Product Review: Hart 21 Ounce Framing Hammer

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I was 70 years old before I bought my first framing hammer, a 21 ounce model by Hart. The product review took a few more weeks to develop; after using an endless array of 16 ounce claw hammers over the past 61 years, beginning as a nine year old kid with a job to do, incorporating the larger framing hammer into my nail pounding activities took some time.

You really can teach an old dog new tricks, though, at least if you happen to be the dog.

Most framing hammers I’d seen for sale over the decades were 24 ounce models…and none of them felt right in my hand. So, when it came time to build the Border Fort (our current residence) in 2010, every single nail was driven with a $5 hammer. We bought a pair of them in Parachute, Colorado (because they were so cheap) in 2007, and they’re still doing the job today.

But the Hart hammer was an entirely different story. It was hanging on a display hook at one end of the stack of 2″ x 3″ studs at Home Depot, and it just sort of…jumped into my hand. “Take me with you!” The hammer spoke, and I listened.

Besides, the grace and beauty of the design, the absolutely perfect balance–in my hand, at least–and the compromise weight (five more ounces than the 16 ounce claw hammer instead of eight more ounces) combined to make it a done deal.

It was love at first sight and love at first grab. Frankly, I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Top:  One of our 7 year old $5 claw hammers from Ace Hardware in Colorado. Bottom:  The new Hart 21 ounce framing hammer from Home Depot in Arizona.

Top: One of our 7 year old $5 claw hammers from Ace Hardware in Colorado.
Bottom: The new Hart 21 ounce framing hammer from Home Depot in Arizona.

This afternoon, while building corner shelves in the back porch (aka storage shed), I suddenly realized that I was automatically reaching for the framing hammer whenever an 8d nail (or larger) needed to be pounded…then I’d switch to the claw hammer for the smaller 6d nails without even thinking about it. The new Hart had become part of me. It was time to write the product review.

It might help to understand the difference between the two hammers most used in rough carpentry construction, i.e. the 16 ounce claw hammer and the 21 (or 24) ounce framing hammer. They’re a lot alike, but then again, they’re also quite different, one from the other. Here are the specs that apply to the models we have on hand at this time:

Claw hammer…………….13.5 inches (length)
Framing hammer…………16.0 inches (length)
Claw hammer…………….16 ounces
Framing hammer…………21 ounces (other models can range as high as 32 ounces)
Claw hammer…………….claw is sharply curved
Framing hammer…………claw is straight
Claw hammer…………….smooth hammer face
Framing hammer…………milled hammer face
Framing hammer…………(this model) side-of-head nail puller
Framing hammer…………(this model) magnetic mail set for one-handed nail starting up to 16d
Framing hammer…………(this model) holes in metal haft and head to lessen total weight

Milled face on the Hart 21 ounce framing hammer.

Milled face on the Hart 21 ounce framing hammer.

Side-of-head nail puller (or lifter, at least) on Hart framing hammer.  This is the narrow triangular slot below "Hart" and above "21".

Side-of-head nail puller (or lifter, at least) on Hart framing hammer. This is the narrow triangular slot below “Hart” and above “21”.

The large hole is probably there just to lighten the hammer head.  The slot with the round pin in it is a magnetic nail set, allowing the user to start a nail (up to 16d) one handed.

The large hole is probably there just to lighten the hammer head. The slot with the round pin in it is a magnetic nail set, allowing the user to start a nail (up to 16d) one handed.

Additional holes in the metal haft lighten the hammer a bit more.

Additional holes in the metal haft lighten the hammer a bit more.

It’s difficult to express just how well this particular framing hammer fits both my hammer swinging hand and my psyche. There’s a grace to the beast. It hits what it’s aimed at, and the balance is so good that I could swing it all day while tiring less than if I were to do the same with the older, lighter 16 ounce claw hammer.

In addition, the red trim at either end of the rubberized handle is just plain…purty.

Speaking of the handle, it has a deliberately bumpy “no slip” surface. Personally, I don’t really need that, but it’s there for those that do.

The red end trim on the Hart 21 ounce framing hammer is attractive, and the no-slip grip is there for those who need it.

The red end trim on the Hart 21 ounce framing hammer is attractive, and the no-slip grip is there for those who need it.

The cost of this Hart hammer is quite variable, depending on where you buy it. We paid $28.97 at Home Depot. Amazon charges $34.99 or $30.50, depending on the vendor.

Our Hart has a steel haft/handle (covered with the rubberized grip material at the lower end), but the company also makes hickory handled and fiberglass handled versions–neither of which trips my trigger the way the steel version does.

Based on personal experience only, I have to rate the Hart 21 ounce framing hammer (steel) at a full FIVE STARS …but with a caveat.

Caveat: The company is being a bit deceptive in that I couldn’t pin down the location of manufacture, either on the hammer or via Internet searches–and that’s hardly ever a good thing. Also, several reviewers have had claws snap right in half when pulling nails–and that’s an unbelievable defect. One user stated firmly that the hammer is cast, not true tool steel, but I find that a bit hard to believe. Hopefully, the problem with the manufacturer’s steel production process (wherever it may be located on this or some other planet) has been corrected.

If my Hart does “bust a claw”, though, you may rest assured that the event will be reported here within 24 hours and the rating downgraded accordingly.