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February 04, 2014

Mallet or Hammer: Which Should You Use When?

Add a hammer (or two) and a hammering surface to your list of must-have jewelry tools!

But, before I tell you what to use to hammer your wire components, I'm going to tell you why you want to hammer them.

Two reasons to hammer metal wire components

- to work harden the metal without changing the shape

- to add a pattern or change the shape of a metal component

Hammering a component to work harden the metal is a step that strengthens your finished jewelry.

Hammering a component to add a pattern or shape the metal is a way of enhancing the look of the finished product that will also work harden the metal.

Depending on the hammer that you choose, you can do both at once - or just work harden the wire without affecting the shape of the metal.

Two types of jewelry hammers

There are lots of different jewelry making hammers, but in keeping with the two reasons that you might want to hammer components, I am going to break them down into two groups - hammers that harden only and hammers that form and shape metal.

Hammers that harden metal only

These hammers are technically called mallets - because both sides are identical (I just learned this while researching this post!)

These are not the only types of hammers that will harden without changing the shape - but they are the main ones that I have seen used in making wire jewelry.

I have both of these mallets and use the rawhide mallet more often than the plastic one.  I think it is more comfortable to hold and I like the larger surface area.  Of course, they come in different sizes - so your mileage may vary.

Hammers that harden metal and change the shape

There's a slew of jewelry making hammers that are used to shape metal.  This is a great chart of hammers and their uses from Contenti.

I have two metal forming hammers and I think they are the most common ones that I have seen in wire work books and various tutorials.

Of the two, I almost always use my chasing hammer to harden and shape metal components.  It is easier to control and move the wire or sheet metal in the direction you want it to move.  It also doesn't leave marks on my wire.

When you select a hammer to use with metal, make sure the surface of the hammer is smooth.  Any dings or dents will show up in your finished item.

I didn't realize until I was writing this post and looking for resources, that the head of my chasing hammer is domed.  Here is a great post from Studio Dax's blog that compares a domed chasing hammer vs flat chasing hammer.

More recommended reading at Studio Dax's blog is this post that compares the results of using a rawhide mallet versus a chasing hammer.  This post will show you the difference between hardening only and hardening while shaping.

Hammering Surfaces

What you hammer your jewelry on is just as important as what you hammer it with.  Again, there are two typical choices:

I rarely use my jeweler's anvil.  It's small in size (a mini anvil).  I might like it better if I fixed it to a block of wood or even to my bench. I'll try that soon and let you know if it makes me want to use it instead of the block.

Shopping for Jewelry Hammers

My favorite place to buy inexpensive jewelry tools is Harbor Freight Tools.  I am lucky to have one in the neighborhood - although I guess it depends on how you look at it if I'm really lucky or not...  

Here is a post with some of the jewelry tools and supplies I have purchased there in the past.

Michael's also carries jewelry tools now (and is down the block from Harbor Freight for me).  

I am working on a new free tutorial that involves hammering to shape and work harden the wire, so I hope you have your tools ready!


  1. great post, thanks! I went to a class on texturing metal and learnt a little about hammers. I still haven't tried any of it out and I think my husband has stolen one of my three hammers!

  2. Thanks for this post, I will come back and read in depth! I was told that I should have a rawhide or plastic mallet as my first purchase, but I wasn't sure what for! Now I know. It's on my list.
    I do have a steel block and ball peen hammer, as well as a disc cutter and lubricant. Now I just have to get them out and USE them.

  3. Hi Lisa,
    I'm making chain links today and just took a break to come read a few blogs. You know I never knew of the rounded hammer, I have achasing and just never looked any further. I also put a paper towel on my wire, extra protection. Love to create.