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What is a Claw Bar?

By D. Poupon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A claw bar is a long metal bar with a hook on one end that is forked so that it can grab onto an object when prying or pulling. It is a type of small, steel pry bar, typically around 1 foot (30 cm) long. Generally used in construction, claw bars can dismantle wooden structures and remove nails. Most claw bars can be purchased at hardware stores for under $15 US Dollars (USD). Alternative uses for claw bars can be found in fire fighting and railway maintenance.

The bent head of a claw bar comes in a variety of shapes. Cat’s paw claw bars are shaped like a J, with cupped heads that are only 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. The claws are sharpened and have a notch in the middle to catch nail heads without damaging any surrounding wood.

If the head is shaped more like an L and is longer, around 3 inches (7 cm), then it is called a bear claw bars. Bear claw bars have special wedge shaped heads. The flat side can be hit by a hammer to drive the claw bar in deep in order to pry apart boards or other materials.

The tail form of a claw bar depends on its use. A claw bar puller, used to yank out nails, has an easy to grip handle. A claw pry bar has a beveled tail that can be wedged between materials and used to dismantle wooden structures. For larger, longer nail removal, double ended claw bars can be useful, with a 90° angled head and a 30° angled tail.

A claw bar's length also depends on its application. Claw bars used to delicately remove nails from wood that is meant to be salvaged tend to be smaller than claw bars used in demolition. To remove molding, a foot long (about 30 cm) claw bar should be sufficient. To rip up decking, claw bars that are up to a yard long (91 cm) might be necessary.

Run of the mill 12-inch (30.5 cm) steel claw bars typically cost under $15 USD. Specialty claw bars that are extendible or have multiple functions can be ordered online for under $50 USD. Titanium claw bars are incredibly lightweight and strong, but also incredibly expensive, costing upward of $150 USD depending on their size.

Claw bar tools have be used for over 100 years. One of their original uses was removing rail spikes and bolts from train tracks. Firemen also use a modified claw bar that looks like a crook on one end and a fork on the other. The tool is mainly used to pop off locks and to force entry in order to get emergency personnel into locked structures.

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