For some, the hammer isn't all that important. But if you're serious about your tools or professional framing machine, your hammer is an extension of your arm, and you use it almost all the time. In this case, issues of weight, function and balance become very important. In fact, when you're hammering nails almost non-stop, you can actually figure out that time is money factor, and you'll find that your choice of hammer can save you hours of labor over the course of the year. It was with this mindset that we turned our obsession to Hart's line of ground steel frame hammers.
For some, the hammer isn't all that important. But if you're serious about your tools or professional framing machine, your hammer is an extension of your arm, and you use it almost all the time. In this case, issues of weight, function and balance become very important. In fact, when you're hammering nails almost non-stop, you can actually figure out that time is money factor, and you'll find that your choice of hammer can save you hours of labor over the course of the year. It is with this mindset that we turned our attention to Hart's line of faceted steel frame hammers, specifically the Hart 21 oz faceted steel frame hammer.
Editor's note: This review is adapted from our review of the Hart 21oz. Hickory Handle Model – We tested two hammers with which these reviews were written with and with both hammers in mind. Most features are interchangeable, although there is a slight difference in weight between steel and hickory when swinging.
There are a few things that stand out about these new Hart hammers. First, you can get them pretty much for whatever you want. They come in both milled and smooth surfaces; and models with steel, hickory, and even fiberglass handles. They range in size from 18 ounces to 25 ounces, and the hickory version comes in both straight and curved handles—at least the 21 ounces. size. The following models are currently available:
- 18 oz. smooth surface, straight handle
- 21 oz. milled, curved handle
- 21 oz. milled, straight
- 21 oz. smooth surface, straight handle
- 23 oz. milled, straight
- 25 oz. milled, straight
- 21 oz. milled, curved handle
- 25 oz. smooth surface, curved handle
- 21 oz. milled, straight
Looking at the Hart hammer heads, you can see the innovative side nail pull, and the side nail plate on the other side that sets these hammers apart from any other we've seen. Side nail pulls are similar in design to Stiletto's TiBone hammers, but are set further from the head for superior leverage and pull. It's also very different from the Vaughn side pull, which holds the hammer upside down on the nail and only provides a maximum pull of 90 degrees. The Hart hammer lays flat on the side and pulls the nail – if you have clearance – and can be turned 180 degrees if necessary. With most 3-inch nails, you only need to pull a little over 130 degrees to get the nail completely out of the wood.
The side opposite the nail remover is also very useful, as it allows you to hit the nail from the side with the hammer head. Now, we've done it with many models of hammers for years – just not by design. Hart seems to have conceded that if you're going to do it anyway, why not make it more efficient? 21 oz paws. The Milled Face Steel model is nicely shaped and has enough leverage to provide some pull and clearance, although it's thicker than the prongs on the Hickory model. The entire head is also narrower than the Hickory model, and both are dipped in some sort of protective polyurethane coating designed to keep the steel from rusting — or at least to make it look good in the shop. As with most hammers, the coating will develop scratches and dents over time. I have yet to come across a nail that a rusty hammer head can't drive in.
On top of the hitting face is a magnetic peg holder. The magnets held all the nails we used very securely and made it easy to start using them. It also holds the nail at the head within a fairly deep channel, so you're less likely to lose your way while setting it, or if you inadvertently deliver a blow that isn't quite straight, and it slides sideways into the wood. Just behind the striking surface is a circular gap that Hart claims is perfect for bending 1/4-inch rebar. The thing is, 1/4" rebar is rare, but if you find some, I'm sure you can bend it with this hammer.
testing on the spot
We didn't build any houses this week so instead we got some gauge lumber, pressure treated 4×4 stuff and a box of 10d hot dip galvanized nails. We have to say that hammering nails with the Hart hammer is almost a pleasure, although the steel model has a noticeable amount of vibration that the hickory handle version doesn't. Getting started nailing with the built-in magnet was consistent and quick—so much so that we felt like we got into a cadence with the tool pretty quickly. They did hit hard too, the size of the milled face "waffle" head and the balance of the steel hammer allowed us to drive in nails at breakneck speed. Once we had hammered a bunch of almost flush nails (we had a 21 oz Hart Hickory Grinding Surface Hammer to try and compare), we started experimenting with side nail pulls. We have found that this is by far the best lever we have used for nail pull in the hammer position. It pulls fast and smoothly with minimal effort. To test how easy this really is, I gave the hammer to my 8-year-old son (who's not exactly built like a linebacker). He can pull out 3" hot soaked 10d nails with just a little struggle. On his second attempt, he found the tool and pulled the hammer with 3 tugs. If you have permission, you will do it in one smooth motion. The only downside to this really is that you will rarely find that you have a full 18 inches of clearance to the left and right of the nail to use the hammer's full natural leverage. Having said that, we found that we could start driving the nail, then pull the hammer straight up to the vertical position, then use the claw end of the hammer to completely remove the nail.
We use this hammer a lot, along with its hickory handle hammer. Hart is definitely on to something, and I don't think it will take long to catch on. Pick up one of these hammers and feel it in your hand and you'll get the feeling that this is a professional grade tool with good balance and innovative features that you're likely to use. Best of all, the $26 asking price is exactly what I'd expect to pay for a real steel-handled hammer. Hart may be newbies, but they're not "new" (as in "inexperienced"). Of course, if you see someone using it in the field and you're stuck with an old hammer, you probably are! Go out, and if you're not buying one, at least pick one up and hold it so you can see what all the fuss is about. You probably won't put it down.