“Today I worship the hammer,” so ends American poet Carl Sandberg’s short poem “The Hammer“, which isn’t really about hammers so much as humankind’s dualistic nature as builder and destroyer. But, whatever, it’s a good opening line for a short meditation on high-quality hammers and their utility.
What you see above is my favorite hammer, a 24 ounce, Eastwing Leather-Handle Rip Hammer in a straight English pattern. I love it. It feels magnificent in my hand, a beautifully balanced, precision tooled piece of cold steel, made warm to the touch by a piece of cow hide leather.
A well-built, one-piece steel hammer is a pleasure to use. The force of the blow transfers exactly to where you apply it, a mis-strike won’t snap the head off, and the good balance means it’s easy to wield.
Hammers are the King of All Tools, the direct, straight-line descendent of that first rock our distant ancestor, homo habilis, picked up and banged on a coconut, or the bone of a mammoth, or the head of his neighbor. All we’ve done to the hammer since then is improve on the basic concept; added a handle, made it from hardened metal, and attached something that lets us put out the nail we’ve just bent with a clumsy blow.
The hammer: it builds, it destroys. Tools don’t get any better than that.