We're still covering some basic stuff. So today -- IT'S HAMMER TIME! (However, sorry to disappoint but there will be no crazy pants, dancing, or "Can't touch this"es).
Which hammer do you choose? What size? What color? Which weight? What about the handle? The head? The claw?
Most of that stuff doesn't really matter. Here's what matters: Use the HEAVIEST hammer you can comfortably use. A grip on the handle is nice but not required. But the important thing is: Use the HEAVIEST hammer you can comfortably use. Contrary to popular belief, you aren't doing the work, the hammer is and the heavier hammer will give you better results.
You know the saying "It's all in the wrist"? -- IT'S TRUE! Your arm is not pushing the hammer (at least it shouldn't be), it's more about gravity and physics (neither of which I know much). But I do know this -- the wrist is the most important pivot point. So hold the hammer at the very bottom of the handle and hold it approx. 90 degrees to your forearm. And again your elbow makes a pivot point, so your forearm should be 90 degrees to your upper arm. In other words, the hammer will be parallel to your upper arm. NOW you're ready to swing. This gives you the biggest bang for your buck. If you're tapping in tacks, you might want to use just the wrist action (but DO use it).
If swinging's not your problem but just using those tiny little nails, here's a tip: old school says to use a comb to hold a nail, but I like to use a thick piece paper. Just poke the nail through the paper first. Once the nail's securely (but not completely) in place, just pull the paper away.
Another tip for holding a small nail would be to hold it with a needle nose pliers until it's securely in place. With either method it might be helpful to use a big nail to first whack a dent in the target spot to give the little nail a nice starting place.
If you want to improve your hammer skills, it's just like anything else -- it's just takes some time and practice. An easy, low-danger way is by first practicing without actual nails. Make some targets on wood, hammer away, and when you feel ready, add some nails. (Sorry if I've offended anyone, I've just never liked fig newtons!)
In the world of junking you're just as likely to need to remove nails as you are to put them in. One time honored helpful hint is to place a block of wood under the hammer (but much closer to the nail than in the photo) before prying up the nail, giving you much better leverage. This also will protect the wood from getting gouged in the nail removal process.
For me, I find it easier to just bend the hammer sideways. Just continue to grip nail as close to wood as possible and bend the hammer down off to the side, and continue and attack from different angles if necessary.
Until next week --
Be cool, use a tool
P.S. These tips are for nailing into "soft" wood like pine which is the basic wood of plywood, 2x4's, etc (can you poke your fingernail into the wood? if so, it's soft). If you are using oak or other hard wood, you must drill a starter hole first before you nail anything into it.