Titanium vs. Steel: Are Titanium Hammers Worth the Money
So it’s time for a new hammer and you’re facing the essential question: steel or titanium? Actually, if you’re a framer, chances are you already know your answer: you’ll swear by your (steel/titanium) hammer and guys that use (titanium/steel) hammers are nuts. Trust me, I’m not trying to argue you out of your opinion. But if you’re still reading this post, I’ll assume you’re looking at those shinny titanium hammers and wondering if they’re really worth it.
Nobody disputes the advantages of titanium: it’s as strong as some steels and weighs about 45% less. In a hammer, the lighter weight means a faster swing and a more powerful strike. So a 16oz titanium hammer will actually drive as well or better than heavier steel hammers. (In case you’re wondering how this is possible, look at the physics: the energy of a hammer strike is equal to one half the mass of the head times the square of the head’s speed at the time of impact. In other words, the energy increases linearly with mass, but exponentially with speed). Not only do titanium hammers use energy more efficiently, they’re also better at absorbing reverberation and reduce stress on the arm and shoulder.
While titanium has a lot of benefits, it has one clear drawback: cost. You can get a good steel hammer for $20 - $40, or you can get a titanium hammer for $75 - $200. That’s a pretty steep differnce. It can be hard to justify a hand tool that costs more than a cordless drill. Some people claim the cost is just marketing (i.e. companies charge $200 because people will pay $200), but there are legitimate reasons for a higher price. Raw titanium only occurs in small concentrations and is always bonded to another element. Extracting and processing it is complex and very expensive. Now, is it 5x-more expensive than steel production? I’m not sure, and somehow I don’t see manufacturers volunteering that information.
So we’re back to the original question: is titanium worth the money? It just depends on why and how often you use that hammer. $150 doesn’t make a lot of sense for weekend projects. But there are a lot of professional framers who swear by titanium, despite the price tag. And I don’t think it’s because they “bought the marketing,” as some detractors claim. A lighter and more efficient design counts for a lot if you use that tool 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. And it really counts if you have chronic shoulder injuries (which, after 8-10 hour days, is pretty likely.) The “Titanium vs Steel” question is less “Pepsi vs. Coke” and more “Explorer vs Escalade.” It’s the way you use it that will or won’t justify the cost.
By Jessica Arant
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