There I was, strolling down the hand tool aisle at my local Home Depot, when I spotted two new Estwing Ultra Series hammers. There are two sizes currently available, a 15 oz smooth-face hammer, and a 19 oz milled face hammer.
The new Estwing Ultra hammers are designed to be strong, light, and fast-swinging, but they’re not alone in this regard.
Back in 2011, Dewalt came out with their MIG-welded framing hammers, which they said delivered the punch of much heavier hammers. Their 15 oz hammer was claimed to have the striking power of a 28 oz framing hammer. Dewalt’s goal was to engineer a $60 steel hammer that could match the performance of pricier titanium hammers.
Fast forward to 2013, and Vaughan has come out with their two new Stealth hammers, which weigh in at 17 oz and are said to have the driving power of 32 oz framing hammers.
Dewalt has tweaked their MIG-welded hammer design and will soon be coming out with a stronger and more reinforced version that corrects some of the shortcomings of their original models.
In other words, the competition is heating up.
- Rip claw
- Side nail puller
- High-strength one-piece forged design with no welds that could fail
- Magnetic nail starter
- “World’s best” shock reduction grip that is permanently bonded to the hammer shaft
- 15 oz hammer has smooth face for non-marring of workpieces
- 19 oz hammer has milled face for better nail registration, and a longer handle
- “Unsurpassed balance and temper”
- Model numbers: E6-15SR, E6-19SM
- Made in USA
The 15 oz hammer has a street price of $35, and the 19 oz hammer $40
Update: Estwing has come out with both rubber and leather-handled versions.
To be perfectly honest, I am not too thoroughly impressed. I handled both hammers quite a bit before ultimately deciding to place them back on the rack.
You should be able to see the difference between the Ultra hammer and Estwing’s standard design. To me, it seems to make sense. As mentioned in my titanium-like hammer marketing claims discussion, a hammer’s swing velocity can be improved by lowering its moment of inertia. Essentially, steel is shaved off at the interface between hammer head and handle, to save weight. Slimming down the handle might have helped as well, but not as much.
A faster swing means greater striking power. Tweaking the distribution of weight in the hammer head, the length of the handle, the size of the face, and other parameters, results in a balance between weight, speed, and striking power.
And the final result – lighter hammers that swing swiftly without tiring you out as quick as with heavier hammers.
The 15 oz hammer seemed like a nice nail hammer, but I wasn’t convinced enough to take it home for $35. It seemed a little short, but felt effortless to swing, at least in air, while swinging a conventional hammer with my other hand.
The 19 oz hammer also seemed decent, but I felt that the checkered face was a bit small in size. In addition to the hammer face not being as large as I would have expected, the checkering did not cover the entire striking face. On one hammer, there was an extra-large ring around the milled area, which greatly reduced the usable size of the striking surface. If the $40 price tag wasn’t enough of a detractor, I think the smallish checkered face would have been.
The new Ultra hammers are available online as well as in-store. They’re cheaper than Dewalt’s welded hammers, and according to Estwing they’re stronger and more reliable as well.
Compared to Vaughan’s Stealth hammers, the Stealths have cleaner looking lines, and are less expensive than Estwing’s Ultras, but you’re limited to just one size – 17 oz. Unlike the Ultras, you can’t try before you buy, as the Stealths haven’t made many appearances in major brick-and-mortar tool or home improvement stores yet, at least on the east coast. (Stealth hammers do seem to be available at Menards stores in the midwest, and early reports complain about poor consistency and quality control.)
5-minutes looking over hammers and swinging them in air aren’t exactly scientific or reliable means of forming an initial assessment. If there’s enough interest or perceived interest, I will look into picking them up to put through a battery of tests and a thorough formal review process.
It is unusual for me to have mixed feelings about a hammer like this. In the past I was able to shop for hammers according to size or application. In this case, the 15 oz Ultra hammer doesn’t feel like a regular 15 oz hammer, and the 19 oz Ultra hammer doesn’t feel like a regular 19 oz hammer.
Going by quick subjective comparison, I would say the 15 oz Ultra hammer felt like a 22 oz model, and the 19 oz Ultra hammer possibly felt like a 28 oz model. But just because this is how they felt in-hand and when being swung in air doesn’t mean that’s how they will feel when being used.
These are not the kind of hammers I would buy sight unseen.
The next time you stop in at Home Depot, check out these new Estwing Ultra hammers and please let us know what you think about them!