What is a Ball Peen Hammer? What is a Ball Peen Hammer?

A ball peen hammer (also know as engineer’s or machinist’s hammer) is a tool that is extensively used in manual metalworking. Its name is derived from the globular shape of one of its head sides and its purpose: the peening of metal surfaces (i.e. the improvement of the metal’s mechanical properties by manual or automated blows). Ball peen hammers in Europe and North America may also be refereed to as ball pein or ball pane hammers. These spellings, however, are erroneous and should be avoided.

Ball Peen Hammer Variants

Depending on the material, they are made of, ball peen hammers can be either hard-faced or soft-faced. The heads of the hard-faced hammers are manufactured from high-carbon steel or alloy steel which has been forged and heat-treated. These hammers are particularly strong and should be used with harder metal surfaces. Soft-faced hammers are made from lead, brass, plastic, and even tightly wound rawhide. Their heads and faces should be replaced on a regular basis because they are subject to deformation, wear-out, and breaking. These hammers are to be used with more fragile surfaces.

Ball Peen Hammer Uses

A ball peen hammer can be used for a number of operations, but its main functions are the following:

  • Expansion and shaping of the free end of copper roves, light rivets and the like, for the purpose of setting the joint tight in place.
  • Smoothing of various metals without marking them. This is done with the ball portion of the hammer.
  • Striking punches - punches are manual matrices used to mark wood or metal areas for the placement of holes. The strikes are made with the hammer side opposite its spherical end, usually this side is suitably flat.
  • Driving drift pins and making gaskets.
  • Cutting sheet metal, rivets, bolts, and plastic by hitting the metal-plated handle of a chisel.
  • Blade sharpening - the metal blades of various cutting tools (knives, scythes, etc.) can be finely sharpened with a hard-faced ball peen hammer .
  • Forming and tuning of steel drums (also known as steelpans).

Working with a Ball Peen Hammer

Although not as dangerous as, for example, operating an electric saw or other power tool, working with a ball peen hammer requires close attention, concentration on the task that is being performed, and observance of the relevant safety instructions.

Before you start working, inspect the hammer to make sure its head is firmly fixed to the handle. If it is not, the instrument will not be safe to work, repair it or buy another.

When using a ball peen hammer, make sure that your hitting hand grips the handle tightly, and that your other hand, in case you need to support the working space, stays at a safe distance.

If you hurt yourself, call and seek advice from a medical professional. Do not underestimate the injury; remember, even though it may seem a trifle, it could be a potential source of infection; for this reason, always disinfect and bandage the injured area.

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