From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Sledgehammer (disambiguation).
20 pounds (9.1 kg) and 10 pounds (4.5 kg) sledgehammers
Other names Sledge hammer
Classification Hand tool
Used with Wedge; hammer wrench
Related War hammer

A sledgehammer is a tool with a large, flat, often metal head, attached to a lever (or handle). The size of its head allows a sledgehammer to apply more force than other hammers of similar size. Along with the mallet, it shares the ability to distribute force over a wide area. This is in contrast to other types of hammers, which concentrate force in a relatively small area.


A straight peen sledge hammer from an 1899 American book on blacksmithing

The word sledgehammer is derived from the Anglo Saxon "slægan", which, in its first sense, means "to strike violently". The English words "slag", "slay", and "slog" are cognates.[1][2]


Sledgehammer used for driving railroad spikes into wooden sleepers during rail construction.

The handle can range from 50 centimetres (1 ft 8 in) to a full 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) long, depending on the mass of the head.[3] The head mass is usually 1 to 3 kilograms (2.2 to 6.6 lb). Modern heavy duty sledgehammers come with 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9.1 kg) heads. Sledgehammers usually require two hands and a swinging motion involving the entire torso, in contrast to smaller hammers used for driving in nails. The combination of a long swinging range, and heavy head, increase the force of the resulting impact.

Sledgehammers are often used in destruction work, for breaking through drywall or masonry walls. Sledgehammers are seldom used in modern mining operations, particularly hand steel. Sledgehammers are also used when substantial force is necessary to dislodge a trapped object (often in farm or oil field work), or for fracturing concrete. Another common use is for driving fence posts into the ground. Sledgehammers are used by police forces in raids on property to gain entry by force, commonly through doors. They were and still are commonly used by blacksmiths to shape heavy sections of iron. The British SAS counter terrorist team used sledge hammers to gain access to rooms during the 1980 Iranian Embassy Siege. However, today they use a tool called a "dynamic hammer".

Sledgehammers are increasingly being used as inexpensive exercise equipment; since all major upper body muscle groups need to put forth a significant amount of force when swinging a sledgehammer, it can easily be used to work muscles to failure as in resistance training. A tire is often used as the hammer's target as its elasticity reduces the shock to the user's joints when used for this purpose.[citation needed]

Another iconic use of sledgehammers is for driving railroad spikes into wooden sleepers during rail construction. When the two ends of the Union Pacific railroad were joined at Promontory, Utah, Leland Stanford hammered a golden spike into a tie with a silver hammer. Sledges used to drive spikes for rails had curved heads that came down to a "beak" that was only about one inch across. The shape meant that drivers needed to be accurate, and spot where the spike hit was often not much larger than a dime. Anything larger would hit the plate or the tie. The curved head kept the handle away from the rail, as the spikes were driven with the rail between the spike and the driver. These sledges are often called "Spike Mauls."

In China[edit]

Sledgehammer with flexible handle made with special tubing

A common sledgehammer design in China uses an extremely long handle that is very flexible.[citation needed] This may be made of fiberglass, special tubing, ash or strips of bamboo stacked together and bound, which functions like a leaf spring.[citation needed] The advantages of this design are the increased velocity with which the operator can strike the target, and reduced jarring.[citation needed]

Post maul[edit]

Post mauls are similar to sledgehammers in shape, but are meant to drive wooden fence posts or tree stakes into the earth. They have broad, flat circular faces that are significantly larger in diameter than the body of the head (where the handle attaches). Sledgehammers usually have octagonal faces that are the same diameter or slightly smaller than the body of the head.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ An Anglo Saxon Dictionary, Joseph Bosworth, The Clarendon press, 1882
  2. ^ "Slag". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 27 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Richards, Robert (1908). Ore Dressing. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. p. 10. 

External links[edit]