Stiletto Titanium Hammers - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Superb professional grade hammers that deliver on durability and performance

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Stiletto Titanium Hammers



Titanium has been referred to as the 'space age material', and for good reason; it has the highest strength-to-weight-ratio of any metal. When combined with other metals you get a kind of super alloy that offers a superior combination of tensile strength with high fatigue, crack and corrosion resistance. No wonder it's used extensively in the aviation and marine industries, where, strength and light weight is so important.  It's also one of the most commonly occurring metals (7th most abundant on Earth).
 
If titanium is such an amazing, and common metal, why, you may be wondering, are titanium tools so darn expensive? It's because of the complex multi-step process used to manufacture the metal. Fortunately, a new processing method has recently been developed that may reduce production costs, making titanium alloys more economical. You can read all about this amazing metal at Wikipedia.
 
Stiletto Tools have been making striking tools since 1849, so they have a bit of history behind them. While they still manufacture a few steel tools, for the most part they market all titanium or titanium/steel products.
 
Over a six week period I had occasion to field test two Stiletto hammers: the all titanium 14 oz Framer, and the titanium/steel Mini 14 TiBone. There aren't many tools that knock my socks off on first use, but these Stilettos are the cats meow when it comes to hammers.
 
According to Stiletto, a titanium hammer transfers 97% of the energy produced from swinging the hammer to the nail head. An all-steel hammer transfers only 70% of the energy to the nail. When the titanium hammer sits the nail, only about 3% of the recoil energy travels back to your arm and shoulder; with a steel hammer, you're absorbing about 30% of that recoil energy. What this translates to is easier nailing - expending the same amount of energy (or effort), you can drive nails more efficiently with a titanium hammer.


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Titan Framer, Mini TiBone, and Stanley FatMax
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Titan Framer handle (left)
Mini TiBone handle (right)
The 14 oz Titan Framer is the longer of the two hammers by about 2-1/2", though both heads are virtually the same size and they weigh just about the same (1.7 lbs). Both hammers are available with either a smooth or milled 1-1/2" diameter face, and the edges of the face are nicely chamfered to prevent chipping.
 
A lot of guys prefer a milled (indented holes) or waffle (raised diamond shaped points) face, as it's designed to grip the nail better than a smooth face (less likely to slide off the nail head) particularly when you hit the nail off-center. Of course, a large face helps a lot too. These hammers also share the common straight claw found on most framing hammers, which is more convenient for prying boards apart than nail pulling. I rarely pull nails with my hammer anyway, preferring a nail puller.


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Waffle face (left) and smooth face (right)
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Straight claw
The 15-3/4" handle on the Titan Framer is made of poly-fibreglass, and is extremely durable. As I get older I'm apt to miss the occasional hit now and then; short of some minor surface abrasion, the handle is holding up very well, certainly better than a wooden handle. In the event that it breaks you can't replace the handle yourself; you'll need to ship it back to Stiletto for replacement. I've always preferred a curved handle on a framing hammer, and a straight handle for finish work. It's largely a matter of personal preference, and fortunately the Titan Framer is available with either handle.
 
The curved handle is very nicely shaped, and coupled with the lighter titanium head and rubber overmold, gives a super balanced, comfortable, solid grip. What I really like is how smoothly I can choke up on the hammer to start a nail, and then loosen my grip to let it slide down to deliver the setting blow. Plus, I think that the poly-fibreglass handle also helps to absorb some of the recoil shock.


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Titan Framer head
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Magnetic nail starter
Manufacturers have been putting magnetic nail starters on hammers for years. It isn't a feature I use a lot, but one I appreciate when holding onto a ladder or scaffolding while nailing or when I need to start a nail in a particularly hard to reach place.
 
The Mini 14 TiBone has a titanium head and handle, and a replaceable steel face. The exposed neck on the TiBone is about 4" long. As with the Titan Framer, you can select either a curved or straight handle, which is covered with the same durable rubber overmold grip. The curve on the TiBone is just a bit less pronounced than on the Titan Framer, and at 15" overall, is 2-1/2" shorter than the Titan Framer; just about the same length as my Stanley hammer. Nonetheless, the TiBone is a very comfortable hammer to swing. I particularly liked it for finish nailing when I use a shorter swing arc.


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Mini TiBone showing integrated nail puller
 
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Face is easily replaceable via bolt in the head
The replaceable face on the TiBone is a great feature as well; a chipped or worn face can be easily replaced (at a cost of under $40). You can also switch between a smooth and milled face without too much trouble. Stiletto recommends that you use Locktite Threadlocker on the holding bolt, which means you need to allow the thread locker to dry overnight before using the hammer.
 
The feature I like the most on this hammer is the side nail puller integrated into the head. A straight claw isn't as useful as a curved claw to remove nails, which is why I always carry a small cat's paw. But the side nail puller on the TiBone is really effective; all it takes is a quick upward swinging motion.
 
Regardless of the manufacturer's claims, what really counts is how a tool performs on the job. And these Stiletto hammers are just awesome. I didn't have any problems driving 8d, 10d and 12d nails home with either the Mini TiBone or the Titan Framer. What really impressed me was that I could just as easily sink nails with either of these lighter 14 oz hammers as with my 22 oz FatMax, and with appreciably less recoil. Setting 7d and 8d finish nails was insanely quick and easy. You'll find that with a lighter titanium hammer you'll swing faster, yet won't have to swing any harder to drive nails.
 
While pneumatic framing nailers are used on a lot of job sites to speed up the process of rough framing, they by no means replace the hammer. If I was doing mainly framing, then I'd opt for the Titan Framer. I like the long handle, exceptional balance and light weight. For renovation work and finish carpentry,  the TiBone would be my choice, particularly because it has a shorter handle (which I find gives me better control), a replaceable head, and that lovely side nail puller. The main thing is that with either of these hammers you can sink nails as easily as with larger 22 oz or 24 oz steel hammers, with appreciably less strain on your arm.
 
Of course, steel hammers still have their role on a job site, particularly for brute work - knocking down walls, breaking up plaster, tiles and bricks, persuading beams into place, and the like. Plus, you have to remember that titanium hammers are designed to drive and pull common unhardened nails only; you shouldn't use them on cold chisels or the like.
 
If you do a minimal amount of work with a hammer, then it makes more sense to buy a steel model. However, if you make your livelihood swinging a hammer, then what you swing, and its long term impact on your health, should be important to you. After a decade of day-in, day-out hammering most carpenters I know experience some level of hand, elbow or shoulder ailment. The best case scenario would the application of an analgesic heat rub like Bengay when a hurt comes on you; the worst case - cortisone injections, tendonitis, or, heaven forbid, surgery.
 
The upfront costs for these hammers are high, though the Titan Framer at $136 is an easier pill to swallow than the $285 Mini TiBone. However, the average annual costs, if prorated over a ten year period, are reasonable, particularly for a tool that you make your living with.
 
There are 33 different models of Stiletto titanium hammers to choose from: twentyfive 10 oz to 16 oz all titanium heads with hickory or poly-fibreglass handles, and eight TiBone hammers with all titanium bodies and replaceable steel striking faces.

KEY FEATURES:


14 oz Titan Framer
  • 1.67 lbs
  • 17-1/2" overall length (15-3/4" handle)
  • Straight or curved poly-fibreglass handle
  • Waffle or smooth face
  • Rubber overmold grip
  • Magnetic nail starter
  • 1 year warranty
Mini 14 TiBone
  • 1.66 lbs
  • 15" overall length (9-1/4" handle)
  • Straight or curved titanium handle
  • Waffle or smooth face
  • Replaceable face
  • Rubber overmold grip
  • Side nail puller
  • Magnetic nail starter
  • Replacement heads are $39.99
  • 1 year warranty

Manufacturer:Stiletto Tools
Available From:Find a dealer
Retail Price:14 oz Titan Framer: $99.99
Mini 14 TiBone $199.98
Model#:14 oz Titan - face/handle options:
TI14MC-P16 - milled/curved
TI14SC-P16 - smooth/curved
Mini 14 TiBone - face/handle options:
TBM14RMS  - milled/straight
TBM14RSS  - smooth/straight
TBM14RMC  - milled/curved
TBM14RSC  - smooth/curved
Made In:USA
Carl Duguay, January 2010,rev March 2012
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