My first encounter with a Picard hammer was 25 years ago, on a jobsite near Boston. There was a German carpenter on the crew and he carried a hammer the likes of which I had not seen before.
It had a square face, a magnetic nail starter, and an asymmetrical claw—one short and the other long and pointed. In fairness to Rolf, he probably thought our American hammers looked equally strange.
You may have seen the same type of hammer in a viral video from a few years back, of a German “carpenter” juggling hammers on a jobsite. He uses them to drive a nail as they fly towards the ceiling and finishes by sticking them into a beam. Who cares if the guy is not really a carpenter or that the nail hole may have been pre-drilled? It’s still entertaining.
Getting back to the hammers, the ones used in the video are Latthammers. Latthammers are sometimes referred to as roofing hammers. Not roofing as in installing shingles, but roofing as in framing the roof, which along with the floor framing might be the only part of the structure of a German house that isn’t masonry.
The square face is said to make it easier to drive nails near inside corners, and the asymmetrical claw will still pull fasteners. The long pointed claw can be used to chip masonry and dig into and hold or pull pieces of framing lumber—like a climber holding on with an ice axe.
Every tool company in Europe offers Latthammers. There’s even one on the Estwing website, though I doubt very many are sold. Picard, a well-known German manufacturer of pro-grade striking tools, makes a bunch of them.
And the Latthammer is only the beginning of the unusual hammers made by the company.
Picard tools have long been available on the web and they may soon be offered by U.S. retailers. As of last year the company has been trying to enter the U.S. market. I visited their booth at the 2016 STAFDA Show and again last month at the National Hardware Show.
I know the company for its Latthammers, but the range of products it makes is almost beyond belief. Picard offers specialized hammers for carpentry, blacksmithing, masonry, auto body work, shoe making, jewelry making, sheet metal work, and more.
Interestingly, the company only recently began pushing U.S. style hammers, which makes sense given their desire to enter the U.S. market.
They also offer English Pattern Hammers, which except for an untapered neck are identical to general purpose American hammers. I can’t explain why English hammers are shaped like that anymore than I can explain why Japanese carpenters favor hammers with long necks and very short claws. It’s probably some combination of style and building traditions in those parts of the world.