Vaughan is a well-regarded brand of hammers, pry bars, and other such tools, and I am especially fond of their USA-made wood-handled ball peen hammers.
Shown here is their 16oz ball peen hammer which, as of the time of this posting, retailers for just $15.
Oh, that’s right – a pro-grade USA-made ball peen hammer for just $15. I double-checked the price at a couple of retailers, as I didn’t believe it at first.
I bought my first Vaughan ball peen hammers a long time ago, and then I bought some more.
The 16oz, model TC016, is a great starting point.
After the 16oz hammer, my most-used sizes are 12oz, 24oz, and maybe 8oz – in that order.
I also bought other sizes, but don’t use them very often. If I lost the use of my 32oz ball peen, which I purchased on sale in 2008, I wouldn’t replace it today, at least not at its regular retail price.
For larger sizes, I generally prefer to grab a dead blow ball peen hammer, as they recoil less. Or, I might reach for a drilling hammer, will I have found provides better control.
I use the ball ends every so often, but my hammers’ flat faces see the most action. You can find hammers with dual flat faces – most notably dead blow-style.
Everyone’s needs and usage habits will vary, but ball peen hammers are generally used for striking hard metal tools or metal materials. I mainly use my ball peen hammers to strike center punches, pin punches, cold chisels, and other such tools, or to shape metal when needed.
You can use other hammers for this, of course, but ball peen hammers are specifically designed for these types of tasks. They have polished and bevel faces and are usually hardened in such a way to avoid chipping.
Claw hammer faces are engineered for driving nails into wood; ball peen hammer faces are engineered for hard metal contact.
A ball peen hammer can usually also fit in spaces too tight for other styles of hammers.
Vaughan has changed their hammer styling a little over the years, but mostly for branded purposes, such as with the rust-resistant blue paint on the non-working areas of the hammer heads.
I would absolutely buy Vaughan wood-handled ball peen hammers again, without hesitation. I have steel-handled and dead blow ball peen hammers too, but the Vaughan remain my precision workhorses.
I’d say that everyone needs at least a 16oz ball peen hammer in their tool kit.
While we’re on the subject, do you spell it as ball peen or ball pein? I was accustomed to ball pein, but apparently ball peen is the more common spelling. I’ve been forcing myself to change over, only to find that Vaughan spells it as ball pein. Next week’s discussion? Lineman’s vs linesman pliers.
I’ve expanded my quantity of hammers mostly via garage sales & flea markets. There are the obvious rejects of poor forgings & mangled handles, but aside from that, I have to think ball peen & cross peen hammers are hard to get wrong. And they’re satisfying to clean up, scrape the handles for fresh coats of linseed oil, old beauties.
Old hammers are a pleasure to use.
Stanley used to sell at least 3 classes of hammers. They called good “Handyman” ; better “Jobmaster ” and best “100Plus” As you moved up you got tempered rims, then fully polished heads – perhaps better steels. There was also better attention to detail on handle selection – things like tighter/straighter grain and proper orientation of the grain with the striking face.
Have the 16 oz Vaughan , but also the 4 oz – such a great size for tiny taps.
Also added a Gedore Red cross pein not too long ago (800g – 28 oz). Square face has come in handy a few times. The “Red” line is made in Taiwan, but still quite nice and really cheap. Fit and finish seem on par with the Vaughan. I don’t have a use for the cross side (yet), but it’s a nice variation on the ball side that I also never use….
I would have though ball “peen” was a spelling mistake if you didn’t say otherwise, even if you do peen metal with it.
While 16oz and 24 probably see the most use from me, I use my tiny 4oz relatively often too.
Sometimes spelled “Ball Pein” – the ball got use when iron rivets were a thing.
I purchase well made ball peen hammers at estate sales if they are inexpensive. I don’t use them often, but I have multiples of everything from 4 oz. to 32 oz. My latest purchase is a Proto 16 oz.
Thanks Stuart, for educating me on Hammer v.s. Ball Peen. I’m self taught and have not done any real metal work. I’ve used a hammer for the times I’ve needed to bang steel, and as I’ve gotten older I “usually” wear safety glasses and hearing protection for almost everything I do. Didn’t realize that a hammer is a different steel than other striking tools.
The forward weight distribution on ball peens also helps with accuracy.
These Vaughan ball-peens are great. I have a 4oz among my gunsmithing tools. Great hammer for a great price.
Regarding the question of “pein” vs “peen”: I couldn’t tell you where I picked it up, but I grew up with “pein” though admittedly for the last many years I see “peen” much more frequently.
One of my favorite hammers is an old British cross-peen which I inherited from my father. The cross-peen end is very useful for starting small pins which you have to pinch between your fingers to hold in place while tapping them in with the hammer. The cross end fits between your fingertips easier than a normal round face. It’s also one of those tools that for whatever reason just feels right when you pick it up. It’s not a fancy brand, it just happens to be the ideal weight, perfect length handle, and I’ve used it for so many years it’s like an extension of my arm.
The “cross peen” – also called Warrington Style or joiner’s hammer- is useful for brads and tacks as well as metalworking chores.
Also somewhat similar to ball-peen hammers are “Clipping Hammers” Some farriers / blacksmiths will take a ball-peen hammer and rework it into this pattern.
Thank you for sharing the “clipping hammer”! Many years ago I had someone walk into my machining business with three big ball-peen hammer heads and asked if I could put them on the lathe and turn the ball ends into that shape for him to match a sketch he showed me. He did blacksmithing, specifically making medieval reproduction weapons and armor. It was a simple job but I never knew that what he was asking for was a standard thing.
Here is a video of a farrier pulling (aka drawing) a clip on a horseshoe.
That little hammer from Lee Valley looks fun – and cheap too! Might have to pick me up one of them.
I don’t tap a lot of brads or pins, mind you, but maybe it’s the sort of thing I would find a use for if I had it? 🤷♂️
I have ones in 3 sizes (3.5oz, 6oz. and 10oz.) – all made by Stanley in England when I acquired them in the 1970’s. Before I got my pneumatic brad and pin nail guns – I used to use them quite a bit in furniture making. The same is true for brad pushers and nail sets that used to get much more use before nail guns.
I’m not sure what mine weighs but it is a lot heavier, probably about 20oz. That’s overkill for small brads for furniture but it’s great for metalwork and things like roll pins, coiled spring pins, metal dowels, etc, and then you’ve got the traditional hammer face for punches and chisels.
There were many historical local styles of cross pein hammers, of which Warrington was only one. It became the fairly generic name for this style.
I’ve seen ones for carpentry/woodworking/shoemaking called “London Pattern”, Other ones for lighter work get names like “Clockmaker’s” or “Jeweler’s” or “Goldsmith’s”. Very similar looking ones are sometimes called “Locksmith’s” hammers
Some have opposing “peins” – like the Picard Grooving hammer:
If you pick up a Halder or Picard catalog, you can see a variety of European styles.
Hammers are such ancient and fundamental tools that it is no wonder that they have evolved into a myriad of different shapes and names.
Koko The Talking Ape
Inherited tools are the best.
For starting small pins or nails, I just hold the pin with needle-nose pliers. If it’s an awkward spot, I use a hemostat so I don’t have to keep squeezing the pin. Maybe that takes longer than using a cross-peen though.
Outstanding ball peen/pein hammers, with vibration damping, are available from Proto-Stanley. Beautifully made and great feel when in use.
Look nice – made in Taiwan
After the 16oz hammer, my ***most-uses*** sizes are 12oz, 24oz, and maybe 8oz – in that order.
I’m with you, Stuart. I have two Vaughn 16oz ball pein hammers. My favorite size, brand, and model.
I have several Vaughan hammers. When I was a machinist itwas the only hammer in my box. I have collected several other brands over the years but Vaughan is always my first go to.
I have a 16oz fiberglass handled Vaughn I picked up from HJE around 2014 that’s been a reliable companion ever since.
Craftsman ball peeks were rebadged vaughns. They are my favorite ballpeen to use. I have all five from 8 oz to 32 oz.
I don’t really want to disparage Vaughn but frankly their quality has gone down – notably on the ball peens – in the last several years. I don’t think the ball end really matters much to people these days so what they and most others are putting out is sufficient enough I suppose. Up until a few years ago Vaughn had a separate line (“pro” maybe…can’t recall the name) that was a little nicer, some more time and attention paid to the finish grinding, but they nixed that. Every single one that I looked at in person, between five stores over two years, had ball ends that were far from spherical, often with flat spots in various locations or an actual point (of sorts) on the crown, and none were polished (or polished enough) as they should be. Estwing started doing the same junk years ago with their ball peens and now the two are basically the same lower quality – but with good steel, which is important of course.
I was most impressed with the ones I got from Klein. I’m not sure who is making those for Klein but they are USA and very well done – proper balls. The Protos vary but in their various lines they are all still nicer on the ball end than Vaughn. Williams also still does them correctly (or did as of a couple years ago). I took a look at the larger Sata version and it was ok, not great, but passable…not sure what their steel is like.
Old stock Plumb ball peens are getting hard to find but they are excellent and you can often find them on ebay in great shape for cheap. I wish Vaughn would do them right again even if that little bit of extra time requires a price increase.
If you don’t need, appreciate, or use the ball end, none of this matters.
From a few videos on youtube, it’s the part with the least human involvement. A couple of robotic arms grinding on two sanding belts. It’s aggressive to cut through marks from the forging. You can see the swirl this leave behind on the ball end.
I could use it as it was but I polished one myself because the imperfection bothered me.
I just picked up a 16oz Vaughn ball peen, and I’m not impressed. The epoxy/lacquer is inconsistent, the sticker labels are not straight/peeling, and there are rough grind marks where they trimmed wood fragments from the handle where it meets the head. Hopefully the steel performs better then it looks, otherwise HF is a better value.