An air hammer is a pneumatic tool that uses pressurized air to drive a hammer head back and
forth several thousand times a second. Air hammers come in a wide variety
of sizes from handheld devices no bigger than a blow drier to five-foot-tall
forging hammers for use in blacksmith shops and welding plants. Pneumatic
jackhammers, such as those used to breakup concrete in streets, are also
called air hammers. However the type being described in this article is
that which could be used by a craftsman to shape, smooth, score, or cut
a piece of metal. Air hammers allow these tasks to be carried out many times
faster than would be possible with manual tools alone and often without
the need to heat the object to be worked in a traditional forge.
Handheld air hammers are connected by tubes to an air compressor or to tanks
that provide pressurized air. For simple shaping and smoothing jobs, especially
involving soft metals like aluminum and copper, low pressures can be used.
Stronger metals, such as stainless steel and heavy shaping jobs, demand
Most air hammers can be fitted with a variety of tips. These include hammer
tips, for shaping and smoothing, and chisel tips, for scoring or cutting.
Before buying an air hammer, consider these important factors:
Special precautions must be taken when using air hammers because of the
speed and pressures (several dozen pounds per square inch) at which they
operate. Read the manufacturers instructions for details.
- Size, weight, bore, and stroke
- Blows per minute
- Operating pressure
- Air consumption
- Air inlet size
- Attachments (hammer and/or chisel tips included or optional)
Plans for building air hammers, relatively inexpensively, simply, and easily,
are available on the Internet.