Guide written by:
Alice, Furniture Maker, Manchester
Striking tools are many and varied: masonry chisels for building and bricklaying; wood chisels and nail punches for carpentry; pin punches in mechanics and stamp punches in the locksmith's trade... Take up your mallets, one and all!
- Masonry chisel
- Nail punch
- Pin punch
- Punch stamp
- Wood chisel
- Shape cutter
- Riveting tool
What is a striking tool?
Whether you're redoing an old tile floor or getting into wood carving, you'll need striking tools. Very practical for marking or cutting away material (wood, stone, PVC etc.) as well as dislodging small components such as pins from machinery, striking tools will make your life easier in a wide variety of situations! They can be manual (tapped with a hammer or mallet) or attached to an electrical power tool (e.g. hammer drill). In general, hitting tools are used for:
- Making marks in a material (lettering, dots etc.), with a punch stamp or die;
- Dislodging elements such as pins, using a pin punch; or driving nails in without marking the wood, using a nail punch;
- Crimping metal components like rivets, using a specialized riveting tool consisting of a metallic tube matching the diameter of the rivet. This is placed on the headless end and once struck, it crimps the protruding end to form a rim.
What kind of tools can be used to mark materials?
Want to inscribe the construction date on a timber in your new shed? Punch stamps exist in a range of types (numbers, letters, symbols). The stamp is at one end of a metal die which you give a good whack to mark wood or metal to a few millimetres of depth - depending on your own strength!
Maybe you just want to mark up drill points on copper plate so you get them bang on? Use a point punch, a tapering tool with a conical nose which you simply hit at the wide end. Point and shoot!
What if I need to remove a pin?
No problem, just use a mechanical pin punch! This steel tool consists of a broad shank followed by a narrower cylinder - the diameter and length chosen to suit the pin in question.
To use it, just place against the end of the pin and hammer away! It's an essential tool for mechanics.
If, on the other hand, you want to drive in the head of a pin that's protruding from the decking because you didn't give it enough welly in the first place... Then go for a conical pin punch!
It looks very similar to the mechanical kind, except that the business end is conical to give a greater striking force over a small surface area. The size should be chosen according to the size of your pins. Top tip - get hold of a decent range of diameters to suit different tasks that might come your way.
What if I want to cut away material?
On wood, always use a woodchisel to carve and remove material. With its handle and bevelled cutting edge (hardened steel), follow the grain of the wood for a precise cut.
Shape cutters are great for cutting out predefined shapes (generally round) in soft materials such as leather.
For cutting cement, stone, etc., use a masonry chisel (available in a range of widths). Usable with a manual hammer or fixed on a hammer drill, these are the strike force of any stonemason or bricklayer!
How to assemble rivets?
Don't panic, there are specialized tools for this job too!
A riveting tool is a cylindrical piece of metal, hollow at one end, and is used like so: the rivet is placed head-down on a hard surface (steel or hard stone) and the material to be riveted laid onto it; the tool is placed on the end of the rivet shank and given a firm blow with a hammer to seal the rivet! Similar process for snap-fasteners: the material (generally fabric) is held between the prongs of the U-shaped tool, each end of which contacts a button element, and all it takes is a hard tap to assemble the two pieces.
What to look for in terms of tool quality?
The main factor is the quality of the alloy.
Whether it's a chisel, a shape cutter or a pin punch, the metal used must meet the demands of its use - and hence not deform, break or blunt too easily. The alloys used vary from one manufacturer to another and although it may seem like stating the obvious, price is a strong indicator of quality.
Entry-level products are generally made of chrome vanadium steel, while the better-quality alloys may be specially heattreated and offer improved shock absorption. Some are anti-explosive and have ergonomic handles for a more comfortable grip.
Why so many different tools?
Well, for all the many possibilities!
From a simple mark on a piece of wood to carving and cutting materials, striking tools are varied and specialized for a range of different jobs.
Choose your tools according to the materials you're working with and the result you want to achieve. Don't hesitate to opt for machine tool attachments rather than hand tools if you have large volumes of work to get through, especially if chiselling wood or building materials.
Now choose your tools and see if you hit it off...
Learn more about tools...
To find out more about related tools topics, follow our editors' advice and check out their other guides:
Guide written by:
Alice, Furniture Maker, Manchester, 10 guides
I have been handy since my childhood, I have always been fond of new tools and other small practical machines. Beyond my interest in tools and materials, I am interested in building of all types. My professional experience as an artisan craftsman (ok the word says ‘man’, but it can work for me too.), allows me to with a material and that’s both noble and common at the same time: wood. Surrounded by carpenters and other builders, I am constantly interacting with professional and amateur wood workers, but also various kinds of manufacturing. I am also an amateur gardener, I like to cultivate my vegetable garden. You could say that summer ends under the sign of ratatouille. So, with two passions, I hope to answer your questions.