If you swing. Hammers for a living, you know the titanium vs steel hammer debate. You may have picked up a titanium hammer, or you may have used one. However, if you're not sure whether you should spend the typical $100-plus on titanium, this article might help.
Almost any vertical painter, formwork builder, or scaffolder who swings a hammer for a living can tell you that at some point in their career they developed joint and muscle pain in their hammering arm. The tools of their trade are often to blame for this discomfort. This situation first prompted us to compare titanium hammers with steel hammers first.
If the hammer is a means to an end, it makes sense to maximize the hammer's potential. So how can a titanium hammer make your work healthier? We've already reviewed the Stiletto 12oz Titanium Reshaper Hammer and the Stiletto Titanium Flat Bar, so we wondered.
The Physics of Pendulum Action
That question led us to seek some input from Joel Allen, Director of Innovation at Stiletto Titanium Tools. The physics of titanium hammers versus steel ultimately comes down to energy transfer, he explained. In hammering movements, the energy comes from your arms (especially your muscles and joints). This energy is stored in the hammer head and released upon impact with the nail.
The titanium hammer takes full advantage of 97% of the energy gained from the swing of the hammer and transfers it directly to the nail. In contrast, a steel hammer transfers only 70 percent of its energy to the nail. If you do a quick calculation, you might wonder where the 27% energy loss on the steel head hammer goes.
In most cases, it transfers the energy released by the recoil of the steel back to the user. Essentially, vibrations are transmitted through the hammer head, down the handle and into your arm. While some steel hammers feature some shock-absorbing handle materials, at the end of the day, steel is still less efficient at transferring striking energy to the nail.
Titanium hammer lighter with steel
In addition to its vibration properties, titanium is also approximately 45% lighter than steel. This means that not only can you transfer energy more efficiently, but you also expend less energy swinging your titanium hammer. The lighter weight clubhead is similar in size to the steel clubhead, so the weight reduction doesn't reduce the striking face area. So is this the best type of framing hammer you can buy?
If a titanium hammer is better, why doesn't everyone use one?
Joel laughed when I asked this question, but he quickly became serious. He told me that in many conversations on job sites and at trade shows, most people are quick to say there's no point in owning a lightweight titanium hammer.
But then they started using one.
For many, it was an eye-opening experience. What sells a titanium hammer is not the end cap display at the home improvement warehouse or hardware store, but the chance to actually wield it. You have to put one in the hands of a merchant and let them experience the difference. Take high heels, for example. Word of mouth has been their greatest marketing asset since they started selling titanium hammers in 1997. People who use titanium hammers realize their benefits and do an excellent job of spreading the word.
The biggest hurdle or excuse for not buying a titanium hammer is its cost. Titanium in its raw form costs about five times as much to produce as steel. In addition to the higher cost of raw materials, titanium tools are also more difficult to manufacture due to the manufacturing process. For this reason, titanium hammers are easily four to ten times more expensive than comparable steel hammers.
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And the final reason for using titanium alloys…
The health benefits of titanium versus steel hammers took a while to be accepted. When they hit the market 16 years ago, few facts seemed to exist. They now appear to show a significant increase in user comfort. The extra cost of a titanium hammer compared to a steel hammer quickly pays for itself if you factor in fewer pain medications, doctor visits, and other muscle or joint injuries. Greater efficiency and lighter weight help reduce the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. In the end, it means less downtime, more productivity, and (most importantly) less pain.
If you use a hammer all day, anything that can make your job easier and promote better health is worth a look. But don't just look at it – pick one up and give it a try!
Special thanks to Joel Allen, Director of Innovation at Stiletto Titanium Tools, for talking to us about Titanium Tools.