A reader wrote in, asking for lightweight framing hammer recommendations.
I need one for a lot of framing (and I can’t swing the big boys – looking for something around 20oz). – Brandon
This one took a bit of thought, but I offered what I feel are a couple of solid picks. Since Brandon asked about 20 oz hammers in particular, I limited myself to only consider 19 oz and 20 oz hammers. While framing hammers are available with 20 oz heads, there are going to be many more options if the range is widened to include 22 oz sizes.
For rough framework that won’t be visible once the project is finished, a milled or checkered face hammer is still going to be the better choice even at these sizes.
Wood Handle: Vaughan/Grayvik California Framer
If I were in the market for a new lightweight framing hammer with wooden handle, I would go for the USA-made Vaughan Grayvik California Framer 19 oz. As previously discussed, Grayvik-branded hammers are identical in design and function to Vaughan hammers, but as factory-seconds there might be blemishes in the finish or materials.
It is difficult to say whether there will be an appreciable difference between how a 19 oz hammer swings compares to a 20 oz, but if more powerful is desired then 22 oz seems like a better size to step up to.
Steel Handle: Estwing
I have used Estwing hammers for years, and have grown to really like their steel handles. The grips are cushiony, comfortable, shock-reducing, and long-lasting. Overall, the proportions seem just right, and the hammers feel very well balanced. Plus this style is still made in the USA.
They make a 20 oz milled-face framing hammer, E3-20SM, which is priced at about $36 via Amazon. 20 oz is not a common size, so local availability won’t be that great. The smooth face version, model E3-20S, is available at Home Depot locations (at least in my area), but as mentioned the milled face hammer will probably be better for framing applications.
If 20 oz is a little too light, Estwing offers many 22 oz versions in different lengths and styles. The 20 oz E3-20SM is 13.5″ long and the 22 oz E3-22SM is 16″ long. That extra 2 oz and 2.5″ length will both contribute to a more powerful swing, but could also make the hammer more fatiguing to use for long sessions.
The reduced-length E3-22SMR is 13.5″ long like the 20 oz version, but has a slightly heavier head, making it a nice middle ground option. However, it’s priced at about $40-45 online.
If price was a strong factor, I would buy the 22 oz E3-22SM ($28 via Amazon) and just choke up on the handle a bit. The difference in price between this hammer and the reduced length version is enough to buy the Grayvik hammer mentioned above.
20 oz vs. 22 oz Hammers?
Which is going to be less tiring to use, a 20 oz or 22 oz hammer? This seems like a tough question, and since I don’t use a framing hammer often or for long sessions, it’s not something I can answer.
Here’s what I’m thinking: the 22 oz hammer head is heavier and longer, which means it will be a little more tiring to use, but the 20 oz hammer will require more swings to sink each nail.
It’s a tough choice that basically comes down to working a little harder or a little longer. Which would you pick, if time didn’t equal money?
P.S. Thanks, Brandon, for the great question!