Hitting the nail on its head is not an easy task. Anyone who has bent a nail, hit a finger or missed the nail entirely knows there is a right way and a wrong way to hammer a nail.
Step 1: Choose the right hammer for the job. A heavier hammer is great for driving thick nails into hard wood, but a medium-weight hammer works best for most jobs. Curved claw hammers are designed for smaller jobs and pulling nails. Straight claw hammers are typically heavier and used for construction, framing and ripping. Tack hammers work well for setting small nails into soft wood and for upholstery projects. Ball peen hammers are not for driving nails, but are for riveting, center punching and shaping metal.
Step 2: If the hammer has a smooth face, roughen it with some coarse sandpaper to prevent glancing blows that bend nails and smash fingers.
Step 3: Nails with sharp chisel point tips tend to split wood. Circumvent problems by tapping the nail tips lightly with a hammer to blunt the points before driving the nails into wood.
Step 4: Hold the nail in place with fingers positioned just below the head of the nail. Holding the nail at its base, with fingers resting on the surface area, is the No. 1 cause of smashed fingers.
Step 5: Grasp the hammer firmly, a few inches above the handle end. Most handles widen near the base to allow for a better grip.
Step 6: Watch the head of nail, rather than the hammer, and lightly tap the nail to set it in place.
Step 7: Allow the nail to stand on its own and position your body so when you swing, the hammer end remains pointed at your hip throughout the motion.
Step 8: With a straight wrist, swing the hammer with your whole arm. Let the weight of the hammer and the momentum of the swing drive the nail, not the force of the blow.
Step 9: Keep your eye on the nail to assure a square hit to the nail head each time.
Step 10: Avoid denting the surface area around the nail by using a nail set to drive the nail on the final swing.
Step 11: For added strength, drive nails at multiple angles into the wood, rather than driving nails in parallel to each other.