Claw hammers are differentiated by their head weight in ounces. For most folks, a 16 to 20 ounce weight works best. When you hold a hammer, you want to feel most of the weight in the head, which translates to striking power. It also means the handle is relatively lightweight; this is especially important if you’ll be hammering above your head or if you’re using the hammer in long bursts.
Speaking of weight and striking power, a stainless steel handle is the strongest of three but is also the heaviest. The steel handle adds to the hammer’s overall weight without adding overall striking power. Stainless steel also carries the most vibration from the hammer head to your hand, which can lead to strain over time. Most folks use stainless steel hammers for demolition and masonry projects—destruction not construction.
Fiberglass handles are lighter, keeping most of the weight in the head. Fiberglass is non-conductive, making it an excellent choice for electricians. These hammers are also the most affordable.
Wood handles are prone to splitting and, without a grip, are slippery. That said, they are excellent for cutting down on vibration and are often lightweight. Good for lower impact, higher frequency nailing projects, like framing and trim work.
Standard handle length is anywhere between 14 to 18 inches long. Pro tip: if you’re remodeling or building homes, a 16 inch hammer can serve as a quick measuring guide for where to place (or where to find) studs.
Side Puller: More efficient and easier to pull nails out than with the claw.
Magnetic Nail Holder: Keeps nails in place before hammering, which is especially useful when you’re on a ladder, nailing above your head, or in any hard-to-reach spots.
Flat Head: Gives you the flexibility to nail in tight spots, like at the corner of a 90 degree joint.
Adjustable Claw: A nice, but not necessary, add-on to customize a single hammer’s capabilities with different style or size claws.