The Best Framing Hammers for DIYers and Pros

For the specific task of constructing the frame of a structure, a framing hammer outperforms a traditional hammer.

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The Best Framing Hammer Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

A household hammer—the type that weighs an average of 12 to 15 ounces—is great for simple tasks like tapping a nail into a wall to hang a piece of artwork. But it’s not the best choice for building a structure, such as a storage shed or a garage. When it comes to construction, reach for a framing hammer. While it looks like a traditional hammer, for the most part, the claw in the back is straighter and elongated, as opposed to curved, and its heftier business end is a boon when you’re building.

Large nails are used to construct the frame of a building, so the best framing hammer should be substantial enough for the user to sink nails into wood in as few swings as possible. It’s not unusual for construction professionals to drive a single large nail in as few as three or four swings. Whether you’re a carpenter or a DIYer, if you’re going to frame up a building, you’ll want a hammer that’s designed for the task. Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping for a framing hammer and to find out why we chose the following seven as some of the best in their class.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Estwing Sure Strike California Framing Hammer – 25 Oz
  2.  RUNNER UP: Vaughan & Bushnell 2115C Dalluge 21 Oz Framing Hammer
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Estwing Framing Hammer- 30 Oz Long Handle
  4. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: TEKTON 22 oz. Jacketed Fiberglass Magnetic Hammer
  5. BEST TITANIUM: Stiletto TB15MC Claw Hammer
  6. BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Real Steel 0517 Ultra Framing Hammer, 21 oz
  7. HONORABLE MENTION: Estwing BIG BLUE Framing Hammer – 25 oz
The Best Framing Hammer Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

What to Consider When Buying the Best Framing Hammer

In the building industry, framing hammers see a lot of action, so they should be tough enough to withstand frequent use. When shopping for a framing hammer, consider its weight, its ability to reduce arm and hand fatigue, and whether it’s intended for beginner or professional use.

Head Weight

A hammer is designated by the weight of its head, and the best framing hammer should be heavy enough to generate a powerful swing. In general, the heavier the head, the more power you can generate with a single swing, but if you’re not a seasoned pro, accustomed to wielding a hammer on a daily basis, a heavier model could leave your arm, shoulder, and wrist feeling sore. When choosing a head weight, be honest about your experience level as well as your physical ability.

Most framing hammers have steel heads that weigh between 20 and 32 ounces, although a few heavier and lighter ones are available. Framing hammers made from titanium, a hard but lightweight metal, weigh in at only between 15 and 19 ounces. They don’t transmit as much vibration as steel—a plus for users bothered by the shock of impact experienced with steel. Titanium is expensive, however: Steel framing hammers cost less than $50 but one made from titanium can easily run over $200.

Handle Material

Hardwood is the traditional material used in hammer handles, and many framers still prefer it, claiming the wood absorbs some of the impact shock when driving nails that would otherwise end up in the builder’s elbow and arm. Solid steel handles, forged along with the head in a single piece, are also available and they’re great for experienced framers who want a hammer that will last for years. Steel doesn’t offer as much vibration reduction, so they’re well suited to experienced builders who rarely miss the nail when they swing. Steel handles that come with a fiberglass or a rubber coating offer a measure of vibration reduction while providing non-slip grip control.

Face Type

Framing hammers come with two types of faces for striking nailheads—textured or “waffle” faces and smooth faces. Many framers opt for a textured face because the rough surface helps keep the hammerhead from glancing off the nail, which makes for better strike contact. On the downside, if you miss the nail, a waffle face will leave a textured impression in the wood. In addition, the rough texture may do more damage if you smash a finger, although hitting a finger with any hammerhead is going to hurt. A common saying in the construction industry is that by the time new builders wear the waffle texture off the face of a framing hammer, they’ll be adept enough at driving nails to use a smooth face going forward.

Tang

Many tools, not just knives, have a tang—the component that connects the business end to the handle. On a framing hammer, the tang is the molded steel handle that’s forged to the hammerhead in a single piece. Many of today’s framing hammers feature a partial tang (steel that extends only a portion of the way down into the handle). Partial tang hammers tend to be a few ounces lighter, so builders who are looking for a heavier hammer may prefer one with a full tang.

With a full tang, the steel extends all the way to the bottom of the handle. Full-tang hammers are less likely to break during use because of the rigid support that goes all the way through the handle, yet some users complain that full-tang hammers have greater impact vibration. Manufacturers rarely mention tang in their product description unless the hammer features a full tang. The hammerhead on wood hammers have no tang at all—instead, the wood handle extends upward and is secured within the hammerhead itself.

Our Top Picks

The best framing hammer will be sturdy, reliable, and comfortable to swing. These top picks represent framing hammers that are the most popular with professional framers as well as construction-savvy weekend warriors.

Best Overall

The Best Framing Hammer Option: Estwing Sure Strike California Framing Hammer - 25 Oz
Photo: amazon.com

From a well-known name in the hammer industry comes the impressive Estwing Sure Strike California Framing Hammer. It features a smooth, 18-inch, hickory wood handle for vibration absorption and a smooth grip. The slight curve in the handle lets an experienced user hold the hammer near the end for the most power from each swing. The 25-ounce waffle face hammerhead is balanced for a smooth swing, and it boasts an elongated rip claw, handy for prying apart boards, pulling nails, and other demolition tasks.

Runner Up

The Best Framing Hammer Option: Vaughan & Bushnell 2115C Dalluge 21 Oz Framing Hammer
Photo: amazon.com

Pros who drive a lot of nails will appreciate how the vibration absorption of the Vaughan & Bushnell 2115C Framing Hammer’s smooth hickory handle reduces hand and elbow fatigue. But this 18-inch hammer is also a good choice for newbie builders, thanks to a magnetic nail holder that allows the user to position a nail on the head for the first swing, rather than risk smashing a finger by holding the nail. The gentle curve at the end of the hickory handle offers a comfortable grip and the hammerhead’s waffle face reduces slip-off when driving nails. The Vaughan & Bushnell Framing Hammer features an elongated rip claw as well to make demo work easier.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Framing Hammer Option: Estwing Framing Hammer- 30 Oz Long Handle
Photo: amazon.com

For generating maximum nailing power, it’s tough to beat the hefty Estwing 30-Ounce Long Handle Framing Hammer. This 16-inch long framing hammer is available with either a textured face or a smooth face, and it features a rip claw for prying boards and demo tasks. Its non-slip, shock-reduction handle is designed to reduce impact vibration by up to 70 percent. Weighing in at 30 ounces, this full-tang hammer was created with the professional in mind, as it may be a bit heavy for a beginner to swing with accuracy.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Framing Hammer Option: TEKTON 22 oz. Jacketed Fiberglass Magnetic Hammer
Photo: amazon.com

The TEKTON Magnetic Framing Hammer offers the same waffle face found on pricier models and at 22 ounces it provides ample weight for generating powerful nail-driving swings. It features a magnetic nail-holder for those beginners not yet comfortable holding a nail with their fingers for the first swing. It’s got a slightly curved, 16-inch, high-strength fiberglass handle (a hickory handle is also available) and it features a rip claw for prying apart boards and demo duty. Lighter 20-ounce and 16-ounce models are also available.

Best Titanium

The Best Framing Hammer Option: Stiletto TB15MC Claw Hammer
Photo: amazon.com

Arm yourself against fatigue with the Stiletto TB15MC Claw Framing Hammer—forged from titanium as opposed to steel for reduced vibration and lighter weight. Weighing just 15 ounces, this hammer is a good option for framers who want durability and quality without swinging—or lugging around—a heavier framing hammer. This 17.5-inch model features a full tang covered by a non-slip rubber grip and a gentle curve for comfortable and accurate nail-driving. It comes with a waffle face and a rip claw for demo detail, making this framing hammer a good option for both pros and DIYers.

Best Lightweight

The Best Framing Hammer Option: Real Steel 0517 Ultra Framing Hammer, 21 oz
Photo: amazon.com

Tipping the scales at just 21 ounces, the Real Steel 0517 Framing Hammer won’t weigh you down while providing all the benefits of its heavier counterparts. It features a full-tang steel handle with a waffle face and a magnetic nail holder for accuracy, making it a fine choice for DIYers or pros who prefer a lighter framing hammer. The 15.5-inch handle is covered with vibration-reducing rubber for comfort and has a non-slip grip.

Honorable Mention

The Best Framing Hammer Option: Estwing BIG BLUE Framing Hammer - 25 oz
Photo: amazon.com

With a smooth face, full tang construction, and a substantial 18-inch handle, the Estwing BIG BLUE 25-Ounce Framing Hammer is designed for the professional who drives nails on a daily basis. The handle features a non-slip, shock-reduction grip that reduces vibration by up to 70 percent and the hammer comes with a rip claw for prying and demo work.

The Advantages of Owning a Framing Hammer

If you’re looking for a hammer for around-the-house tasks, such as hanging artwork or pulling nails, opt for a traditional hammer, not a framing hammer. A framing hammer is designed for building structures and is likely too heavy for household use.

  • The heavier weight helps generate the extra power necessary for driving large nails.
  • The textured face available on many models helps reduce glancing blows.
  • A longer rip claw assists in pulling wood framing members into position as well as prying boards apart for demo work.

FAQs About Your New Framing Hammer

DIYers new to construction naturally have some questions about framing hammers.

Q. What is the difference between a framing hammer and a regular hammer?

A framing hammer is heavier and designed to generate maximum power for driving large nails.

Q. What are framing hammers used for?

Framing hammers are mainly used for building the wood structure of a building, but they are also handy for demolition work.

Q. How do you use a framing hammer?

Like any hammer, first, tap the head of the nail lightly to get it started, and then follow up with solid swings to drive it into the wood.