Do deck builders really need axe-handle hammers? After all, we’re not framing walls, where a curved handle would enable us to swing around the end of the plate more efficiently. And even if we were, chances are good that we’d be using a nail gun instead of a hammer. But it turns out that even for a deck builder, Stiletto’s 12-ounce, 18-inch framer’s hammer is pretty handy.

Axe-like Claw

I wanted to try an axe-handle hammer in the first place because I was having trouble slamming my straight-handled hammer into my toolbelt’s hammer loop, which is located on my right hip behind my tool pouch. It occurred to me that an axe-handle could work as a sort of hook, making it easier to snag the loop.

That turned out to be true, though it normally wouldn’t be enough reason for me to drop a ton of money on a new hammer. But this hammer also has a claw with a very gradual “fetch” to it. I rarely pull nails with my hammer; instead, I split, pry, and pierce with it, mostly during demolition. The Stiletto head is more hatchet than claw, perfect for the way I use a hammer.

As a bonus, the hickory handle fits my hand so well it almost makes me want to go back to hand-nailing.

Lightweight but Powerful

The 18-inch handle is a little long, but I don’t mind; the lightweight titanium head more than makes up for it. Stiletto claims that a hammer with a 12-ounce titanium head has the same driving force as a 21-ounce steel hammer, with less shock. I don’t know if that’s true, but without question this hammer feels lighter in the loop, where my hammer hangs most of the day—and where it does the most damage to my body. The lighter hammer is also easier to swing, yet I can still crush nails with it and plunge the claw where it needs to go.

The Titanium costs about $50 more than the stainless steel version—no small amount of money for a carpenter—but (in my view) it pays for itself the first day. And if you’re looking for a bigger—or smaller—hammer, versions with longer and shorter handles (straight or curved) are available, with 10-ounce, 14-ounce, and 16-ounce heads.

Contributing editor Mark Clement is a deck builder and writer in Ambler, Pa.

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