Ask a Trail Builder: What’s Up With All the Hammers?

By Ama Koenigshof, Trail Builder and Educator

Why all the hammers?  Do you really need them to build trails?

Hammers are an essential tool in trail construction, especially when dry stone masonry is involved. But the variety can be overwhelming. Hammers can range in price from a $12 local hardware store special to a $315 carbide-tipped monster slab splitter.  Choosing the right hammer for the job can make your tool bag lighter, while proper care will ensure your investment lasts a lifetime.  Here are my top 10 favorite hammers.

Single Jack/Engineer's Hammer

Single Jack/Engineer’s Hammer
Use: If you have one hammer, this is it!  Use it to crush stone, shape stone, strike other hand tools, pound in pinning, you name it!  Comes in weights from 2lbs to 22lbs (usually considered a double jack or sledge) with various handle lengths.
Strike: Anything

Striking Hammer/Drilling Hammer.Striking Hammer/Drilling Hammer
Use: Striking other hand tools. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 16lbs with various handle lengths.
Strike: Other hammers, chisels, hand drills, and the wedges of your feather and wedge sets when splitting a stone.
Do Not Strike: Stone

Mash Hammer

Mash Hammer (can be carbide tipped)
Use: The best crush maker out there. It can also be used to split and trim stone. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 18lbs with various handle lengths.
Strike: Stone Only

Stone Buster (carbide tipped)Stone Buster
Use: Splitting and shaping stone. Can swing or hold in place and strike with another hammer.  Comes in 2lb and 4lb weights with horizontal or vertical carbide-tipped blades.
Strike: Use the striking head to hit other hammers and chisels; use the carbide-tipped blade to split, trim, or shape stone.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or the carbide-tipped blade to strike other hand tools.

Hammer Point (carbide tipped)Hammer Point
Use: Perfect for making a round stone square, it takes off high spots.  Can swing or hold in place and strike with another hammer.  Comes in 2lb and 4lb weights with a fiberglass handle.
Strike: Use the striking head to hit other hammers and chisels; use the carbide-tipped point to shape stone.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or the carbide-tipped point to strike other hand tools.

Hammer Set/Bull Set (can be carbide tipped)Hammer Set/Bull Set
Use: Trimming stone, removing drill marks, taking off an edge, squaring up a stone. Hold in place with hammer blade angled on its edge toward the outside of the stone and strike with another hammer. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 12lbs with horizontal or vertical blades and various handle lengths.
Strike: The striking head can be used to strike other hand tools. The blade is used on stone and not swung.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or swing the blade to hit stone or other hand tools.

Slab Splitter/Rifting Hammer (can be carbide tipped)7. Slab Splitter/Rifting Hammer
Use: Splitting stone down the middle. Hold in place with hammer blade on the stone and strike with another hammer.  Comes in weights from 8lbs to 12lbs with horizontal or vertical blades and various handle lengths.
Strike: The striking head can be used to strike other hand tools. The blade is used on stone and not swung.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or swing the blade to hit stone or other hand tools.

Mallorcan HammerMallorcan Hammer
Use: Shaping, texturing, trimming stone. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 4lbs with a long, 30-inch handle.
Strike: Stone only.

Bush Hammer (can be carbide tipped)Bush Hammer
Use: Shaping, texturing, smoothing stone. It can help to remove drill and other tool marks.  Comes in weights from 1.5lbs to 7.5lbs with various handle lengths.
Strike: Stone only

Bricklayer’s Hammer (carbide tipped)Bricklayer’s Hammer
Use: Shaping stone and digging in the dirt. The blade edge works great as an “adze” to bust out kerfs, or grooves, in a stone.  Comes in 1lb and 1.5lbs weights.
Strike: Stone and dirt. Other hammers may be used to strike the flat head (if not carbide tipped) when using the blade to “kerf and adze” stone.
Do Not Strike: Other hammers, chisels, hand drills, and the wedges of your feather and wedge sets when splitting a stone.

Ama Koenigshof is the Trail Conference’s Trail Builder and Educator, sharing her knowledge of building trails with volunteers through hands-on instruction. She teaches numerous Trail University workshops, which vary from the basics of trail maintenance to more advanced courses in techniques like crib wall construction. There’s a course for every skill level, and best of all, most workshops are free! Visit the Trail Conference website to check out the latest course offerings and find more information.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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