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There are many different types of hammers that people use while rockhounding to cover a myriad of situations, rock types, and purposes. If you are looking to dig up fossils, find gems, or just dig through some interesting terrain, the most commonly used are rock hammer and brick hammer. But what’s the difference between them?
The difference between a rock hammer and a brick hammer is that a rock hammer is for geological fieldwork, whereas a brick hammer is typically used in construction for brick or stone jobs. There are a variety of different rock hammers, but a brick hammer refers to a specific hammer type.
Read on to learn more about when to use a rock or brick hammer and how to find the best hammer for you, as well as the different types of rock and brick hammers available and what they are best used for.
If you are interested in checking out the best hammers for rockhounding you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
What is a Rock Hammer?
While there are various types of rock hammers, they are all made to be used in geological work to break up, split or smoothen various materials, such as different types of rock, dirt, sediment, fossil, bone, or other material.
They can come in all shapes, sizes, and materials, but typically have the traditional solid, blunt end and a chiseled end.
Different types of rock hammers are made differently, but typical high-quality rock hammers are forged out of one piece of metal. According to Thought Co., rock picks and fossil hammers are typically made of hard metal that makes them ill-suited to be hit by other hammers like a chisel. If they are used as a chisel, the hardened steel can splinter and send off chips.
If you are looking to do any sort of geological fieldwork, or any job that involves breaking rock, then a rock hammer is right for you.
Different hammers work better with different types of rock, so you should choose the right hammer for the rock you intend to work with and your intended purpose.
For example, if you are looking to work around fossils and sedimentary rock, then a chisel edge is better, but if you are working to break up tough, metamorphic rock, a crack hammer is much better suited.
While some rock hammers may be able to be used on different types of rock, not having the correct tool could cause the hammer to break or make the job much more difficult.
Below, we go over some of the most common rock hammers and what they are best used for so you can find the right hammer for your job.
Chisel Edge Rock Hammer
These hammers are also known as fossil or paleontologist hammers and are typically used for softer rocks. According to The Field Student, they are best for those looking to break or work through sedimentary or layered rock, which may have become shale or slate.
Sedimentary rocks are where fossils are typically discovered, and the chisel edge is used to break apart soft rock while preserving the fossil.
If you are working for dense materials, then the chisel edge rock hammer is probably not the best hammer for you. It can struggle to break through rocks that are higher on the Mohs scale.
You can check my pick for a chisel edge rock hammer here (Amazon link).
Pointed Tip Rock Hammer
Pointed Tip Rock Hammers can also be called a prospector’s pick or rock pick. According to Thought Co., it is the most used geological hammer.
The hammerhead is used to break or trim smaller rocks and work with light chisels, whereas the pick end is used for scraping or breaking away unwanted sediment.
The pointed-tip rock hammer struggles to deal with larger rocks or very tough rocks. If you are dealing with large, dense rocks that are higher on the Mohs scale, this is not the hammer for you.
You can check my pick for pointed tip rock hammer here (Amazon link).
The Crack Hammer
While pointed-tip rock hammers and chisel-edged rock hammers are similar, the crack hammer looks vastly different from the two and is used like a geologist sledgehammer.
According to Thought Co., crack hammers are typically larger and can either be blunt on both sides or have one pick-end side. You should use a crack hammer if you are looking to break tough, hard-to-break rock, and it is best used in metamorphic geologic work.
They weigh more than other rock hammers, are not good at chipping or prying, and should be used with eyewear as they typically send rock shatters flying during use.
Crack hammers are not good for delicate rockhounding work. If you are working with fossils or any delicate materials, pick a different hammer on our list.
The crack hammer can also struggle with rocks lower on the Mohs scale that will absorb the blows of the hammer without breaking, and the crack hammer doesn’t have the chisel end to scrape away the dust.
You can check my pick for the crack hammer here (Amazon link).
The final type of common rock hammer is the hybrid hammer. The hybrid hammers as having different, specialized uses, and they are typically not made specifically to break apart rock.
An example of a hybrid hammer could be a welding or chipping hammer, which has an almost ax-like side and a pick side, or a geological pick, which has a shovel-like side and a pick side.
Hybrid hammers are usually categorized into specific niches, so make sure the hybrid hammer you are buying is suitable to the rock you are working with.
If you buy a hybrid hammer built for working with softer rock, it will struggle to deal with tougher rocks.
You can check my pick for the hybrid hammer here (Amazon link).
TIP: Cutting rocks with a hammer can be challenging sometimes. That’s why I’ve written a step-by-step guide on how to do it properly. Feel free to read it here:
Step-by-Step: How to Cut Rocks with Hammer and Chisel
What is a Brick Hammer?
A brick hammer is used by masons and bricklayers to help cut or shape brick and stone. These hammers are used for different materials, such as stone, tile, brick-and-mortar, or paving.
They are designed to be versatile, and durable, and are a must-have for almost any construction or house project where stone or brick are involved. The head is typically made of a single piece of forged metal.
Unlike a regular hammer, brick hammers aren’t used for just lining up a nail and driving it home.
You use the blunt side of the hammer to break up larger pieces of brick or stone, or just to crush whatever material you are using into a finer grit. This side can also be used to drive stakes and chisels.
The chisel end of the brick hammer is used when more finesse is required, such as chipping away small pieces of material or smoothing the material. You can also use it to split apart any bricks or rocks connected by mortar to preserve them for future use.
For rockhounding, brick hammers can be useful to keep around because they are built to deal with man-made material or tough, igneous rock.
If you are performing geological work around any man-made structures, either ancient ruins or modern construction, a brick hammer is a great tool to have to combat those tough, man-made materials.
You can check my pick for the hybrid hammer here (Amazon link).
TIP: Do you know what other tools you can use to cut rocks? Check out the best tools for cutting rocks in the article below:
What Can I Use to Cut Rocks? These 5 Tools are the Best!
What Other Types of Hammers Can You Use for Rockhounding?
Like many other tools, there are a wide variety of different hammers to accomplish various tasks, and many may actually fill your rockhounding niche, especially if a specific hammer is hard to come by or unavailable to you for whatever reason.
Below we listed some other hammers that you may find useful as a substitute to traditional rock hammers or that can fill a certain niche.
When people think of a hammer, they typically envision a claw hammer as it is the most popular type of hammer. It features a sloped, split claw end for wrenching nail heads and features a blunt end to hammer in nails or stakes.
It is the hammer typically found in almost every home toolset and can be used to break up small, tough rocks while rockhounding or even pull up stakes or other objects in the ground that you may have to workaround. It can also be used with a chisel if necessary.
Claw hammers are not designed specifically for use while rockhounding and will struggle with rock that is either too hard or too soft.
However, because it is so easy to come by and is versatile, it is a great substitute should you need a basic hammer in an emergency.
You can check my pick for the claw hammer here (Amazon link).
The sledgehammer may be the second most well-known hammer due to its prominence in not only construction but also in movies and advertisements as the primary smashing tool.
According to Garage Tool Advisor, sledgehammers feature a double-blunt-ended head and a long handle to provide leverage for strong, heavy blows. It is used for driving in large stakes, breaking up tough materials such as concrete, and in various other demolition jobs.
For rockhounding, it can be used to break up larger, harder rocks and is a great tool to keep in the arsenal.
Sledgehammers are designed with one thing in mind: destruction. If you are looking to work with fossils or any delicate material you might want to preserve, then a sledgehammer is not for you.
You can check my pick for the sledgehammer here (Amazon link).
According to Tools First, a club hammer is basically the sledgehammer’s smaller cousin. It is used for demolition work where precision is more important than raw power and is a common tool for any construction job.
Similar to the sledgehammer, if you are looking to break up large, hard rock, then it is a great option to take to your work site.
Again, like the sledgehammer, the club hammer can struggle with softer rock or in trying to preserve a fossil or artifact. Make sure you want to destroy everything you swing this hammer at.
You can check my pick for the club hammer here (Amazon link).
Another iconic hammer that most people are familiar with, is a rubber mallet that has a double-blunt head like a sledgehammer but is not used to generate power or demolition.
According to Tools First, the rubber head can be used when placing and securing delicate materials such as ceramic tiles or mosaics.
For rockhounding, it can be used to hammer in stakes, work with chisels, or flatter out softer materials. Because of its weight and makeup, it is a great tool to have while rockhounding because it can be used delicately and precisely.
Most rubber mallets are not designed for use in the field, so you must make sure that it is built well enough to handle your work.
Rubber mallets will also not be tough enough to break through tougher materials as they generate less power than their metal-headed equivalents.
You can check my pick for the rubber mallet hammer here (Amazon link).
Essentially, an electrician’s hammer is just a claw hammer with a slightly longer reach and a shock-proof layer so electricians can work without worrying about getting shocked.
If you are rockhounding anywhere near electrical equipment or lines, such as a buried cable, then an electrical hammer might be a good tool to keep breaking and moving materials without worrying about getting shocked.
Unless you are working near electrical equipment, an electrician’s hammer is not designed to assist in rockhounding. It will be about as useful as your average claw hammer in that case.
You can check my pick for the electrician’s hammer here (Amazon link).
According to Garage Tool Advisor, the hatchet hammer is essentially a cross between an ax and a peening hammer. Because of its many uses, it is commonly included in wilderness survival kits and is one of the most versatile tools in the world.
If you are rockhounding out in the wilderness or hiking to your site, then a hatchet hammer is a great tool to bring along for its incredible versatility.
Hatchet hammers are not designed for any specific rockhounding purpose, so if you aren’t going into the wilderness or hiking to your destination, you probably don’t need to keep a hatchet hammer.
You can check my pick for the hatchet hammer here (Amazon link).
According to Tools First, the rip hammer is the claw hammer’s big brother and is used to dig holes or tear apart various objects and materials.
Usually, the claw end is straight instead of curved. For rockhounding purposes, it can be used to break fairly tough materials and pull up stakes or other objects stuck deep in the ground.
Like the claw hammer, the rip hammer is versatile but was not designed to be used for rockhounding. It can also struggle to break harder rocks but is a great alternative if specific rock hammers are not available.
You can check my pick for the rip hammer here (Amazon link).
The scutch hammer is the first hammer on our list that does not have a blunt face. According to Garage Tool Advisor, it features a double-chisel head and is used to remove, or scutch, old mortar from bricks and other material so that it can be reused. It is a great tool for any rockhound that doesn’t have access to a chisel or traditional pickaxe.
Because it doesn’t have a blunt face, it isn’t good for smashing or crushing. In addition, it is important to make sure you get a strong enough scutch hammer to work with rocks without breaking, bending, or scratching.
You can check my pick for the scutch hammer here (Amazon link).
For all the hammers above, they are not specifically designed for use while rockhounding but are easily found at most home hardware stores or even a department store.
If one of your rock hammers breaks and you are looking for an emergency replacement, there is probably a hammer on this list that will get the job done in a pinch!
TIP: There are many different types of chisels and, just like hammers, you have to pick the one that best suits your job. If you want to learn more about chisels and how to use them, you can learn more from our article about them here:
Recommended Rock Hammers, Picks, Chisels & Bars For Rockhounding
You Need a Chisel, Too
After you’ve chosen the best hammers for your rockhounding adventures, you’ll also need a chisel.
The chisel is one of the oldest tools known to man and was even used by the Egyptians in their mason and sculpting work. In addition to hammers, protective gear, and the material itself, chisels are needed to hone their materials.
A chisel is a tool, usually made of a soft, tempered metal for durability and power, that is used to split carefully, carve, divide, smooth, or shape various materials, including stone, rock, brick, mortar, or even wood.
Chisels are typically made of a softer metal, so they don’t chip or splinter when they are hit by a hammer. Because they are softer, it is typical for them to show marks or mold around where the hammer makes contact over time and should be replaced when they become too disfigured.
You can check my pick for rock chisel here (Amazon link).
In conclusion, working with various hammers, chisels, and other tools is an important part of almost every project or work.
It is important always to take all the necessary safety precautions, such as protective gear, eyewear, and proper technique is important for not only your health but also the quality of the job.
It is also important for you to understand what tool is best for your job and to know how to use it before you start work.
TIP: Don’t forget to use protective equipment while using your rock or brick hammer! Goggles and protective gloves are the basis. You can check out my recommended safety equipment in the article below:
Recommended Safety Equipment for Rockhounding: Stay Safe!