If I Had A Hammer… Well, I Do Have A Hammer


So. Yesterday, I picked a whole bunch of stuff up from the framing gallery owned by an old friend of my father (and, as fate would have it, of Vodka McBigbra’s ex-husband). I realized that I couldn’t remember where my old hammer had gone. Which meant it was time to go hammer shopping. But since I’m me (since I’m myself?) it had to be complicated and ideological and stuff like that.

Lowe’s is not my favorite place to shop — for some reason I slightly prefer the Home Depot, and I’d prefer staying home to both. Since I was unwilling to wait for Amazon to deliver a hammer to me, however, I had to make the trip and Lowe’s was the closest applicable store to where I was having lunch.

Lowe’s has about thirty different hammers available. Twenty-eight of those hammers have something in common: they’re made in China. They have different names and different logos on them, but they’re all the products of mystery factories overseas. Shame, because some of them had interestingly-shaped handles constructed out of steel and aluminum and possibly carbon fiber.

The Vaughan California Framer, on the other hand, is an old-school wooden hammer with your choice of nineteen or twenty-three ounce heads, made in the United States since 1869 or something like that. Their hammer lineup is impressive and contains many technologically interesting items, but Lowe’s only stocks the two California Framers.

I bought the heavier of the two, because buying a lighter hammer is like buying a lighter softball bat: it implies you’re a pussy. It was twenty-five and a half bucks out the door, about twice the price of the Chinese hammers. Then I went home and drove a total of five nails into the wall studs, hung the pictures, and called it a day. Obviously any hammer would have done that job just fine. Perhaps a hammer wasn’t strictly necessary; I hung the last framed picture I bought, some time ago, using the back of a large adjustable wrench.

Still, it seemed like a good idea to buy a proper hammer, made in this country by people who appear committed to the idea of American manufacturing. Now I have a hammer, should one be required. Overall, I’d say that yesterday was a pretty decent day. Just one quibble: Vaughan is based in Illinois. Why is the hammer called the “California Framer?” Were the Eagles involved somehow? Why isn’t anything ever called the Ohio anything?

18 Replies to “If I Had A Hammer… Well, I Do Have A Hammer”

  1. Avatardisinterested-observer

    About 20 years ago a “Swing-a-way” can opener fell into my possesion. It is getting to be about time to replace it but unfortunately they are not made in the USA anymore. There is a place that sells “Ez-Duz-It (you shoulda known by now!)” along with a free rebuild of your US made Swing-a-way so I might have to try that out.

  2. Avatarjz78817

    “Vaughan is based in Illinois. Why is the hammer called the “California Framer?” ”

    because the company is owned by an ex-boxer who fought under the name “Tex Colorado, the Arizona Assassin.”

  3. AvatarTomko

    Personally I hang all my pictures with a 16 ounce, leather-handled, Estwig made in Rockford Illinois.

    Notwithstanding the Rick Neilsen connection I’m surprised Lowe’s doesn’t sell them. Maybe Home Depot has an exclusive.

  4. AvatarLuke

    Here’s your Ohio thing, not made in the USA unfortunately:


    I have a big Vaughn framing hammer like that. Real carpenters can drive framing nails into dimensional lumber in 2-3 swings with one of those. I’m not a real carpenter and my hands are baby soft, so I have mainly used mine as a demolition tool. I yanked out my old 70’s era kitchen using precisely four tools – the Vaughn hammer, an Estwing 18″ pry bar, a very old Stanley 36″ demolition bar, and my Makita reciprocating saw with a terrifying 9″ demolition blade called “Diablo.”

    Tools rule. Don’t even get me started on mechanics tools, especially racheting socket wrenches. I’m like Homer Simpson at Lard Lad Donuts…

  5. AvatarTre Deuce

    “I’m me (since I’m myself?)” Faced the same quandary when last commenting on one of your very recent TTAC posts.

    Sounds like you bought a cannon to shoot paper targets, Jack.

    The California framer used to be about 28-oz’_ 32-oz’s and since California framers were wood butchers they needed the straight sharp claw to remove wood fast to make stuff fit(instead of using a saw, it being to slow).

    I first saw one(Hammer)in 1976 when I hired a long haired crew from California for a project I had in the Tri-cites area of Washington state, Hanford(where the fissionable material for the A-bombs unfortunately used over Japan, came from).

    They arrived late on the job the next morning in a slammed 64′ Ford Galaxie XL500, painted in wild scheme of Rainbow Trout colors, trunk flying high with compressor and tools hanging out in all directions, ladders tied with cord to the roof.

    They were a big contrast to the military disciplined crew of ex-Marines working on the building next to them, who always arrived at daybreak and did calisthenics and then ran for a few miles before work.

    The first thing I noticed, after the wild and loud Galaxie, was their hammers, strange ugly looking things. After a while, it became apparent, its design motivation. Butchering wood.

    Needless too say, that crew proved to be a disaster, with their extremely rough carpentry skills and lack of attention to detail. Plus, they couldn’t read a plan and put walls where no walls should go. They lasted a day and we had to tear down and rebuild all of their work. And, it took a day or two for the smell of bad Mexican dirt 420 to clear the job site.

    The best hammers for framing or heavy finish are the Japanese hammers, and in particular the Dogyu. I discovered these hammers at my favorite hardware store in Seattle, about 1980, when they first offered them. They were cheap then, and not so much now with their growing popularity among those who really know carpentry and appreciate a hammer with finesse and no physical stress. The 20-oz Dogyu will out perform a normal framing hammer of any size with a lot less effort and is particularly good at toe-nailing in tight areas.

    The old, original fiberglass Vaughan 20-oz framing hammer in serrated or smooth face, was also a great framing hammer, but clearly inferior to the Dogyu’s.

    Any skilled carpenter can drive a sixteen penney nail with a 16-oz hammer, and do it in two hits after the the initial set. The lighter the hammer the more nails can be driven, but then that is why they make air nailers, though, they can’t be used in a lot of situations.


    Hardwick & Sons, Inc.more info‎
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    Seattle, WA 98105
    (206) 632-1203

      • AvatarTre Deuce

        Life’s a Bitch, but we keep on, hammering on, Jack. Your a damn good example of that.

        Harbor Freight has good hammers for just a few bucks. Oop’s! China made.

        For the uninvolved home owner and part time LeMons racer, I recommend the Box hatchet. Buy one for the home, your daily driver(mounted to the door card for quick utilization in case of an unintended consequences situation, and one for your crap can racer, mounted to the dash.


  6. AvatarSwamp Yankee

    That framing hammer is a beast. You do need at least one more hammer (16 oz claw hammer). Get an Estwing. Made in the USA (Illinois again). Pretty indestructable and you can get one with a leather handle. I bought one in the early 90’s and it still looks like new. I have already destroyed one wood handled Vaughan framer – not a Calif. model.




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