The History and Evolution of the Hammer

The hammer 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. It goes without saying that we now take the hammer for granted, like most groundbreaking inventions that have been around for a while. But if you take a step back and consider the history and evolution of the hammer, it’s really a fascinating look at how human ingenuity came up with something and made huge improvements, even though those improvements took millions of years. After these millions of years, we’ve ended up with some highly specialized hammers, and even the simplest of today’s hammers is light years ahead of the first one.

primitive hammerThe first hammer, believed to have originated more than 3 million years ago, was basically just a heavy, round stone, usually a hard stone like granite, shaped by water in rivers or the sea. This primitive hammer was used to shape other stones like obsidian and flint to make hunting tools and fire starters. The stone was adapted for many jobs from the aforementioned tool making to breaking open shells and crack bones for food. The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies quite fittingly here as the hammer didn’t really change at all for millions of years. Of course, no one knows what led to the first upgrade of the hammer, but it was so game changing that we’ve, for the most part, never gone back.

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. We take this for granted now, but this addition really was a game changer, if not THE game changer. The addition of the handle allowed for more control and thus greater precision when being used and the hammer would also have been able to hit harder with less effort due to its greater leverage. Even though this form of hammer was primitive, a surprising variety of forms were made and led to further innovations, and eventually the use of metal. Metal hammers unquestionably brought us into modernity.

bronze hammerMetal was introduced some 20,000+ years after the handle was invented. The hammer, and the bulk of metal things, were made of bronze, thus starting the Bronze Age. Bronze tools were a huge step up and far stronger than their stone predecessors and the hammer in particular became more reliable. Not being held together by string probably helped. These bronze hammers were probably used for many jobs, including metalworking. Bronze gave way to iron around 2000 to 1800 BC and as this led to steel the hammer evolved even more. Hammers were then made for specific jobs from carpentry to blacksmithing to mining. The advent of iron and the strength it provided led to the hammer being adapted for just about any job.

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. From soft faced mallets to hard dead blow hammers, the normal claw hammer we use at home is really just one in a long line up of specialized tools, specialized to the point where the electrician’s hammer is basically a claw hammer set at a different angle. Hammers today really are tools that make every job easier.

Few tools have changed and evolved as much as the hammer, and when compared to the original you can hardly recognize that the crude stone hammers helped originate what we use today. Today’s hammers made by Klein, Ideal, Gedore, Wiha and more have gone through millennia of engineering and design improvements and here at Haus of Tools we are proud to carry tools that have been instrumental in humanity’s development and hope to provide you with the highest quality hammers and other tools available.

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