Most carpenters still carry a hammer on their toolbelt. But
even those who pound a nail the old way once in a while would
probably admit, if pressed, that hammers are beginning to seem
sort of, well, last century.
In fact, hammers have been museum pieces since the first year
of the 21st century, when an Alaska longshoreman and former
shipwright, carpenter, and blacksmith named Dave Pahl opened
what's thought to be the world's only museum dedicated
exclusively to hammers.
The Hammer Museum, in the southeastern Alaska community of
Haines, contains several thousand hammers used in every
imaginable trade. But to a carpenter, the museum's extensive
collection of claw hammers alone is worth every penny of the $3
admission fee. The museum is open from May to September, Monday
through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Jon Vara
Designed to let the user switch from the lower to the upper
set of claws partway through pulling a nail, the four-clawed
Crusader hammer minimized bending — a useful feature in
an age when thrifty carpenters routinely straightened and
reused salvaged nails.
Patented in 1906, this machinist's ball-peen hammer with
integral nail-pulling claws let the user tackle either trade
with the wrong tool.
The cross-peen head on this 1867 combination hammer
— like that on a modern cabinetmaker's hammer — was
used for driving brads or tacks.
This nifty hammer of unknown date and manufacture may be
an inventor's prototype. It features an interchangeable face
secured with an Allen bolt, presumably so the waffle-faced
framing head could be exchanged for a lighter, smooth face for
finish work. The carriage bolt in the threaded hole above the
claws allowed the carpenter to adjust the amount of
nail-pulling leverage required without having to hunt around
for the right-size block.
Who says a claw hammer has to have two (or more) claws?
These early 20th-century mono-claw hammers look like they'd
still be thoroughly useful today. Both feature an adze- or
chisel-like blade with a central nail-pulling slot; the model
at far left also has additional notches in the sides for
pulling tacks or other small fasteners.If you know anything about this monstrous 36-pound claw
hammer, Dave Pahl would love to hear from you. "It's a
beautiful hammer, but I have no idea what it was used for," he
says. "It's the only one I've ever seen." (And no, it wasn't
used for driving and pulling railroad spikes.)