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Most of us here know how to use a hammer. Although it seems pretty basic, I thought I'd put together a short primer for those who are not as comfortable with, or are new to, hammering in the field. If you have any other tips to add, let me know and I can add them in here and give proper attribution for the sage advice. Hammering Techniques For those of us who break and split rock, hammers are by far among the most essential tools in the collecting kit. However, there are a number of best practices we can observe for hammer-use that can increase our power, precision, and reduce the chances of injury. This small primer is designed for those who may not be as comfortable with using a hammer in the field, and those who want to increase their existing skill. The hammer is the extension of your hand, which is an extension of all the muscles that lead up to it. Part 1: The Hammer Itself Just like any class of tool, using the right tool for the job is important. Just as one would not use a sledgehammer to drive a nail into a wall to hang a picture (unless they were a maniac like me), there are certain types of hammers that will not be ideal for the job - and in some cases, may cause injury. Having a range of hammers at your disposal is recommended. Having a good arsenal keeps you ready for whatever may come. Using the right kind of hammer requires an understanding of the material that will be subject to numerous blows. When dealing with hard, blocky matrix, a heavier hammer head with a sufficient shaft is required. When splitting fissile shale, mason or brick hammers with a chisel-sided end is more appropriate. Geologic hammers with a pick end are the gold standard as they can also be used to pry. Big, dense blocks need sturdy sledge hammers, while cracking nodules or small chunks can be done using a crack hammer. Unless there is no other option, hammers used for woodworking are not recommended. A nail claw hammer, for example, is simply not made for busting rock. So unless you are oddly trying to drive nails into rocks, leave the claw hammer for work around the house. For serious rock-busting, the shaft of the hammer should be either a solid steel-forged piece, or fibreglass joined securely to its head. Metal head + wood shaft hammers are not recommended for serious hammering as the head may fly off the shaft and cause injury. Fossil collectors of yesteryear did not have access to drop-forged hammers, but had they the choice they might have opted for not using a wood shaft. To supplement the hammer and its brute force, a range of chisels with different ends is effective in better channeling and distributing force, as are pry bars. These are extensions of the hammer blow that channel its force where you want it to go. In terms of your hammer, determine the following: What kind of hammer is required for the rock and/or task at hand? Is the hammer of a comfortable weight to be wielded for an extended period of time? Remember that the hammer has to be right-sized for you. Some may be comfortable with a 10, 5 lb or 3 lb sledge. If the hammer is too heavy or too light for your needs, your results in the field may suffer.