A rock hammer is an essential part of any geologist’s toolkit. It allows the geologist to quickly open rocks and assess their quality or to dig through material to find valuable rocks.
It’s important to know that not all rock hammers are the same. There are several types of rock hammers made by dozens of different manufacturers. Each hammer varies substantially in terms of its shape, size, and build-quality. If you choose the wrong hammer, it may be difficult to use and can even present a safety risk.
If you are a keen geologist looking for a great rock hammer, you have reached the right place. This guide will explain how to choose the best rock hammer and share several high-quality rock hammers that are both durable and affordable.
Choosing the best rock hammer
Here are some essential tips which will make choosing a rock hammer easier.
Consider the different styles rock hammers
It can sometimes be difficult for beginners and amateur geologists to choose a rock hammer, simply because so many types are available. When you start looking for a rock hammer, you will discover a wide range of products with many different names including rock picks, geology hammers, geology picks, and brick hammers.
The best way to determine how each product can be used is to look at the shape of the hammer’s head. When you do so, you’ll quickly realise that most rock hammers fall into one of three categories:
1) Chisel-tip rock hammer
This type of rock hammer is also called a fossil or palaeontologist hammer. On one end of the head, the surface is flat and wide — resembling a chisel. The other end of the head has a square face, similar to a normal hammer.
The chisel-tip rock hammer is often used when working on sedimentary rock like sandstone, slate, and shale. The chisel end allows the user to split apart layers of stone to get to the lower layers or to expose any fossils it contains. This kind of hammer is also useful for clearing loose material and vegetation.
2) Pointed-tip rock hammer
Also known as rock picks or geological picks, these pointed-tip rock hammers feature a sharp pointy end and a square face end. They are often used by geologists who are working with hard rocks (typically igneous, metamorphic, and harder sedimentary rocks).
The structure of these kinds of rocks is tightly-bound, so they usually need to be cracked with a solid implement to see what is inside. Geologists will use the square end to hit the rock hard and make it crack open. The pointy end of this hammer is used to used to scrape out mineral samples and to dig.
3) Crack hammer
The crack hammer, also called a sledge hammer or heavy rock hammer, is primarily used to crack open and split apart hard rocks. It can also be used to hammer pry bars or chisels into rocks. This hammer is useful if you are cracking many rocks and don’t need a high level of precision.
How will you use your rock hammer?
Thinking about the kinds of geology you perform most often will help you choose the appropriate rock hammer. If you often work with softer sedimentary rocks and like the idea of finding fossils, a chisel-tip rock hammer is a worthy addition to your arsenal. You can still use the hammer to crack open harder rocks, but have the chisel edge for digging and splitting rocks.
If you find yourself dealing with harder rocks more often, a pointed-tip hammer might be the better choice for your first rock hammer. If you simply want to see what is inside the larger rocks that you find, get a crack hammer.
The durability of a rock hammer is extremely important for a couple of reasons. They first reason is that it is a hammer, so it must be robust enough to continually hit a hard surface. The second reason is safety — you don’t want a hammer that fractures or splits when you are hitting a rock with a lot of force (more on safety below).
Look for rock hammers that are made from one piece of steel. Cheaper hammers may resort to using plastic of timber shafts with a metal head. You never know when the head will separate from the shaft. Ideally, any hammer you choose should use tempered steel as it is extremely hard.
Handle material and length
The handles of most high-quality rock hammers are covered with leather, a synthetic material or natural rubber. These materials provide good traction and feel comfortable in the hand. Choose a material that you enjoy the look and feel of. It’s usually best to avoid plastics as they are prone to cracking. The length of the handle is also a factor, as a longer-handled hammer will deliver more power.
The weight of geological hammers varies based on the hammer’s size and design. However, most geologists prefer to use hammers in the 20 to 26 ounce range as they have enough weight to crack stubborn rocks, but aren’t excessively heavy.
Consider overall safety
Safety is a very important factor to keep in mind when choosing a rock hammer. The quality of the hammer’s head and shaft area is particularly important. Low-quality rock hammers are sometimes made of soft or poorly tempered metal that is prone to bending or splintering during heavy use. This can make the hammer dangerous to yourself and bystanders.
Another safety consideration to keep in mind is the quality of the handgrip. Most well-made hammers will have a high-quality synthetic, rubber, or leather handle that is easy to hang onto. Cheaper rock hammers may use plastic handles of lower quality, which are more likely to slip out of your hand in wet conditions.
What are the best rock hammers?
We’ve reviewed several rock hammers currently on the market to select the top 4 products. Each of the rock hammers listed below are affordable and made to a high standard. They are useful for beginners, amateur geologists, and professional geologists alike. Make sure you check out our folding shovel reviews as well.
Estwing E30 Rock Pick – 22 oz Geological Hammer with Pointed Tip
Estwing is one of the world’s leading suppliers of rock hammers made for geologists. The Estwing E30 has a traditional rock pick design, with a pointed tip on one end of the head and a square face on the other.
It is a one-piece hammer made from high-quality forged steel. This material is extremely durable and guaranteed to have a long lifespan. The E30 measures 12.5” x 7/35” x 1.13” and weighs approximately 22 ounces. It features a genuine leather grip that has been hand sanded and lacquered to give it a high level of durability and an attractive finish. This rock pick is a great choice for both amateurs and professionals. Learn more about the Estwing E30 Rock Pick.
Estwing E3-22P Rock Pick
This is one of the most popular rock picks amongst professional geologists. Made from one piece of forged steel, the E3-22P Rock Pick is extremely durable and built to last.
This hammer uses a nylon vinyl grip that provides plenty of shock absorption and is comfortable to hold. This high-quality grip improves the hammer’s comfort levels and makes it easier to hold.
Weighing 22 ounces, this hammer is light enough to carry around the field but heavy enough to crack dense rocks easily. It can be used on any type of rock including basalt and granite. It is 13 inches long and has a head length of 7 inches. A1 great choice for amateur and professional geologists alike. Learn more about the Estwing E3-22P Rock Pick.
Estwing Drilling/Crack Hammer – 3-Pound
This heavy crack hammer makes it easy to split large numbers of heavy rocks in a short amount of time. Made from forged steel, it has two polished faces on its head which will power through any rocks that you put in front of them. It is a versatile tool for working with the other items you use including punches, chisels, and star drills.
Measuring about 11 inches long, this crack hammer weighs a hefty 3 pounds which makes it easy to put more force into each rock. It features a high-quality Shock Reduction Grip that Estwing is known for. This grip makes using the hammer much more comfortable and it offers plenty of grip. Learn more about the Estwing Crack Hammer.
Estwing Bricklayer’s/Mason’s Hammer
Although this tool is primarily marketed at bricklayers and masons, it is also very useful for geology. Made from high-quality forged steel, this is an extremely tough rock hammer that will provide you with many years of use.
This is a chisel-tip hammer, which makes it ideal for working on both soft and hard rocks. It comes with a wonderful shock reduction grip which allows you to work in the field much longer without experiencing any numbness of pain in your hands. Estwing claims that this proprietary grip reduces impacts by as much as 70%.
This hammer also comes with a sturdy nylon end cap which is designed for tapping down bricks. Although you won’t be doing much brick-tapping in the field, this feature adds to the durability and aesthetics of the hammer.
This hammer measures 12”x 6 ¾” and has a face measuring 1⅛ x 1⅛”. It weighs approximately 24 ounces. This is a high-quality American-made product designed to tolerate tough conditions. Learn more about the Estwing Bricklayer’s/Mason’s Hammer.
Thanks for reading The Best Rock Hammer. Make sure you check out our Petoskey stone polishing guide. For more reviews of geologists tools, stay tuned to the site!