Relative hardness of woods
(hardest to softest)
Black Walnut
Southern Yellow Pine
Douglas Fir
White Pine
Red Cedar
The right wood for the job
Cabinet doors: Birch, cherry, maple, oak
Decking and outdoor steps: Locust, walnut, white oak
Doors: Birch, oak
Exposed platforms and porches: Locust, redwood, white oak
Exterior trim: Cedar, cypress, northern and Idaho white pine, ponderosa pine, redwood, sugar pine
Fence posts: Black locust, catalpa, cedar, chestnut, cypress, Osage orange, redwood, white oak
Frames and sashes: Cedar, cypress, northern and Idaho white pine, ponderosa pine, redwood, sugar pine
Gates and fences: Douglas fir, redwood, southern yellow pine, western larch, white oak
Interior trim, natural finish: Beech, birch, cherry, cypress, maple, oak, sycamore, walnut
Knotty surfaces (interior): cedar, gum, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, spruce, sugar pine
Interior trim, painted finish: Nothern and Idaho white pine, ponderosa pine, poplar, sugar pine
Paneling: Ash, birch, cedar, cypress, oak, pine, redwood, walnut
Plank roof decking: Douglas fir, southern yellow pine, other softwood
Roof sheathing: Douglas fir, southern yellow pine, western larch
Shelving: Ash, birch, Douglas fir, Idaho white pine, maple, oak, ponderosa pine, poplar, redwood, sugar pine, walnut
Shingles: Cedar, cypress, redwood
Siding: Cypress, redwood, western red cedar
Stairways: Ash, beech, birch, cherry, maple, oak, walnut
Subfloors: Ash, Douglas fir, oak, southern yellow pine, western larch
Wall sheathing: Aspen, balsam, basswood, cedar, hemlock, lodgepole pine, northern and Idaho white pine, ponderosa pine, poplar, redwood, spruce, sugar pine, white fir
With more than 200 types and sizes of hammers on the market today, it can be a daunting task to choose one. Here are the most popular models for both do-it-yourselfers and professionals in order of their potential use around the house.
Common nail hammer with curved claw: For general carpentry and around-the-house chores, this tool is used only with nonhardened common or finishing nails. (Hardened, or stiff-stock, nails are heat treated for strength and used in flooring, masonry and serious construction.) The curved claw provides leverage in removing nails. It can also cradle a two-by-four. Never use the claw on plaster, stone, concrete or other hard materials, because you could damage it.
Rip hammer with straight claw: A slightly heftier tool, for heavier carpentry, framing and ripping. Use this tool only with nonhardened common or finishing nails.
Finishing hammer: This finely balanced small hammer is ideal for cabinet making, finishing and other fine carpentry.
Ball peen hammer: Use this one for riveting, center punching and working soft metal. It comes in handy when smoothing a scythe blade.
Hand drilling hammer: Easy to handle yet with a powerful punch, this is the only hammer for striking masonry nails and other struck tools such as star drills, steel chisels and nail pullers.
Soft-face hammer: Choose this design for assembling furniture and wood projects, setting dowels, and any task requiring non-marring blows.
Magnetic tack hammer: Here's what you need for furniture upholstering and other projects requiring tacks or brads.
Brick hammer: For masonry work, you want this hammer, designed for cutting, setting bricks or blocks and chipping mortar.
Drywall (wallboard) hammer: Use this for all drywall work. It scores drywall, makes cutouts and sets nails with a dimple for easier finishing. One version even permits nailing in corners.
Here are a few hints for hammer users.
*Don't buy a hammer with a visible casting seam. It could fly apart as you work with it. Good hammer heads are all one smooth piece and won't shatter.
*If the handle on your wooden hammer comes loose, soak the entire tool in linseed oil for several hours to encourage the wood to swell -- and tighten the head.
*Just like when you hold a tennis racket, the closer to the end of the handle you grip, the more power you will wield.
*Wear goggles when you hammer, especially if you are working with masonry or hardened nails or tackling a project above your head or at eye level.

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