Back in 1979, Will Holladay sent the Journal of Light Construction a copy of his self-published A Roof Cutter’s Secrets to Framing the Custom House, which has become a classic framing text (available from Fast forward 37 years: Will recently sent us an excerpt from his latest work, From the Top Plates Up: A Production Roof Framer's Journey. This new work is a fun read that combines the unique history of the California building boom with lessons on framing technique—and even on body mechanics, for those who want to stay in the trades for the long haul.

Here's an excerpt, from the chapter on hammers:

Many guys in the tracts liked to wall frame with the Vaughan 28-ounce rigging hatchet because it had the largest diameter face and was really well balanced. With the big face it was hard to miss the nail even when you were exhausted from pounding nails all day.

But while the big face was great for wall framers who sank end-nails all day long, it was somewhat of a detriment for roof stackers like me who had to sink lots of toenails in tight corners.

And while the hatchet blade was helpful during wall framing to pry over the bottom of a diagonal brace during plumb and line, the downside was that it was more difficult to yank nails that had the head flush or embedded in the wood. (Not that you should be going backwards and pulling nails, but occasionally “stuff happens.”)

If you had a straight-claw hammer, on the other hand, you could simply flip the hammer around, swing and catch the nail head with the claw (in a chisel-like manner) and then lever the hammer handle sideways to pry the nail.

I also grew adept with a hammer at flicking out nails once the head was exposed with a super powerful swing of the claws. The split between the hammer’s claws would grab the nail shank and the sheer force of the swing would yank it right out. Stubborn nails might take an extra swing but this saved tons of time screwing around to remove a nail that was poorly placed. Just make sure no one is behind you, as the nail will be sent flying like an arrow.