Last updated
20-pound (9.1 kg) and 10-pound (4.5 kg) sledgehammers
Classification Hand tool; Improvised weapon
Used with Wedge; hammer wrench
Related War hammer

A sledgehammer is a tool with a large, flat, often metal head, attached to a long handle. The long handle combined with a heavy head allows the sledgehammer to gather momentum during a swing and apply a large force compared to hammers designed to drive nails. Along with the mallet, it shares the ability to distribute force over a wide area. This is in contrast to other types of hammers, which concentrate force in a relatively small area.



A straight peen sledge hammer from an 1899 American book on blacksmithing Hammer straight pane sledge.jpg
A straight peen sledge hammer from an 1899 American book on blacksmithing

The word sledgehammer is derived from the Anglo Saxon "slægan", which, in its first sense, means "to strike violently". The English words "slag", "slay", and "slog" are cognates. [1] [2]


Spike maul used for driving railroad spikes during track construction C&O Railway Heritage Center - Sledgehammer.jpg
Spike maul used for driving railroad spikes during track construction

The handle can range from 50 centimetres (1 ft 8 in) to a full 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) long, depending on the mass of the head. [3] The head mass is usually 1 to 9 kilograms (2.2 to 19.8 lb). Modern heavy duty sledgehammers come with 10-to-20-pound (4.5–9.1 kg) heads. Sledgehammers usually require two hands and a swinging motion involving the entire torso, in contrast to smaller hammers used for driving in nails. The combination of a long swinging range, and heavy head, increases the force of the resulting impact.

Sledgehammers are often used in demolition work, for breaking through drywall or masonry walls. Sledgehammers were formerly widely used in mining operations, particularly hand steel, but are rarely used in modern mining. Sledgehammers are also used when substantial force is necessary to dislodge a trapped object (often in farm or oil field work), or for fracturing concrete. Another common use is for driving fence posts into the ground. Sledgehammers are used by police forces in raids on property to gain entry by force, commonly through doors. They were and still are commonly used by blacksmiths to shape heavy sections of iron. The British SAS counter terrorist team used sledgehammers to gain access to rooms during the 1980 Iranian Embassy Siege. However, today they use a tool called a "dynamic hammer".

Another use of sledgehammers is for driving railroad spikes into wooden sleepers during rail construction. When the two ends of the Union Pacific railroad were joined at Promontory, Utah, Leland Stanford hammered a golden spike into a sleeper with a silver hammer. [4] Sledges used to drive spikes for rails had curved heads that came down to a "beak" that was only about one inch across. The shape meant that drivers needed to be accurate, and spot where the spike hit was often not much larger than a small coin, as anything larger would hit the plate or the sleeper. The curved head kept the handle away from the rail, as the spikes were driven with the rail between the spike and the driver. These are often called spike mauls.

Drilling hammer

A man cutting a paving stone using a drilling hammer to drive a chisel
Drilling hammer SVG Drilling Hammer.svg
Drilling hammer

A drilling hammer, [5] club hammer, lump hammer, crack hammer, mini-sledge or thor hammer is a small sledgehammer whose relatively light weight and short handle allow one-handed use. [6] It is useful for light demolition work, driving masonry nails, and for use with a steel chisel when cutting stone or metal. [7] In this last application, its weight drives the chisel more deeply into the material being cut than lighter hammers. Club hammers are common on the British inland waterways for driving mooring pins into the towpath or canal bank.

Scouts BSA [8] has adopted the shorter sledgehammer, commonly referred to as an engineer's hammer, [9] as an unofficial tool referred to as the scout hammer, as a complement to the pocket knife and hand axe. The handle is 12–18 inches (30–46 cm) long with a head weighing 2 to 6 lb (0.91–2.72 kg). The hammer is used for a variety of purposes such as driving tent stakes, establishing temporary fencing using wood or metal rebar, splitting wood in conjunction with a wedge, or straightening all that is bent.

Post maul

Post maul Post maul - 20040819.jpg
Post maul

Post mauls are similar to sledgehammers in shape, but are meant to drive wooden fence posts or tree stakes into the earth. Newer mauls have broad, flat circular faces that are significantly larger in diameter than the body of the head (where the handle attaches). Older post mauls are significantly larger than sledgehammers like their newer counterparts except the outside diameter (body) of older post maul designs remained the same large diameter as that of the faces of the hammer from one side to the other side. Sledgehammers usually have octagonal faces that are the same diameter or slightly smaller than the body of the head, and they are not nearly as large in overall diameter as a post maul.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Forge</span> Workshops of a blacksmith, who is an ironsmith who makes iron into tools or other objects

A forge is a type of hearth used for heating metals, or the workplace (smithy) where such a hearth is located. The forge is used by the smith to heat a piece of metal to a temperature at which it becomes easier to shape by forging, or to the point at which work hardening no longer occurs. The metal is transported to and from the forge using tongs, which are also used to hold the workpiece on the smithy's anvil while the smith works it with a hammer. Sometimes, such as when hardening steel or cooling the work so that it may be handled with bare hands, the workpiece is transported to the slack tub, which rapidly cools the workpiece in a large body of water. However, depending on the metal type, it may require an oil quench or a salt brine instead; many metals require more than plain water hardening. The slack tub also provides water to control the fire in the forge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hammer</span> Tool consisting of a shaft with a weighted head attached at a right angle

A hammer is a tool, most often a hand tool, consisting of a weighted "head" fixed to a long handle that is swung to deliver an impact to a small area of an object. This can be, for example, to drive nails into wood, to shape metal, or to crush rock. Hammers are used for a wide range of driving, shaping, breaking and non-destructive striking applications. Traditional disciplines include carpentry, blacksmithing, warfare, and percussive musicianship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nail (fastener)</span> Sharp object of hard metal used as a fastener

In woodworking and construction, a nail is a small object made of metal which is used as a fastener, as a peg to hang something, or sometimes as a decoration. Generally, nails have a sharp point on one end and a flattened head on the other, but headless nails are available. Nails are made in a great variety of forms for specialized purposes. The most common is a wire nail. Other types of nails include pins, tacks, brads, spikes, and cleats.

A war hammer is a weapon that was used by both foot soldiers and cavalry. It is a very ancient weapon and gave its name, owing to its constant use, to Judah Maccabee, a 2nd-century BC Jewish rebel, and to Charles Martel, one of the rulers of France. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the war hammer became an elaborately decorated and handsome weapon.

Chisel Tool for cutting and carving

A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal by hand, struck with a mallet, or mechanical power. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or of wood with a sharp edge in it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Drill</span> Tool used to create holes

A drill is a tool used for making round holes or driving fasteners. It is fitted with a bit, either a drill or driverchuck. with hand-operated types dramatically decreasing in popularity and cordless battery-powered ones proliferating.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Splitting maul</span>

A splitting maul also known as a block buster, block splitter, chop and maul, sledge axe, go-devil or hamaxe is a heavy, long-handled axe used for splitting a piece of wood along its grain. One side of its head is like a sledgehammer, and the other side is like an axe.

Rivet Permanent mechanical fastener

A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener. Before being installed, a rivet consists of a smooth cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. The end opposite to the head is called the tail. On installation, the rivet is placed in a punched or drilled hole, and the tail is upset, or bucked, so that it expands to about 1.5 times the original shaft diameter, holding the rivet in place. In other words, the pounding or pulling creates a new "head" on the tail end by smashing the "tail" material flatter, resulting in a rivet that is roughly a dumbbell shape. To distinguish between the two ends of the rivet, the original head is called the factory head and the deformed end is called the shop head or buck-tail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mallet</span> Tool for striking the workpiece or another tool with a relatively large head

A mallet is a tool used for imparting force on another object, often made of rubber or sometimes wood, that is smaller than a maul or beetle, and usually has a relatively large head. The term is descriptive of the overall size and proportions of the tool, and not the materials it may be made of, though most mallets have striking faces that are softer than steel.

Framing hammer

A framing hammer is a form of claw hammer used for heavy wood construction, particularly house framing and concrete formwork. It is a heavy duty rip hammer with a straight claw and a wood, metal, or fiberglass handle. Head weights vary from 20 to 32 ounces for steel, and 12 to 16 ounces for titanium. Heavy heads, longer handles and milled faces allow for driving large nails quickly into dimensional lumber. Other features include a sharp checkerboard "milled" face for gripping nails, and, since the 1980s, an unusually large and short face for increasing driving area without increasing weight.

Claw hammer

A claw hammer is a hammer primarily used in carpentry for driving nails into or pulling them from wood. Historically, a claw hammer has been associated with woodworking, but is also used in general applications. It is not suitable for heavy hammering on metal surfaces, as the steel of its head is somewhat brittle; the ball-peen hammer is more suitable for such metalwork.

Nail gun Type of power tool

A nail gun, nailgun or nailer is a form of hammer used to drive nails into wood or other materials. It is usually driven by compressed air (pneumatic), electromagnetism, highly flammable gases such as butane or propane, or, for powder-actuated tools, a small explosive charge. Nail guns have in many ways replaced hammers as tools of choice among builders.

Post pounder Tool

A post pounder, post driver, post rammer, post knocker or fence driver is a tool used for driving fence posts and similar items into land surfaces. It consists of a heavy steel pipe which is closed at one end and has handles welded onto the sides. It is normally used by one person, but larger versions may require two.

Geologists hammer Hammer used for splitting and breaking rocks

A geologist's hammer, rock hammer, rock pick, geological pick, or informally geo pick, is a hammer used for splitting and breaking rocks. In field geology, they are used to obtain a fresh surface of a rock to determine its composition, bedding orientation, nature, mineralogy, history, and field estimate of rock strength. In fossil and mineral collecting, they are employed to break rocks with the aim of revealing specimens inside. Geologist's hammers are also sometimes used for scale in a photograph. The hammer also serves as an extension of the senses, permitting the geologist to perceive the rock's granularity, soundness, and resistance to fracturing that may be relevant to its use or identification.

A maul may refer to any number of large hammers, including:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Axe</span> Type of wedge tool

An axe is an implement that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood, to harvest timber, as a weapon, and as a ceremonial or heraldic symbol. The axe has many forms and specialised uses but generally consists of an axe head with a handle, or helve.

Rail fastening system Rail-tie/sleeper binding mechanism

A rail fastening system is a means of fixing rails to railroad ties or sleepers. The terms rail anchors, tie plates, chairs and track fasteners are used to refer to parts or all of a rail fastening system. The components of a rail fastening system may also be known collectively as other track material, or OTM for short. Various types of fastening have been used over the years.

A spike maul is a type of hand tool used to drive railroad spikes in railroad track work. It is also known as a spiking hammer.

Wood splitting Process of cleaving wood into lumber along the grain

Wood splitting is an ancient technique used in carpentry to make lumber for making wooden objects, some basket weaving, and to make firewood. Unlike wood sawing, the wood is split along the grain using tools such as a hammer and wedges, splitting maul, cleaving axe, side knife, or froe.

In German-speaking countries, the miner's toolset is known as a Gezähe formerly also abbreviated to Gezäh. It is a set of personally-owned mining tools and equipment needed by the miner in his daily work.


  1. An Anglo Saxon Dictionary, Joseph Bosworth, The Clarendon press, 1882
  2. "Slag". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  3. Richards, Robert (1908). Ore Dressing. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. p. 10.
  4. Ambrose, Stephen E. Nothing Like It In The World. (2001) p. 365-367.
  5. Wilson, Andrew (2008). Determination of Pavement Thickness Using Spectral Analysis of Surface Waves. Ann Arbor, Michigan: ProQuest LLC. pp. 94–95. ISBN   9780549825500 . Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  6. Vila, Bob. "Types of Hammers" . Retrieved 2013-12-23.
  7. "Different types of hammers - what there are, and what each type is designed for". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  8. "Scouts BSA". Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  9. Darling, David. "engineer's hammer". Retrieved 2019-09-17.