and some of them may even approach $85…

  • Luis

    85 dollars for a small hammer.
    They do not cost too much.

  • Bill

    P.S. – $85 for a Warrington hammah? I mean, I love and own several examples of L-N products, but come on.

    Have you told your daughter that daddy is spending her college money on feeding his tool habit?

  • Bill

    "You don’t need this many hammers."

    Wot? Eh? Sorry, your words do not parse. Come again? Ich versteht du nicht.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to rummage around in one of my three drawers full of hammers…

  • Christopher Schwarz

    The only hammer book I know of is way out of print.

    You might start looking and inquiring here:

    If anyone else knows of a hammer resource, chime in!


  • harold atkinson

    Where can I get some good info on hammers. I have "some" of the type in the upper left corner of your first photo. Can’t find any info on it. Of course information may lead to needing more hammers. Oh well.

  • Gary Roberts

    It’s a well known fact that you can never have too many ______ (fill in the blank: e.g.; hammers, planes, books, &c, &c.). If you do feel that you have too many, simply get some more and now your original "too many" will seem like less.

  • Paul Kierstead

    Well, look on the bright side. You have more then enough hammers to fill a bag. Well, I am not sure that is a bright side. But it does make you contemplate the saying….

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Good question. When I talked to Thomas Lie-Nielsen about it he said the company was experimenting with the different materials.

    The brass is for adjusting tools. The regular A2 is for adjusting tools and can take some abuse with nailing. The hardened A2 is made to withstand lots more nailing.

    If I had to buy one it would be the hardened A2 one. I like the black and it can do everything….


  • Old Baleine


    First let me say that I have a similar affliction. I have ball pein hammers ranging from a Maydole that can’t weigh more than an ounce up through 32 ozs, about eight or so of that style alone. Along with three sizes of warringtons, that other english pattern that I can’t remember the name of, upholsterer’s hammers, mason’s hammers, claw hammers of various weights, framing hammers, engineer’s, etc., etc. Not to mention the mallets, from lignum to bronze and synthetics of varying hardnesses. So I have sympathy and cred in this area. And I have one of Philly’s english walnut plane adjusting mallets. But I still have a hard time buying into the use of the warrington to adjust metal-bodied planes. My thumb works just fine for that. I can’t help but feel it’s rationalizing the urge for another hammer. I know that I do it. Heck, just seeing that L-N has three new warringtons makes me want one of each, and if I need three more hammers it’s because I need to be knocked upside the noggin…

  • Clarke Green

    Twenty one hammers? That’s not a problem, that is the bare minimum, you are just getting started.

  • Barry

    I almost want to go into the shop and count my hammers now, just might do that after I’m done with this comment too.

    Do you know why the offer the A2 in both hardened and not?

  • Christopher Schwarz

    I have a few mallets. Nothing to go into therapy over — yet.


  • Bob Lang

    I think you need to clarify that of course hammers and mallets are different, and that you really, really need a few of them as well.

    Bob Lang

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