Dead Blow Hammer

Not all hammers are created the same. One of the more interesting designs is the dead blow hammer. While it looks like a traditional mallet, it has a unique internal mechanism that makes it well suited for certain types of jobs.

What is a Dead Blow Hammer?

Dead Blow Hammer

This has all the appearance of a traditional mallet and is often made from hardened plastic. However, the main difference between a dead blow hammer and a rubber mallet is that inside the head of the hammer are iron shots that can move freely when the hammer is in motion. The force exerted by the heavy iron shots reduces the recoil considerably.

How Does It Work?

When the hammer is being directed in a downward or forward motion, the material inside the hammer will rise upward to the top. when the hammer strikes the target, the material inside will fall sharply downward. This adds additional force to the blow that is spread across a longer period of time.

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The large head ensures that the force of the blow is spread out over a wider area. Because the impact is less sharp compared to a solid hammer, the blow is often described as “dead” because of the lack of rebound, hence the name ‘dead blow hammer’. This makes the dead blow hammer well suited for jobs that involve delicate parts and tight spaces.

Dead blow hammers come in consumer and professional models. The consumer model is reasonably priced while the professional model may cost upwards of $2 per ounce. For most people, the consumer model will be more than enough as it is designed for light to moderate use. Only if you expect to use the dead blow hammer on a daily basis should you consider the more expensive models.

What’s Inside a Dead Blow Hammer?

Inside of a dead blow hammer, you’ll find the head contains either chilled iron shots, lead, or sand. The sand or shot is normally inside a container that sits within the head. The iron or lead balls can move freely back and forth inside the head of the hammer.

This is why the dead blow hammer is mallet-shaped to have enough size to accommodate the container holding the freely moving steel shots. The rest of the hammer is made from solid materials, although the outer covering is normally plastic or urethane to prevent the wood from being marred or dented by the hammer when in use.

What is a Dead Blow Hammer Made Of?

Apart from the internal container, the dead blow hammer is made of hardened plastic. Plastic is used to prevent the marring of materials like wood while allowing the hammer to strike with enough force to drive nails. There is also a urethane coating that is often applied to the hammer which also helps prevent scarring or denting of wood.

It is also useful with metal parts, especially areas that have been painted or otherwise have surfaces that may be somewhat delicate. This is why the dead-blow mallet is often used on jobs that require minimal damage to the surface.

Dead Blow Hammer Uses

This type of hammer may be used conventionally, but because the force is spread over a longer period of time it is mostly not used for traditional nailing where speed is of the essence. However, because of the lack of elastic rebound, the dead blow hammer does offer a wide variety of uses in many different industries which include the following.

1. Automotive

Of all the industries where the dead blow hammer is used, this may be the most common. That is because of the tight spaces and relatively delicate parts that make up an automobile. The goal is to separate parts, loosen nuts and bolts, or shape metal while doing minimal damage to the surface. The three main uses in the automotive industry for the dead blow hammer include the following.

  • Chassis Repairs
  • Hubcap Installation
  • Transmission Work

Repairing the chassis of a vehicle often requires banging out dents and dings. The dead blow hammer is the perfect tool thanks to its flat head and plastic body which minimizes collateral damage when removing such imperfections in the chassis.

Installing hubcaps is far easier when using a dead blow hammer. Plus, it is perfect for transmission work given that the transmission itself is rather delicate.

For anything close to the fuel tank, go for a non-sparking brass hammer which eliminates the risk of fire hazards.

2. Woodworking

Although traditional hammers are used far more often, there are certain times in which the dead blow hammer is the preferred choice. This is for selective jobs where the application of force is needed while causing minimal damage to the surface.

  • Wood Joinery
  • Chiseling

Putting together wood joints is quite natural for this type of hammer. But the dead blow hammer really shines when used to apply force to a chisel. The wide head and added power of the internal sand or shot can help drive a chisel easier compared to using a conventional hammer and chisel.

3. Carpentry

Much like woodworking, carpentry mostly uses a traditional hammer for driving nails. However, the dead blow hammer is perfect when putting together pieces of wood that do not have nails or fasteners. This is why the dead blow hammer is most often used for the following jobs.

  • Furniture Assembly
  • Cabinet Installation

Both furniture assembly and cabinet installation require the bringing together or breaking apart of wood that is connected using joints rather than simply nails. Many pieces of furniture and cabinets are connected using joints, so the dead blow hammer is ideal to minimize impact to the wood. As a demolition tool, the dead-blow is ideal for breaking apart pieces that have been connected using fasteners.

4. Machine Manufacturing

The dead blow hammer is often used for placing and dislodging parts in machine manufacturing. A common tool used by those to either modify or repair the machines, the dead blow hammer is most often used for the following work.

  • Mounting Ball Bearings
  • Machine Assembly
  • Dislodging Stuck Parts

Because of the minimal surface damage, the dead blow hammer is ideal for breaking stuck parts away from surfaces. It also is of great assistance with mounting ball bearings along with the assembly of machines or putting together of parts until fasteners can be attached.

5. Metalworking

Similar to machine manufacturing, but a different industry, metalworking involves a wide range of uses that includes the following.

  • Assembling Metal Parts
  • Straighten or bent sheet metal.
  • Remove dents and deformation from parts made of sheet metal
  • Assembly of large injection molds, die casting dies etc.

The basic job of the dead blow hammer in this field is to either put together or reshape metal, mostly sheet metal. Dead blow hammers work quite well in banging out dents in thin metal sheets.

6. Flooring

Laying tiles or installing hardwood flooring? A dead blow hammer is often used for flooring work.

Tip: Do not strike the tiles with too much force. Doing so may cause damage to the hammer and may break the tiles.

When installing floor tiles or wall tiles with a regular rubber mallet, part of the energy is lost due to rebound. Conversely, a light tap with the dead blow mallet can exert more force since there is no recoil.

This not only makes the job easier but also greatly reduces the chance of tile breakage.

Advantages of Dead Blow Hammers

There are several advantages to dead blow hammers, especially when it comes to breaking apart wooden joints or reshaping metal.


No Rebound: The low elastic rebound makes it perfect for tight spaces, such as working on engines.

Easier on the Arms: Less muscle power is required to strike the target.

Quieter: The “deadening” effect means less noise compared to a traditional hammer.

Hammer Strike Target Harder: The internal sand or shot container delivers more force compared to a traditional hammer.


The downside is that using a dead blow can be slower compared to a solid, traditional hammer. This is because the rebound or recoil which allows the hammer to be brought into position quickly for the next strike is not present in a dead blow hammer. This makes it less suitable for driving nails.

However, a dead blow hammer is an important part of a toolkit. Having one can save considerable time when you need to apply more force and have less space to accomplish the task.