A hammer is a tool designed for pounding or delivering repeated blows.
It is probably the most common tool in the world and every home has at least one standard claw hammer and that hammer probably gets used, misused and abused frequently.
Weights range from a few ounces or grams up to 15 pounds (7 kg) for hammers used in breaking stones.
The hammer’s archaeological record shows that it may be the oldest tool for which definite evidence exists.
The use of simple hammers dates to around 3.3 million years ago according to the 2012 find made by Sonia Harmand and Jason Lewis of Stony Brook University, who while excavating a site near Kenya’s Lake Turkana discovered a very large deposit of various shaped stones including those used to strike wood, bone, or other stones to break them apart and shape them.
The first major innovation to the hammer is believed to have occurred sometime around 30,000 BC, thousands of years after the earliest cave paintings. The major change to the hammer was to use a bone or a stick and some leather or other stringy substance to secure the hammer stone thus making the crudest form of what we recognize today as a hammer.
The next stage of the hammer’s evolution is quite involved with the metal and the bronze age. Around 3,000 BC, 27,000 years hammer heads were forged with bronze, making them more durable and resistant. The first hammer heads were probably melted bronze bound with similar bindings to stones, and evolved with the onset of forging and casting processes. It is worth mentioning that with the invention of forges and casting, other copper and bronze products were also made such as nails.
The familiar claw hammer that can pull bent nails dates from Roman times in a well-proportioned form, for the expensive handmade nails of square or rectangular cross section did not drive easily.
The earliest uses for iron and steel hammers would probably have been blacksmith hammers, carpenter hammers, and even war hammers for use in combat, but over the centuries tradesmen and engineers have come up with more than 50 kinds of hammers made for just about any type of trade imaginable.
The hammer’s produced next were “forged” by the industrial revolution starting in 1760 and 1870 the explosion in industry and the need for tools to repair and maintain the new machinery created. Also mass product of hammers, made them all similar and had to be produced to the same standards. These processes also meant that wood, rubber, copper, lead, brass, hide and broze hammers and mallets were easier to make and made more popular. With these new industries came bespoke hammer product such as larger moving and slogging equipment.
The hammer, being one of the most used tools by man, has been used very much in symbols such as flags and heraldry. In the Middle Ages, it was used often in blacksmith guild logos, as well as in many family symbols. The hammer and pick are used as a symbol of mining.
A variant, well-known symbol with a hammer in it is the Hammer and Sickle, which was the symbol of the former Soviet Union and is strongly linked to communism and early socialism.
In Pink Floyd – The Wall, two hammers crossed are used as a symbol for the fascist takeover of the concert during “In the Flesh”. This also has the meaning of the hammer beating down any “nails” that stick out.
In mythology, the gods Thor (Norse) and Sucellus (Celtic and Gallo-Roman), and the hero Hercules (Greek), all had hammers that appear in their lore and carried different meanings. Thor, the god of thunder and lightning, wields a hammer named Mjölnir. Many artifacts of decorative hammers have been found, leading modern practitioners of this religion to often wear reproductions as a sign of their faith.
The hammer is such an apex tool that there has been the establishment of “a Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska, dedicated to showcasing a variety of contemporary and historical hammers.”
The farthest hammer throw by a male athlete is 86.74 m (284 ft 6.9 in), by Yuriy Sedykh (USSR) at the European Athletics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, on 30 August 1986. It was his sixth world record in the hammer.
The most nails hammered by hand in one minute is 42 and was achieved by Ding Zhaohai (China) on the set of CCTV-Guinness World Records Special at Heilan International Equestrian Club, in Jiangsu, China, on 6 January 2014.
The word “hammer” is from Middle English hamer, from Old English hamor, from Proto-West Germanic *hamar, from Proto-Germanic *hamaraz (“tool with a stone head”) (compare West Frisian hammer, Low German Hamer, Dutch hamer, German Hammer, Danish hammer, Swedish hammare). This is traditionally ascribed to Proto-Indo-European *h₂eḱmoros, from *h₂éḱmō (“stone”), but see *hamaraz for further discussion.