Spend a little bit of time getting familiar with our collection of sheet metal hammers and you will quickly learn that no two hammers are the same in exactly every way. Truth be told, even two hammers used for sheet metal working or forming won’t be the same, and even these will exhibit wide variability.
Given the number of precision formations, manipulations or alterations that can be performed on a sheet of metal, it really isn’t surprising that there is so much variability. However, it is important that you get the right tool for the job or you’ll end up “using a screwdriver to drive nails,” for lack of a fitting term.
The specifications of a given hammer can make it much easier to perform a given task – or nearly impossible. This short guide will shed some light on these different processes and make some of them easier to understand. At the end of it, you should be well on your way to picking out the perfect hammer for whatever job you need to accomplish.
What Sheet Metal Hammers Are Used for
By now, you must be aware that hammers are used for much more than just driving nails and pulling them out. Hammers are used for a wide variety of shaping, forming and finishing processes. Some specialized hammers are even used for making precise breaks in a medium, like brick or masonry hammers – but that is the subject of another blog post.
This post will deal in the different types and styles of sheet metal hammers, and the processes for which they can be used. Here are some of the most common processes that are commonly completed with the aid of the proper, specialized hammer.
Raising is a specialized process by which sheet metal can be carefully formed, typically using a specialized sheet metal hammer and a block. This is not one of the more common techniques performed in forging, metallurgy or sheet metal working, but it is fairly recognizable in the forms it produces.
If you aren’t familiar with the process, you probably will be familiar with the product of the end result. Raising typically produces curves in metal that seem to bend away from each other, similar to how a pringle curves around one axis and the edges of the chip curve in the opposite direction of the primary curve. They seem to be opposed to each other.
To accomplish this, a special metal hammer is typically used. Usually, hammers used for raising have narrow flattened heads. A pictorial representation will be helpful here. Though we don’t call it a raising hammer, our stretching hammer (pictured below) has the head geometry commonly found in raising hammers. That said, stretching, for which this hammer has been designed, is another process that will be detailed below.
Stretching is another highly specialized forming technique that is commonly used in sheet metal working, and is accomplished via the aid of a hammer called by the unsurprising name of a stretching hammer. For an example of what a stretching hammer looks like, please see the image above, which is of a stretching hammer that we offer for sale here on our website.
Despite the name, stretching is not actually performed to lengthen a piece of metal, although that could probably be achieved by working both sides of the sheet equally. Rather, stretching is used to create contours in a piece of metal by “stretching” out one side of the sheet. When you stretch one side of the sheet (by hammering it) it will curve in the opposite direction. Typically, these bends and contours are performed not only with a specialized hammer but also with the aid of a die.
Planishing and Polishing
The term planishing comes from the Latin word for flat, which is also where we get the word “plane” which means a very similar thing. Planishing is a process that refers to the flattening or even the polishing of metal, which can be performed via the aid of a specialized hammer known as, you guessed it, a planishing hammer.
Despite the fact that planishing itself can refer to the process of flattening a sheet of metal, often it refers to the act of removing any hammer marks introduced during the process of forming the sheet. It can also refer to the act of polishing the sheet itself. For this reason, many planishing hammers have very smooth or even polished faces that can help them to remove coarse marks and restore a smooth finish to the outside of metal. This technique is commonly used on copper sheet metal.
Chasing is a very unique process in metalworking and just precisely what it means might vary according to the application. However, in sheet metal working, chasing typically refers to the process of using the hammer as a tool for striking another tool which can be used to introduce detail onto the sheet metal medium. Typically it does not remove metal from the stock, but creates indents and precise marks on the surface, and is accomplished via the aid of wedges and other implements.
The chasing hammer itself usually makes no contact with the sheet metal. Chasing hammers typically have two faces: one flat face for striking the chasing tool and a ball peen edge which can be used to shape the sheet metal itself, if that becomes necessary.
Creasing and Seaming
Some sheet metal hammers have sharply angled heads that can be used for forming very precise creases in sheet metal. In the hands of a particularly skilled sheet metal worker, a hammer can be used to produce long, straight creases in a sheet of metal, which can even be used in the formation of seams, which is another specific application to which specialized hammers can be applied.
Much of the time, sheet metal roofers will probably use specialized seaming tools like pliers or dedicated seamers to begin or finish seams, but skilled craftsmen can create the folds and creases in sheet metal that are required to start some seams.
A skilled craftsman can work with rivets with a hammer, although hammers are not the only tools used to install and manipulate rivets. However, when a hammer is used, more often than not it will have a specialized head. One face will be flat, and the other will be wedge shaped.
The flat face of a riveting hammer is used to drive and flatten the heads of rivets so as to increase the friction they produce in their slot. The wedged side of the head can be used to separate the soft heads of some rivets to accomplish a similar objective.
Bending and Forming
Finally, a sheet metal hammer can be used to perform a large variety of bending and forming processes that don’t neatly fall into any other category here described. Hammers with specialized heads can be used to bend, cup, indent, mark, shift, stretch, and otherwise form a sheet of metal. In truth, with the right hammer and the die or an anvil, a skilled craftsman can produce extremely precise bends and formations in sheet metal stock. That’s why the hammer and anvil are the quintessential tools of the metallurgist.
Valuable Traits in Sheet Metal Hammers
With the knowledge that specialized hammers can be used to manipulate sheet metal so precisely, here are some of the most important traits you can look for when you’re shopping for one.
The most important thing to remember is the fact that you’ll need a specific hammer to facilitate your job. Make sure that the hammer has the specialized traits you need to execute the job in front of you, and then you can look for any of the following traits.
A dead blow head
If you’ve never used a dead blow hammer you’ll probably find the design interesting, and once you hold one, you’ll know immediately what they are. Dead blow hammers consist of a hammer with a hollow head, often made of a soft material like plastic. Inside of the head there is a load of lead shot, sand, or other weighted material. The chamber which contains these materials is larger than the volume of the load, allowing it to shift or slide around in the head of the hammer.
The reason for this design is because it allows a significant amount of the mass of the hammer’s head, in some cases, the better part of it, to lag behind the stroke of the hammer. This reduces the impulse of the strike delivered, but it also delivers more of the force, as it spreads out the time over which the force is delivered, and it diminishes rebound. In other words, more of the energy delivered actually goes into the medium being struck.
The soft faces of most dead blow hammers also helps to diminish impulse and deliver more energy, which further enhances the value of the hammer. Some hammers used for chasing are dead blow hammers for this very reason.
An angled head or specialized faces
An angled head, such as that you would find on a seaming or riveting hammer, or a specialized face like those on a planishing, polishing or stretching hammer, is also useful for getting the job done, depending on what it is.
A light planishing hammer wouldn’t be very good for making seams in sheet metal, but by contrast, a heavy seaming hammer with a metal head probably wouldn’t be the best for chasing. Keep the job’s specifics in focus because you’ll need a specialized hammer.
A non-marring head
Depending on the metal you’re working with, a non-marring head might also be very valuable. For example, if you’re working with highly polished copper or aluminum sheet metal, a hammer with a metal head or faces could damage the finish of the sheet metal with every strike.
That’s why some sheet metal hammers are made with PVC heads or other soft materials, including plastic and wood. These materials enable you to deliver the right force to sheet metal in order to shape it while freeing you from the damage that would otherwise be done to the surface or the finish.
High quality materials, one piece construction where applicable
It’s also important to look for the highest quality materials possible and the best construction techniques, because these will bake longevity right into the hammer. While you’ll want to look for synthetics like plastic or PVC if you’re looking for a non-marring or dead blow hammer, wood handles, anti-fatigue synthetic handles or leather wrapped grips are tops. You also may find value in one-piece, forged construction, as tools featuring this are among the toughest.
If the head is metal, hardened faces
If your hammer has a metal head, you should look for one that has a hardened head or faces. This will ensure that the head of the hammer lasts longer and does not deform on contact with the material you are working.
A comfortable grip
Finally, it helps if the tool you choose has a comfortable and sturdy grip. An anti-fatigue grip, when coupled with other value enhancing features, will also make the tool more practical overall. While wood and steel are extremely durable and will last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance, certain anti-fatigue grips or stacked leather grips can better form to the user’s hands and will be more comfortable in the long term, diminishing discomfort and fatigue.
Call Us for More Information!
All things being considered, by this point you should be ready to take a quick look through our collection of sheet metal hammers and choosing the models that you or your team needs to complete your jobs.
We offer a huge collection of high quality tools, especially essential tools for working sheet metal, including top picks from brands like Stubai, Freund, Malco and others, and we place the highest emphasis on quality. Our philosophy is that you should ideally purchase something once and keep it for life, and quality is requisite for that.
If you need any help or have any questions about any of the products we sell, our customer service team is always ready to help. Just get in touch with us at 888-847-3456 and let us know what you need or you’re looking for and we’ll be glad to assist.