What is an Air Hammer?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

An air hammer is any device that uses highly pressurized air to drive a hammer into a workpiece for shaping, scoring, or plenishing (smoothing). This pneumatic device allows a craftsman to shape a piece of metal in minutes that would otherwise take hours or days, and much physical strain, to form by hand.

An air hammer is a tool with a variety of tips used to score, shape or smooth metal.
An air hammer is a tool with a variety of tips used to score, shape or smooth metal.

When someone uses an air hammer, it hits a workpiece several thousand times per second, with pressures generally around several dozen PSI (pounds per square inch). Handheld tools must be attached to tubes leading to air tanks that provide pressurized air. Some are also referred to as power hammers.

Air hammers have variable tips. Shaping and plenishing requires a hammer tip, while for scoring or cutting, a chisel tip is used. Whatever tip is used, it will be pounded thousands of times per minute into the targeted object, so human operators must take care and precaution.

For simple plenishing jobs, low pressures may be used. Soft metals like aluminum and copper are easy to shape or polish. Stronger metals, such as stainless steel, and heavy shaping jobs require setting the hammer to maximum PSI levels, consuming pressurized air more quickly.

People who are considering buying a specific model should consider the blows per minute, chisels or hammer tips included, air consumption, maximum working pressure, the size of the air inlet, the recommended hose size, weight, and the product code. It is also possible for craftsmen to build air hammers themselves, and plans can be found online.

The air hammer is a technological advancement that allows craftsmen to shape metal in many instances without heating it up as in a traditional forge. This provides a safer working environment and also greater ease of use.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


Actually that is incorrect. Not all power hammers are used for forging. Blacksmithing just happens to use the largest of these machines.

But metalworkers in other metal industries, like auto and aviation (using lighter metals like aluminum) also use power hammers. Unfortunately many cheap "planishing" hammers try to pass themselves off as "power" hammers.

If you want to see some interesting, but lightweight power pammers that shape the "lighter" metals (14-gauge steel to aluminum and copper) look online.


one more thing the last air hammer I helped with weighed 10000 pounds. And is big enough that desk would not be considered applicable. boat size is better.

But then Blacksmithing is an old industry older than the power hammers.


Power hammers can be air or mechanical. they are used for FORGING processes and have nothing to do with the little handheld things otherwise discussed here, except they are powered by compressed air.

industrial Air hammers may now mean some hand held device but that is because the term known by industry to mean air powered forging hammer had been taken over by industry trying to sell little air chisels.

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