When looking for a framing hammer, it finally boils down to your personal preference. After all, if you know how to swing your hammer, it won’t matter much which hammer you use.
But then again, there are so many things to consider! Should you get a wood or steel handle? What should be the handle shape? Should the head be steel or titanium? What about the grip?
To keep you out of all confusion, we reviewed today’s most popular and highly recommended framing hammer choices. Check out our findings and see which hammer suits you best!
Best Framing Hammers on the Market
01 Stanley 51-165 20-Ounce FatMax Xtreme AntiVibe
The Fatmax is manufactured out of a single piece of drop forged steel and is of moderate weight at 16 oz. It is portable and does not strain the user. It employs an anti-vibration technology, AntiVibe, that cuts down on jerks and shocks reducing body stresses on impact.
Our team of researchers/ reviewers stick to what we know and do best. We don’t do racing cars but framing hammers are very much within our ambit. You may be asking so what is there in it for us. Simple, we have built up a reputation as a trustworthy neutral ground whose findings are authentic.
Our goal is two pronged; manufacturers can take note of any short comings but mostly, to raise consumers awareness. We first study a whole long list, check online reviews and garner as much info as possible before narrowing down to the main contenders. We focus on those.
When our team put it to the test so as to judge for ourselves, it surprised us. We pitted it against the Estwing E20S and the Stanley 51-403 which are of forged steel also.
The difference was dramatic. A big yes to the AntiVibe.
The grip has torsion control so that the torque on the elbows and wrists are reduced. This one-piece hammer is of durable design and non-slip. This is another facet we explore in depth. After all, unless you have a good grip on the tool, the results will be skewed.
The grip is comfortable but with gloves on, which we very much recommend by the way, it could extend a bit more. The strike face is 75% more than other hammers. The overall length is 13 ¾ “. This hammer is balanced with precision. The Fatmax is a rip-claw hammer with a flat face.
The head being 16 oz., the hammer though of steel is light enough for dexterous handling. We come away with utter satisfaction at the performance of the Stanley 51-165.
- The handle is non-slip and the hammer does not slip out because of sweaty palms
- The moderate weight allows you to carry out easily
- The handle too is of moderate length
- Forged steel hammer and hence durable
- Lifetime warranty
- The flathead can cause problems
It is our business to review products in-depth and present our professional and dependable feedback to you. The FatMax Xtreme is simply the best framing hammer because it’s reliable, versatile, and safe. It clinches the deal by offering a lifetime warranty. This is one tool that belongs in your tool-belt and you will not break into sweat carrying it. It wins our vote of confidence.
02 Estwing 20 oz E20S
Estwing’s solid rip hammers are unsurpassed in their balance and temper. The head and handle being forged in one piece, its durability is top-notch. The head is in the range 12 oz. to 20 oz with a handle length overall of 12 ½ “. It is smooth-faced and provided with a leather grip. A waffle faced hammer is also optionally available.
It is an American product wholly. The grip is a patented shock reduction grip and is of nylon vinyl.
Our team conducted an independent quality and performance evaluation of the Estwing E20S. When a hammer is gripped well and swung loosely, you get a good feel of the balance. The E20S passed with flying colors.
Our next test was to actually hammer a nail in. We always use a left handed person and a right handed person to do this independently. The test involves driving the nail in all the way. Both came back that the balance and force was more than enough but the leather grip was not good enough for a top-class tool like the E20S.
It is a very good choice as a utility hammer in our opinion.
- Sturdy and well-balanced.
- Superior craftsmanship.
- Anti-shock grip
- Manufactured in America
- Handle length may be constrictive.
This wonderfully crafted tool is ideal for light to medium tasks. All the components combine well to give a balanced feel, superior control and is extremely easy to use. We suggest the milled face option for unerring contact. The Estwing family has been in the business since 1923 which makes them forbearers in the industry.
03 Stanley 51-403 22-Ounce FatMax Over-Strike
With a head that weighs in at 22 oz., the Stanley FatMax is a super-charged framing hammer. The face is chequered or edged and has a magnetic nail starter.
The head and handle are forged and heat-treated for ultimate durability. The Stanley 51-403 has a rip claw and the handle is of Hickory shaped like an axe handle. The head length is 6 ?“ and the overall length 18 ¼”.
This product from the Stanley Tools Company has a lifetime warranty.
Honestly the team went aboard a bit with the oohs and aahs initially. Here was a hammer that said I can walk the talk. Given the extra length, our home devised swing exercise came out tops, not only for the balance but that the strain on the wrists was minimal.
For our nailing test, we chose a woman this time; she was to deploy the magnetic nail starter and proceed with nailing a 16D nail down. Bang on. No issues there, the nail starter function was smooth, there was not a single, wasted stroke because of the milled face and as such the 51-403 was a perfect hammer.
One of the team suggested we try the claw. The results were not very satisfying. The straight claw was not optimally designed. A slight curvature making it a rip claw or near bouts would have had us screaming ‘Eureka’.
- Handle shape ideal for controlled swings.
- Lifetime warranty
- Good nail contact because of its waffle-head
- Head bonding not quite up to the mark
Our team came across a lot of user reviews on various sites extolling the virtues of the Stanley 22 oz. FatMax. The Amazon rating is 4.5/5.0 which is an amazing 90% approval. As far as framing hammers go, this one walks away with the accolades. It has more features than the price asks. We are of the opinion that the Stanley 51-403 is a reliable purchase.
04 Estwing 22 oz E3-22SM
Here is another terrific offering from Estwing. With a head weight of 16 oz. versatility is its strong suit. What makes it strong and durable is its complete steel construction.
With a forged head, the E3-22SM is the perfect pick for tradesmen, roofers, framers, and DIYers. The finest American steel has gone into the making of this product with Rockford power which halts rusting and corrosion of this product.
Having a rip claw and a flat face, it is very popular among different buyers.
Since one piece of steel is used, it has good strength and is secure. The patented shock reduction grip dampens vibrations making it easy on your hand.
The handle length is 18” and overall weight 25 oz.
It is a cost-friendly and a great buy.
We have waxed a lot about the product, but hey, someone has to do the verification. Our team is amply qualified because that is what we do for a living. For testing this hammer we did not have to travel far because Bob, one of our team, a DIY aficionado, used one of them. He swore by its performance but quickly understood there are no exceptions to our standards.
All our usual tests proved fine. But an issue did crop up. Smooth faced or milled, professionals don’t seem to care. We needed to know why in order to expand our expertise. So we drove up to a nearby construction site and met Miguel, the supervisor to find out more. His answer was a revelation.
A professional is already a 100% sure where his hammer will land. A milled face is for those who are not so sure and always go for the framing nailer. And you don’t get something for nothing. A milled face will absorb some energy of your strike, its asking price.
Wow! That sure made sense.
When we made a comparative study between the Estwing 22 and the Fiskars Isocore, both being of 16 oz. heads, shock reduction was significantly lesser in the Fiskars. Another thing we liked in the Fiskars is the dimpled, contoured handle. It is comfortable as well as a good fit.
The Estwing on the other hand is preferred by professionals.
- Very durable steel
- Large size
- Shock-resistant handle
- The flat edge face is unwieldy in handling different tasks
The Estwing E3-22SM is a bestseller. Notching up a ranking of 4.8 is the hallmark of a worthwhile product. It is an all American carpentry tool and the anti-rust treatment leaves the competition behind. It is embraced by a wide cross-section of users and is general-purpose. Our team is much impressed with so many features packed into a hammer and that too quite inexpensive.
05 Fiskars Isocore 22 oz Milled-Face
With a lightweight 16 oz. hammerhead, this one is for heavy-duty jobs and big framing tasks. With a handle length of 16”, and with an aggressively milled face, this hammer is a favorite among framers.
To dampen the vibrations, the handle is dual-layered with an insulating handle. The manufacturer’s patented Isocore Shock Control System is the hallmark of the Fiskars Isocore and reduces shock and vibration by four times.
Made of forged steel, this robust and powerful hammer is finished with a rust protection coating. It is of a supremely balanced design. The milled face ensures firm contact with the head of the nail and sliding off is never an issue.
It also features a magnetic nail starter so that you can work with one hand where space is cramped. The rip claw is efficient in pulling nails out.
The soft-grip handle is contoured to fit your palm smoothly the handle is dimpled with small and large indentations for a solid grip and no blisters. The extended grip gives better control for precision strikes.
The price is decent and the Fiskars Isocore comes with a lifetime warranty.
Once in a while you cross paths with a mighty product which you need to review. Of course our professionalism springs to the forefront. The impact test as carried out by a woman and a man proved absolutely great. With one advice; carry the stroke full power right through till impact. No tentative tapping.
Being a professional tool, we decided to take a quick survey of a couple of building sites and see what the framers had in their tool belts. Shockingly, a rough estimate would be ¾ ths.
The Fiskars Isocore is a power to reckon with. If I was in the market for a hammer, this would be the one.
- Optimized head to take on the toughest working conditions
- Top-quality steel offers durability and top performance
- Shocks and vibrations are dampened by the Isocore Shock Control System
- Innovative grip design for a nonslip, blister-free experience
- Force for pulling out nails could be better
Among all the heavy head models, the Fiskars Isocare 22 oz. gets our unconditional vote as Editor Choice. With its superb design and ergonomic features, it is a bonanza. Our special interest is the Shock Control System and the scientifically styled handle grip. For once, the rating got it all wrong; it deserves more than a 4.5.
06 TEKTON 22 oz. Jacketed Fiberglass Magnetic Head | 30325
This hammer is for professional carpenters with its 22 oz. hammerhead, the length, and intensity of purpose. The Tekton 22 oz. is fabricated from the highest grade steel, is solid and the last word in durability capable of standing up to damages. The weight overall is 36 oz.
The milled head prevents nail slipping and has a nail starter magnetic slot. The fiberglass handle gives superior control and is inherently shock reducing. The overall weight is also kept down.
An exterior poly jacket makes sure that all hits are bang on with no missed strikes. The epoxy coating from head-to-handle does not come loose with age.
The pricing is decent and quite affordable. With the design and features it has, it is suitable for all users.
In all our experiments with hammers, this was the first time the team came up against a fiberglass handled hammer. So how did it fare? Perfect balance, even for Sam, the seemingly frailest person on our team. It took her just eight strikes to get the nail in flush. Brava, girl. She only said, cool hammer.
Now to get the nail out; it was a breeze. We are just measuring performance here, not endurance. It is a professional tool, no doubt. That being said, lesser users will be equally comfortable with this tool.
And yes, the shock perceived was quite minimal. The nail starter was effective enough to deploy the hammer with one hand. We have to hand it to the TEKTON as one great tool.
- Made of high-grade steel and very durable
- The vibrations are restrained because of the highly durable fiberglass handle
- The sharpened straight claw gets into constricted spaces for pulling nails & demolition
- Cross milled faced practically negates all chances of missed blows
- Affordable price
- Straight claw is not very useful
- Head mounting questionable
This is a well-designed tool right down to the fine details. Though on the heavier side, it is not for hobbyists but rather the preferred tool of professionals who are more expert. The high performance of the Tekton 30325 requires experience. It is an economical marvel of engineering. The one drawback we could find was the bond between the head and the fiberglass.
07 Stiletto TB15MC TiBone 15 oz Milled-Face
No list on any website is complete without the mention of Stiletto TB15MC which is the best of the best. There is nothing superior to it in our opinion.
The hammerhead is fabricated of titanium. It is a 15 oz. hammer but many users have vouched that it drives like a 28 oz. hammer. Titanium is 40% less weight than steel. This translates into the benefit of wielding a much lighter hammer but deriving the intense power of a monster steel framer.
Titanium being recoil absorbent, does not require any Anti-Shock Systems. It reduces impact by up to ten times as compared to steel. However, a standard rubber grip is provided.
The grip is of the ax style, slightly curved which eases driving. The Stiletto has a magnetic, milled or edged face. An added bonus is that this edged face is replaceable. So when with use it wears down, gets chipped or otherwise damaged you don’t have to chuck your hammer away.
Another interesting and useful facet of this hammer is that nail side-puller. The claim by Stiletto is that with a 180° twist even 16D nails can be popped out with their new patented puller.
The handle length is 17 ½“, which some will find difficult to control initially. But it spells more force.
The warranty is for one year.
When we got down to reviewing this hammer, the first thing was to pit it against and the Dalluge DDT 16P, both being titanium. It was a tough contest right from go.
Strike 1; Stiletto scores with a replaceable face.
Strike 2: The Dalluge can handle duplex nails.
Equalizers; side nail pullers, beautiful balance.
Our team, when we got down to the nitty-gritty, found the long handle a bit awkward initially. But once that hiccup was overcome, the strike force was simply awesome. The axe handle curvature is a delightful innovation in enhancing control. To sum it up, this comment from a professional framer would put things in perspective, “wish I had this 27 years back, my elbow would have been spared.”
- Made of titanium, the last word in toughness and durability
- Lightweight so less energy is expended
- Innovative nail side-puller
- Replaceable face
- Quite expensive.
- Handle length may take time getting used to
We were pretty much goggle-eyed as we went about reviewing the Stiletto. The nail side-puller had us for a bit till we came upon a user review, who said, “Can’t get enough of the nail side-puller.” Agreed at around $250 a pop, it is the most expensive of our picks but then it’s an heirloom. With a power-packed arsenal of features and a sensational design, we vote the Stiletto TB15MC as the best choice.
08 Stiletto Tools Inc TI14SC Titan 14 oz with Curved Handle
This framing hammer is manufactured with a titanium head. A magnetic groove is provided to set the nail without injuring your thumb and fingers.
Armed with a straight claw, it is lightweight at 14 oz. and the ergonomic 16” curved Hickory handle generates sufficient leverage with ease. It has the driving power of a 24 oz steel hammer with considerably less recoil than steel. The head is of a smooth face.
When we got down to verifying this product, we were pretty upbeat. Till our team leader spoilt it all. All Stilettos are not equal. In our brief toolbox discussion we hit upon a strategy. No matter what tool you use – whether that’s a drum sander or an air impact wrench or a wood router – performance always also calls for a certain level of productivity. That is a good yardstick of ease of use and user fatigue.
We assigned two people, a woman and a man. They managed around 20. Considering that a professional does anything between 40-60, we felt that the Stiletto TI14SC was a pretty good offering from the Stiletto Company. Sure, it is an expensive tool but we don’t exactly buy hammers every year.
- Ergonomic design
- The straight claw generates more pulling power
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Durable and sturdy being of titanium
- The flat face can result in glancing blows
Stiletto Company has been in the business long enough since 1849 to be precise. For our team to find any flaws in their products, extensive research yielded only high praise. Pricewise its a mid-range product though tilting towards being expensive. With a rating of 4.5, their user approval is high. It is undoubtedly a superior product clearly manufactured to last a lifetime.
09 Dalluge DDT16P 16 Ounce DDTP Titanium
Dalluge is one of the market leaders in framing hammers. With a 16 oz. head, the DDT16P is an odd-jobber suitable for sundry light tasks. It is of titanium and can therefore rightly boast of extra strength and lasting performance. The face has a few useful embellishments; a side nail-puller for that extra leverage and a claw that is reinforced for greater strength.
The patented Nailoc magnetic nail holder has an improved design over other hammers in that it can hold standard as also duplex nails which is quite useful.
The wooden handle provided is of genuine Hickory which, to make convenient to hold, is finished smooth. The handle is also of a patented shock-absorbent design eliminating torque and shock on the hand and elbow. The handle length is 17.3”.
The Dalluge may not be a household name, but we are very much aware of their awesome presence in the field of hand-tools. Initially when we got down to the task of weighing the hammer, the beautiful craftsmanship had us bowled over. Over the process of reviewing, we also learned a thing or two, a smooth face is for finishing and a milled one, for framing.
The next question we address for our readers is why Hickory? Hickory is an exceptionally hard and enduring wood. Furthurmore it can absorb shock substantially thus combating carpel tunnel syndrome.
To get back to our tests, the Dalluge passed handsomely. The grip leaves something asking. Being straight handled, some users have a grouse against the provided grip. But our feedback is, spare the expense if you can for you are investing longtime here. It was on par with the Stiletto TB15MC.
- Fantastic design
- Strong handle
- Perfectly balanced
The Dalluge DDT16P is a beauty. It is a top-rated tool that every household should have. Framing apart, it is an all-purpose hammer too, safe to use and a must in your toolbox. Our review team had to ponder a bit as to the pricing but caved in finally as titanium is an expensive material for which you get an absolutely maintenance-free product; no rust and no corrosion, with integrity remaining intact.
10 Stiletto TB15MS Tools Inc TI-Bone with Straight Handle
It has a 15 oz. head and an 18” handle. This model is also armed with the Stiletto signature side nail-puller and the magnetic nail starter.
The contoured ergonomically styled straight handle rubber grip is easy on the hand.
The titanium head which is balanced and lightweight banishes hand fatigue.
The overriding influence of titanium heads in reducing carpal tunnel syndrome, a common complaint in framers due to recoil shock that titanium heads effectively reduce greatly, up to ten times more than a steel counterpart.
The Stiletto is especially suitable and recommended for concrete, pole barn, framing, remodeling, and carpentry projects.
The milled face is replaceable. This is another staple of the Stiletto series and is a notable variant. Our team discovered early enough that a straight handle is preferred by few. Digging further, we find this has more to do with personal comfort owing to ergonomical requirements.
Being titanium headed, it can rightfully boast of a great many advantages which are true. As far as recoil goes, the Stiletto TB15MS is truly smooth. The nail side puller proved its worth, it is all that it promised. The grip is what a grip should be. A worthy investment we say.
- Ergonomically designed
- 10 times less recoil
- Effective side nail-puller
- Lightweight and well balanced
The Stiletto Company was established in 1849 which itself tells volumes about their pedigree in the industry. Their products are top-notch on review albeit pricey. They take care of delivering a safe woodworking tool. The middling rating accorded this product we don’t endorse. It is a superior product by far and consumers are better off not being penny-wise.
Best Framing Hammer Buying Guide
1. Head Material and Weight
The head weight is what a framing hammer depends on. The weight of the head and the handle should be distributed so as to be balanced.
A framing hammer begins at 20 oz. and can go up to 32 oz. This heavier weight is required to drive heavy duty 3 ½ “long 16D nails into thick lumber.
The heavier the weight, the power required will be less but it gets difficult to handle. The optimal weight is 16 oz. to 22 oz. This is an ideal weight to keep you going by cutting back on the effort required.
The material is steel, heat-treated for hardness.
A claw is provided which is straight unlike as in a claw hammer where it is curved.
a) Waffle Face
This is the choice of professionals and the most common face-type on framing hammers. The waffled surface provides a secure grip on the nail head with little chance of slippage.
b) Flat Face
These too are used often in framing hammer but having a propensity to slip, it is more used by professionals as the strike should be true.
Tang is the extension of a knife or a hammer around which a handle is wrapped. In a full-tang knife, the shaft extends all the way down the handle.
In a partial-tang knife, the shaft extends only partially. That is the reason why full-tang knives are very strong, are unlikely to bend or fail. In a hammer, the manufacturing process is different.
Hammers come with a slot on the head through which the handle is driven. This is the weak spot and failure occurs here. Forged hammers where the handle is integral with the head are very strong.
The most common are heads with a socket into which the head of the handle is fitted. They may have retaining screws to ensure the handle does not slip out. Framing hammers follow this design. A handle grip is extruded on to the surface.
4. Handle Material
The handle of a framing hammer plays a crucial role. Were it to snap in the process of hammering, an ugly accident could result.
A handle’s strength is a measure of the material used in its construction. The following materials are commonly used.
Steel remains unmatched as far as strength goes. It is also the heaviest. They score tops in durability and safety is not an issue. However, vibrations of hammering the nails are transmitted to the arm. Steel handle hammers are suitable for hobbyists but professionals do not use them.
A substitute for steel available is titanium; its more expensive, lighter and stronger.
Fiberglass handles are an alternative to steel. They are durable, easier on the hand and tempers the strike thereby inuring the arm from trauma.
Wood causes the least distress to the arm by diminishing any kind of a shock to the arm.
They are however less durable than their counterparts and cracks will eventually show up wit constant use. Also, they are pressed into service outdoors where framing hammers usually are used and wear of the elements does occur.
5. Handle Size and Length
This is a consideration that you need to weigh carefully. Handles are of either 13” and 17” in length. A long handle transmits more weight. A long handle teamed with a 20 oz. head is an ideal combination for a framing hammer.
6. User Fatigue and Shocks
Since this aspect involves occupational safety, take it seriously. While hammering, the shock is transmitted to the arm. This is a repetitive occurrence and can be dangerous. You need to minimize it. A wooden handle is the most suitable option.
So choose your framing hammer carefully so the fatigue doesn’t set in after using the hammer for a long time.
You can get a framing hammer for $20 and also $200. Price is directly proportional to quality. You can opt for a hammer for a short term project or one that will last a lifetime and can be passed down to the next generation. If you are on a budget, consider some quality so that an accident does not occur.
Care & Maintenance
- A workplace perforce needs to be uncluttered, well lit and ventilated. Loose objects and debris only set you back
- This is a golden rule; inspect the hammer carefully before use. Do not take it for granted that the last time was fine, so why now
- Eye protection is strongly emphasized. High speed, fine metal particles from impact can penetrate the eyes with disastrous consequences
- Instruct onlookers to keep their distance so your swing is not cramped
- Pulling out nails is tricky. Make sure that the claw is positioned accurately
- If you are using a ladder to hammer nails, maintain balance by not sticking your lower body out of the ladder rails
- The organization is key. Keep your hammers in the proper place when not in use
- Keep hammers out of reach of children
- Store hammers in a cool and dry location out of contact with foul weather
Upkeep and maintenance of your hammers are the solutions to extend their lifespan. Wooden handles will warp and split. Steel handles will rust.
- Choose your hammer carefully to go with the job at hand. It should be comfortable, of the right size and weight
- The hammer should have a striking face of at least 12mm greater than the face being struck (chisel, wedge or punches)
- Your hammer handle should be sufficiently cushioned to absorb harmful shocks and impacts
- Always use hammers with electrically insulated handles when working around live zones
- The connection between handle and head should be faultless
- The handle should be without cracks, splintering or loose. Replace if needed
- Hammers with chipped or mushroomed faces or cracks in the claw or eye sections should be discarded
- A blow should land fair and square, dead on with the face parallel to the surface being struck
1. How do a framing hammer and a regular hammer differ?
Ans. A standard household claw hammer is 10-16 oz. and is meant for light tasks. A framing hammer is upwards of 16 oz up to 30 oz. It has a waffle face and a longer handle. It is used professionally for building framing and barn construction.
2. What is a California framing hammer?
Ans. These are no different from other framing hammers. The name California came about when the first designs for a framing hammer were made during the building boom in California.
3. What are the components used to make a hammer?
Ans. The handle is fabricated of steel, wood or fiberglass. The head is forged and steels that are hardened are used. Titanium is another material also used.
4. How are a framing hammer and a rip hammer different?
Ans. Both are with straight claws. A Rip hammer is to dismantle or tear apart a structure for rebuilding. A Framing hammer is for putting up a structure.
5. How much should a quality hammer weigh?
Ans. This is totally determined by the use to which it will be put. Overall 16-24 oz. is the norm.
6. How is a hammer best held?
Ans. To properly hold a hammer, your grip should be at the end of the handle. Swing it loosely and get a feel of it. A well-constructed hammer has a nice balance and a recess at the end of the handle for your palm to wrap around comfortably.