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What is a Tack Hammer?

Sara Schmidt
By
Updated: May 17, 2024

Nailing in tacks and small nails with a regular size hammer can be difficult. To avoid breaking tacks or small frames, a tack hammer allows greater precision. Also known as an upholstery hammer, a tack hammer is a lightweight tool, ideal for small or delicate projects.

Tack hammers are usually composed of a ten-inch wooden handle and a small head. The head usually weighs five to eight ounces, which is much lighter than a regular hammer. In order to secure the tacks safely and precisely, one face of the hammer may be slotted and magnetized to start nails, as well as to pick up fallen tacks. If not magnetized, a tack hammer may have a small nail-removing claw attached. The flat "head," on other side of the hammer's face, is used to drive the tacks into the project.

During tack hammer selection, it can be beneficial to try out different sizes in person for a correct and comfortable fit. Many tack hammers come with a lifetime warranty. Handles are often lacquered with a clear finish to avoid splinters or chipping in the wood. With frequent use over time, the handle may still break or crack.

A forged head is also common in tack hammers. Heads made of cast steel may break more easily than other designs, which can pose a potential hazard should chips break off and hit the bearer during use. Should the head of a tack hammer become loose, it is possible to fix it by driving wedges into the top. This can also be remedied by replacing the handle. If the head itself chips, for safety purposes it should not be used, and replaced instead.

There are also small plastic fastening devices available for purchase to use in conjunction with tack hammers. These hold nails with a friction grip to help create a straight, clean drive into the wall. They also help protect fingers from accidental injuries during hammering.

Fastening fabric to furniture frames is a common use for tack hammers. They can also be used in the carpentry profession for molding, trim work, and cabinet work, as well. A tack hammer may also be used in any project requiring small nails or tacks, from framing to picture-hanging.

When an upholstery tack hammer is not available for use, staple guns and cross-peen hammers make useful substitutes. Cross-peen hammers are a similar size and shape to tack hammers. They have a double-striking head with two faces. One face is flat while the other is round.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Sara Schmidt
By Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for About Mechanics, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
Discussion Comments
By seag47 — On Aug 24, 2011

I wish I had known that tack hammers existed before I went through a fiasco decorating my office wall. I used my hands, and they ended up in bad condition.

I was trying to push tacks into the wall, but it turned out that there were only a few places where the tacks would go in easily, and none of these were where I wanted to hang anything. My thumbs got so sore that they hurt for days!

Also, I kept dropping tacks behind furniture, because I would try so hard to push them in that they would bend and drop. I really could have used the magnetic head of a tack hammer to retrieve these. I ended up covered in dust bunnies!

By shell4life — On Aug 23, 2011

I helped a friend re-upholster her dining room chairs. She knew that I had no special skills when it came to interior design, but she needed someone to hold the fabric in place while she attached it.

I had never seen a tack hammer before, and I was surprised at how lightweight and manageable it was. My friend is very small, and most tools would be too heavy for her to operate, but she had no trouble at all with this one.

I felt much more comfortable having my fingers close to the tiny nails and the little hammer than I would had she been using bigger ones. I didn’t have to worry about it, anyway, because the thing never slipped off the heads of the nails.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 23, 2011

I moved into my new house last year, and I had plenty of empty wall space to decorate. I wanted to hang my original artwork, which ranged from pastel drawings framed in matboard to acrylic paintings on canvas.

Most of my works already had hang tags glued to their backsides. I only needed to drive in some nails. I’m pretty uncoordinated, and I didn’t trust myself with a regular hammer and big nails. So, I got a tack hammer and some small nails for the project.

I got the nails into the walls without injuring myself. They went in straight, and my art is hanging pretty.

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 22, 2011

I used a tack hammer to put tacks on the walls of my cubicle. It was covered in carpet, and I don’t know what lay beneath it, but it was nearly impossible to penetrate by pushing in a tack with my bare hands.

After several attempts and sore thumbs, I decided to get a tack hammer. I wanted to decorate my otherwise bland office space with photos of my dogs and family, and since I didn’t have a lot of room on my desk, they had to go on the wall.

With the tack hammer, I was able to painlessly drive the tacks through the carpet and into whatever difficult substance lay beneath it. I got them in there securely enough to support my photos.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt
With a Master's Degree in English from Southeast Missouri State University, Sara Schmidt puts her expertise to use by writing for About Mechanics, plus various magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She published her own novella and has other literary projects in the works. Sara's diverse background includes teaching children in Spain, tutoring college students, running CPR and first aid classes, and organizing student retreats, reflecting her passion for education and community engagement.
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