When you see a group of workers breaking the asphalt or the sidewalk with a big and loud machine, you are watching an air hammer in action. Did you know that there are smaller air hammers that have other uses?
In this article, I will tell you all about them.
What is an Air Hammer?
An air hammer is a handheld tool powered by compressed air (pneumatic). As their name suggests, they are percussion tools. They are the modern version of sledgehammers, and they are available in all sizes, from small tools for hobbyists and DIYers to industrial tools like the ones you see on the streets.
In the above image, you can see that a retainer spring which is screwed on the thread on the body of the air chisel, holds the hammer bit in place. Without this spring, the tool bit will be thrown out of the socket during working and could cause accidents.
The more expensive models come with a quick retainer chuck which eliminates the need to unscrew the spring whenever you want to change the tip.
Big air hammers are also called jackhammers, and they are essential to the construction and mining industries. They can destroy rocks in seconds and drill a hole into hard surfaces, and they also are helpful in loosening stuck nuts or bolts, thanks to their strong and fast vibration.
Air hammers have a slot that allows you to use different attachments, like chisels, cutters, steel or rubber hammers, sockets, and more; that’s why many people refer to them as air chisels.
How Does a Pneumatic Hammer Work?
The pneumatic hammers’ mechanism is pretty simple. Compressed air flows through a valve that moves a piston forward and backward inside the hammer. The piston can be attached to a fixed percussion head or to a holder that allows using different heads or tools.
As the piston moves forward, it pushes hard, causing the hammer or tool on the tip of the tool to thrust hard into the object we are working with. After every impact, a spring retracts the piston back, and the force of the compressed air keeps pushing it forward again and again. This simple action creates powerful vibrations and turns the air hammer into a powerful and efficient tool capable of destroying things or loosening stuck or welded parts in no time.
Besides being powerful, air hammers are practical for working in small spaces. You don’t have to swing a hammer over and over; you just have to press the tip of the air-powered hammer hard against the target.
Another interesting fact about pneumatic hammers is that they require zero or little maintenance thanks to their simple working mechanism. The only important concern is ensuring the internal parts are properly lubricated to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. Make sure that you are lubricating the pneumatic tool with an air tool oil or a suitable alternative.
Air compressor Requirement
The compressor’s size and capacity determine the efficiency and power of the tool. An air hammer needs an air compressor that can deliver about 90 PSI of air pressure and no less than 4 cfm (cubic feet per minute) to work continuously.
A compressor capable of delivering 13 cfm at 90 PSI is ideal for performing any job.
What is BPM in an Air Hammer?
The BPM stands for Blows Per Minute, which is the number of strikes it can make in a minute.
How many hammer strikes can you make by hand? 30? 60? If you are really fast, you could do over 100 short strikes. A typical pneumatic hammer can strike thousands of blows per minute. This is why the tasks that could take you hours can be done in seconds with an air hammer.
It’s important to know that not all the models have the same BPM. A typical air hammer offers anywhere from 2000 to 5000 BPM (blows per minute). The higher the BPM, the faster the piston goes back and forth.
Air Hammer Uses
Air hammers are frequently used in the automotive industry, including auto repair and bodywork, metalworking, metal fabrication, construction, etc.
Following are some of the common uses of an air hammer.
- Disassemble Ball Joints: Removing ball joints from the control arm can be a hard task. The bolt that connects the control arm with the steering knuckle is sometimes a hassle. Occasionally ball joints seem to be welded to the control arm, and it takes a lot of hammering to detach them.
An air hammer with the wedge bit or Ball Joint/Tie Rod Separator bit makes this annoying job fast and easy.
- Remove Fan Clutches: Removing fan clutches also may take a lot of hammering. You get the idea, right? Yes, air hammers are great for removing stuck parts!
- Dismantle Exhaust Systems: Sometimes, you want to dismantle an exhaust system without breaking it. That means that sawing it or cutting it is not an option.
Most exhaust systems are not welded, they are held by clamps or V-bands, and the sections are inserted into one another. Once again, a power hammer makes the job easier.
- Removal of Suspension Bushings: Without an air hammer, you usually have to remove the control arm to take it to a press and remove the suspension bushings, or you will need an expensive portable press. Using the right bit, you can easily remove the suspension bushings from the control arms without removing them from the vehicle.
- Loosen Frozen Nuts: Air powered hammers are ideal for loosening frozen or stuck nuts and bolts. Just spray some penetrating oil and then apply the air hammer over the frozen fastener. The vibration will do the rest.
- Cutting Exhaust Pipes: Air hammers fitted with a proper chisel can cut exhaust pipes in the blink of an eye.
- Remove Rivets: Air hammers are very useful for removing rivets. For example, some ball joints are riveted to the control arms. However, some aftermarket part manufacturers sell kits to replace just the control arms. An air power hammer allows you to cut the rivets of the worn control arms and free the holes in the control arm so you can install the aftermarket kit.
- Push Tight Bolts Out: With the right tool bit, a pneumatic hammer can easily push tight bolts out.
- Paint Removal
Use a scraper bit to chip old paint out fast which can other take a lot of manual hours.
- To Cut Sheet Metal: There are many accessories to make air hammers great metal cutters. There are different chisel bits that allow you to make different cuts, from plain cutters to punches with different forms that allow you to shape the metal as you cut it.
- Planishing (Flattening) Hammer: Pneumatic hammers are useful for removing bumps and dents, and all metal molding and smoothing that can be done with a regular hammer. The planishing tip comes with a diamond pattern on the face which cuts the grain to achieve flatness.
- Shaping Metal: You no longer have to spend timeless hours with your ball peen hammer.
There are many types of bits, like hammer bits with rubber tips and plain hard metal tips, available in the market. Make sure that you are using the right tip and test it on a scrap piece of metal; otherwise, you will end up with dents on your work.
- Remove Tiles: Air chisels help to remove the grout and tiles smoothly, easily. If you are really careful, you can even take the tile out in one piece. Using a heavy-duty power tool such as a rotary hammer for tile removal is better option when you want to replace the flooring of an entire building.
- Breakup Concrete and Mortar: Air hammers are great for breaking up concrete and mortar. There are also special kits for mortar removal that allow you to take out the mortar completely or just remove a thin layer to make it look as good as new.
You can also use it to remove lath and plaster from the wall for renovation.
- Carving and Sculpting Stone: Carving stones takes a lot of hammering action, and the pneumatic hammer can help. Some chisels are very practical for carving and sculpting stone. It’s useful for aesthetical touches, and some artists even use these chisels to make art with them.
Be Creative: You can do many more useful things with this compact power tool when working on a home improvement project or repairing your car or truck. Just use your common sense and be creative!
How to Use an Air Hammer Safely
Below you will find a list of safety precautions you should always take when using a power hammer.
- Always work in a ventilated, clean, and well-lit space. If you are not working on a bench, try to get as comfortable as you can and make sure to be protected from flying particles and debris.
- Wearing safety glasses is a must.
- Always wear earplugs while operating an air hammer since the tool is loud.
- If you are working with concrete, mortar, stone, or with something that can produce dust, you should wear a mask.
- If you plan to use a power hammer for long time periods, use anti-vibration globes. They will help you to prevent wrist and joint strain caused by vibration. Remember that strain leads to accidents; that’s why you should work as comfortably as you can and make regular pauses.
Also, long-term use of percussion tools can cause damage to your nerves, and muscles and may even lead to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
- Never hold the work with your hand or against the body.
- Use the proper tip for the appointed job.
- Always detach the compressed air hose from the tool before changing accessories or making any adjustments.
- Don’t over-pressurize your air tool. Any pressure exceeding 200 PSI is dangerous and can result in serious injury.
- Use compressed air only. Other gasses, such as bottled gas, oxygen, or carbon dioxide, are explosive and extremely dangerous.
- Always check the user manual to check the recommended air pressure and other important safety instructions.
Following these tips and using common sense will help you to make the most of an air hammer without risking your health and personal safety.
How hard does an air hammer hit?
It depends on the hammer’s BPMs, the size of its barrel, the length of the stroke, and the power of the compressor. Usually, the final power of an air hammer is determined by the air consumption it draws from the air compressor, measured in CFM. The longer the piston, the faster it will hit.
According to some tests, the most powerful air hammers can produce 4,000 plus PSI at the tip of the chisel.
Is an air hammer worth it?
Yes, definitely. Pneumatic hammers are great tools that help to do unpleasant and annoying jobs fast and easy. Besides, this compact pneumatic tool is extremely versatile. There are hundreds of tips to do different tasks.
Difference between an air hammer vs a rivet gun
Air hammers are less precise than rivet guns.
Although they work under the same principle and are powered by compressed air, rivet guns have regulators, and their triggers are more sensitive. Rivet guns are designed to be more precise, but they are slow and, most of the time, less powerful than pneumatic hammers.
Rivet guns usually are more expensive than air hammers.
Can you use an air hammer to rivet?
Yes, in theory, you can. Some kits include riveting tips that are intended for riveting.
In practice, you need to be a very skilled air hammer operator to rivet as fast and accurately as you would with a rivet gun.
- What is an Air Hammer?
- How Does a Pneumatic Hammer Work?
- Air Hammer Uses
- How to Use an Air Hammer Safely