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A "tuning fork" in the handle of this 20-ounce model dissipates impact shocks and vibrations, which can harm joints, muscles, and nerves even if you're not hammering all day long. The rubber grip has a diamond-patterned texture and a "deer's-foot" flare at the end to ensure it won't slip out of a sweaty palm. 14–inch handle, $33; stanleytools.com

Slim and lightweight, Japanese finish hammers have a nimbleness well suited to delicate finish work. Their elongated necks keep knuckles clear of the work, and sharply pointed, steeply sloped claws extract embedded nails in one pull. Striking plates on the sides (cheeks) of this 14–ounce head can drive nails in tight quarters. 15-inch handle, $30; sharkcorp.com

The Striker's exquisitely sculpted 21–ounce head is permanently fastened to its fiberglass handle with epoxy resin, which resists nearly 5,000 pounds of pullout force (wood handles can withstand about 200 pounds); that means you can pound nails in and crank them out again with abandon. The groove in the head is a magnetic nail holder for one–handed nail starting. 15–inch handle, $30; strikertools.com

Titanium isn't cheap, but if you're pounding a houseful of nails, you'll appreciate that it's about 45 percent lighter and 10 times better at damping vibration than the high–carbon steel most hammer heads are made of. The 15-ounce TiBone II features interchangeable steel faces: one milled and one smooth. 18–inch handle, $250; stilettotools.com

A 21–ounce steel head bolted to a lightweight fiberglass handle moves this tool's balance point significantly closer to the business end for greater nail–striking power. The square face, for nailing in tight corners, has recessed mill marks that wear more evenly than a waffle–iron texture. 16–inch handle, $33; estwing.com

This 20—ounce hammer has a sideways nail–puller—the V-shaped notch in the head—for maximum leverage, an overstrike plate to protect the hickory handle, and a magnetic nail holder for one–handed starting. All in all, a full–featured, beautifully balanced tool for a reasonable price. 16–inch handle, $68; douglastool.com

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