Hammers are the quintessential tool–likely one of the first tools man invented, and probably one of the first tools you ever picked up. Everyone remembers his dad’s old hammer. After the years go by and the time comes for your father’s hammer to be passed down, there’s no doubt you’ll wear it on your hip with honor and announce to anyone who’ll listen, “This was my dad’s hammer!”
But now, here comes Craftsman with something called the NEXTEC Hammerhead Auto-Hammer , a battery-powered tool that drives nails by pounding a little piston up to 3600 times per minute. Is this new device poised to replace the traditional hammer.
Are we looking at a future in which young men proudly announce that they’ve just inherited their father’s Auto-Hammer?
To put this idea to the test, I pitted the Auto-Hammer head-to-head against my steel Estwing 16-ounce Rip Hammer in a series of challenges.
The parameters of my first test were simple: timing how long it took to drive four 4d 1-1/2-in. galvanized joist hanger nails. For the test, I sent the nails through 1-in.-thick poplar, a softwood, and into standard 2x stock, also pretty soft. I made sure that there were no knots in the testing area that would unfairly slow down the nails.
Using the trusty old Estwing, I managed to get all four nails embedded in the wood in an uneventful 18 seconds. The Auto-Hammer, on the other hand, had some trouble with the bulky nails. In 43 seconds, I managed to get them all in the wood, but I couldn’t seal the deal with any of the nails; no matter what I tried, the Auto-Hammer got them to a point but left them sticking them out of the wood like little galvanized mushrooms.
Speed Trials II
I then repeated the same test with 2-in. stainless-steel ring-shank nails. Showing that at the very least, I’m consistent, I again pounded all four nails in 18 seconds. The Auto-Hammer fared much better with the smaller nails, and I managed to drive them all flush with the wood in 41 seconds. It took over twice as long as with the regular hammer, but the end results were the same.
There is a certain, specific agony associated with hitting your thumb with a hammer. I’m never sure which is worse–the sheer pain, or the self-loathing, “I can’t believe I just did that,” humiliation. Or, as the Auto-Hammer ad puts it: “When a man misses a nail, the only thing bruised more than his thumb is his ego.” It’s a rite of passage, and it certainly happens to us all. But I think I’m one of the few to have done it on purpose.
For this test, I positioned the head of the Estwing about 10 in. above my thumb. Then, I let gravity do the rest. There’s no need to detail the words that came out of my mouth upon impact. Even with that little bit of swing, the hit was truly painful. I switched hands, then pressed the nose of the Auto-Hammer against my other thumb and pulled the trigger. While the impact of the piston did sting quite a bit, it didn’t extend into a 5-minute throb like the hammer hit did.
T here are two things worth noting here: 1) The Auto-Hammer is designed so that it’s really difficult to get your fingers in the way of the piston during operation. 2) The hit with the Estwing was very minor compared to what would have happened had I been actually swinging with any force.
I then took the hammers into a closet to pound a few nails in the dark. The Auto-Hammer comes equipped with an LED that lights up the work area, so it wasn’t a problem driving a nail in the closet’s limited visibility and maneuverability. Thinking back to the painful thumb trial, I decided it was best not to perform the visibility trial with the Estwing and, by default, declared the Auto-Hammer the winner.
The Auto-Hammer is a nice tool, and certainly has its uses in dimly lit, cramped spaces. But when it comes to overall nail-pounding action, it can’t compare with the traditional hammer.