What the Heck is a Pein?

Various peen hammers. Key: A. Ball-peen hammer...
Image via Wikipedia

Now that you’ve seen (almost) all the hammers that I own, you might be asking, “but why so many?”  Each one has a specific purpose, and you can get more detailed explanations by reading my Better Know Your Hammer series.  In this post I’ll give you a quick overview in case you aren’t as big of a hammer fiend as I am.

The main differences between hammers are their weight and how they’re shaped.  The ends of the hammer head are called “peins” and their shape determines their use.  Mallets don’t have peins, and they’re a little bit different than hammers.  You use them for moving metal, closing paint cans, brute force things where you aren’t being super precise and you don’t want to mess up the surface of the metal.

Claw hammers

The most common hammers that most people use in their house are claw hammers and ball pein (hammer on the left in the diagram above) hammers.  I’ve seen a Haitian man use a ball pein hammer to form metal, but usually these are used for nails.  Claw hammers are pretty much made for nails since you can pry them out with the claw end.

Ball pein found on my sinking hammer

Sinking hammers usually have two ball peins (one on either end) and they are used for “sinking a bowl.”  You pound the metal into a depression and “sink” it into the shape.  That is why the ends are round.  This particular hammer has fairly small ends, and I would like one that is a little bit bigger.

Cross pein

Raising, grooving, and forging hammers generally have at least one cross pein.  These can run either horizontal (like the one pictured) or verticle (like on my delrin mallet or the middle hammer in the diagram above).  It is basically a line and it pinches the metal to stretch it in a specific direction.  You can use it to raise a bowl or forge wire and rod, or simply for a nice texture.

Round head on a planishing hammer

And finally the two different peins of my planishing hammer.  I also talk about the flat head and the round head and each can be used when planishing metal.  I also use the round head on mine for riveting.

Flat head on a planishing hammer

I hope that helps to explain the differences in my hammers, and why I use so many.  Do you know of a type of hammer I haven’t listed here?  Leave a comment (and hopefully a link!) describing it for us.

***Better Know Your Hammer – the book is now available as a paperback or ebook!  It includes info about all these hammers plus a glossary, hammer resources, and info on why hammers work the way they do and tips on using and buying one. (updated 7/2011)***

3 thoughts on “What the Heck is a Pein?

  1. Steam hammer! 🙂
    But really, I like these posts you do about hammers, I think it’s a little envy on my part… Maybe I ought to buy a proper hammer some time instead of going to the £1 shop? LOL.


    1. Hehe, I didn’t know you could find hammers there. If it works for you, though, it doesn’t matter where you find it. I saw a Haitian metalworker basically chasing an old oil drum with a ball pein on a wooden board. So you never know.


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