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Mallet vs Hammer: What’s the Difference?

mallet-vs-hammer

mallet-vs-hammer

Mallets and hammers are used for very similar circumstances. Both are blunt instruments you use to hit things with. However, the material and circumstance each is designed for varies quite a bit. You don’t want to use a hammer in a situation where a mallet would be more suitable. It could potentially ruin your workpiece or even the tool itself. Choosing the right tool for the right project is essential.

However, it can be difficult to figure out which tool needs to be used when. In this article, we’ll help you sort this out by diving into the uses of a hammer and a mallet, allowing you to choose the right option for every project.

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Overview of a Mallet

rubber mallet
Image Credit: Pixabay

Mallets are blunt tools that are designed to hit things. They are created to change the shape or appearance of a workpiece. They are usually made out of rubber, which allows them to be used directly on a surface without leaving any marks on it. Some wood options are available as well, though these are less common. The point of a mallet is to create a softer impact, which prevents scratching and scarring on finished workpieces.

Both sides of a mallet’s head are usually the same. You can use either side to hit your workpiece. The two sides tend to be exactly the same and balanced, so this tool doesn’t have a “front” per-say.

Mallets are not made for extreme pounding. The heads are made of rubber and bounce, so they aren’t going to do much damage anyway. The swing and impact are both lighter, so they tend to be suitable for light applications. They are not sledgehammers!

Pros
  • Light impact
  • Will not scar finished surfaces
  • Straightforward to use
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Not suitable for heavy work

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Overview of a Hammer

Parts of a Hammer

Hammers are firstly designed to hit nails. They can be used to drive nails through all sorts of materials, though they are mostly used on wood. They have a face on one side, which is flat and designed to hit things with. On the other side, most hammers have a “claw”, which can be used to pry things out. Usually, it is used to pull out nails. However, it can be used for a lot of other purposes as well.

Typically, most people have seen hammers and know their use. There are quite a few hammers out there, but they are decently straightforward. They hit things with one side, and pry things off with the other side.

Pros
  • Can drive nails
  • Useful for heavy work
  • Can be used to pry
  • Many different options available
Cons
  • Will mark finished surfaces

Uses

Hammers and mallets are not made for the same purposes. Hammers are made for driving nails, typically. This is what they were originally designed to do, after all. Most people use them for this purpose. A mallet cannot drive nails due to its rubber head. If you need to drive nails, you need to use a hammer.

At the same time, hammers can also be used to shape metal. However, they will leave marks on the surface, as you might imagine.

Mallets are better for knocking wooden pieces together or driving chisels. They do not leave marks on the surface of their work material due to their rubber construction. They are best for light uses, as they bounce and don’t impact very hard in the least.

Variety

There are far more hammers out there than mallets. In fact, there are over 20 different types of hammers available for a huge variety of different purposes. You can find a hammer for just about everything.

On the other hand, there is really only one type of mallet, unless you’d classify wooden mallets as their own type. All mallets are designed for roughly the same thing, so there isn’t too much decision making needed when buying one.

Price

You can find mallets and hammers for about the same price. They are both very inexpensive. Of course, you can find expensive versions of each. It really just depends on the quality of the tool you’re purchasing.

There are some hammers that are extremely expensive. It really just depends on the type of hammer you’re purchasing.

Versatility

Hammers can be used for far more things than a mallet. They can be used to pry things open, drive nails, and shape metal. Mallets can really only be designed for hitting things very lightly, which is only going to be suitable in very specific circumstances. Because of this, not everyone is going to need a mallet, but just about every homeowner should have a hammer.

In general, if you’re trying to decide on which tool to keep around your house, a hammer is going to be far more useful.

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A Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Hammer Estwing Hammer Estwing Hammer
  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Has rip claw
  • Our Favorite Mallet Tekton 30603 Tekton 30603
  • Has fiberglass handle
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Our Favorite Hammer: Estwing Hammer

    Estwing E3-16S Claw Hammer

    The Estwing Hammer is forged all in one piece, which improves the durability. It is much less likely to break, as there are no wields. The rip claw can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including prying boards and pulling nails. It is built for professionals, so it is comfortable and reduces vibration.

    Our Favorite Mallet: Tekton 30603

    TEKTON 30603 Fiberglass Handle Rubber Mallet

    The Tekton 30603 is a straightforward mallet. It is black and has a fiberglass handle, which makes it very lightweight. It is only 16 ounces, making it suitable for a multitude of purposes. Plus, we also liked that it is rather inexpensive.

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    Conclusion

    Hammers and mallets may look similar, but they are used for very different purposes. If you need to hit something gently, a mallet is the answer. For chisels and that sort of thing, a mallet is the best option. A mallet can hit a work surface without leaving any marks, which is its major benefit over a hammer.

    On the other hand, a hammer is really used for everything else. It can drive nails, reshape metal, and pry things apart. It is best for everything that doesn’t require light work. As you might imagine, this makes it a far more versatile tool. Most people should have a few types of hammers at their disposal.

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