You’ve decided that the old tile in your main bathroom is just too outdated and must go, but what’s the best tool for removing it? Or maybe you need to free some frozen or corroded nuts or cut through sheet metal, and you need a tool that will stand up to the job.
An air hammer may be the exact tool you’re looking for. Simple to use and relatively lightweight, an air hammer is the perfect solution for a variety of DIY projects, automotive repair jobs, and metal or industrial fabrication. In this article, we’ll look at what an air hammer is, how it works, and our top picks based on performance, features, and value. So, keep on reading to discover how an air hammer can help with your next project.
Top 3 Picks
This heavy-duty air hammer is lightweight and easy to handle. Its heat-treated construction gives it increased durability and longer life while the integral muffler minimizes exhaust sound. With an ergonomic comfort grim, easy to change retainer system, and included 4-piece chisel set with heavy-duty carrying case, it’s no wonder we think it’s the best overall air hammer.
Best Value: SUNEX SX 243 Hd 250-Mm Long Barrel Air Hammer
This long-barrel, heavy-duty air hammer has an aluminum alloy housing and hardened steel barrel giving it long-lasting durability. With an ergonomic handle, easy-change retainer system, and included 4-piece chisel set, it really is the best valued air hammer on our list.
Best Bargain: Ingersoll Rand Air Hammer 114 GQC
This standard duty air hammer has an alloyed steel barrel and heat-treated piston allowing it to stand up to the harshest environments. It boasts an award-winning ergonomic design – reducing vibration and increasing comfort. With a built-in power regulator, professional trigger, diffused handle exhaust, and included 3-piece chisel set, we think it’s the best bargain for its price.
What is an Air Hammer?
An air hammer is a versatile pneumatic hand tool useful for an array of jobs, including woodwork and renovation, automotive work, and metal fabrication. Similar in appearance to a drill, an air hammer consists of a barrel (which houses the attachments) connected to a handle grip with a trigger switch. Also known as an air chisel, the air hammer operates by using air from an air compressor to fire a piston. When fired, the piston engages the attachment causing it to “hammer” forward. Barrel lengths range from 7 to 12 inches and accept various attachments that will grind, puncture, and chip through hard materials like metal, stone, and concrete.
Attachments for air hammers include:
- Chisel bits
- Hammer bits
- Tapered punches
- Various cutting and separating tools
- And many more
With the right attachment, you can use your air hammer to:
- Free frozen and corroded nuts, rivets, and hinge pins
- Cut through sheet metal, exhaust pipes, and old mufflers
- Flatten and shape sheet metal, aluminum, and steel
- Separate ball joints
- Chisel wood
- Chip and remove tiles, bricks, and other masonry materials
- Break up mortar and grout
- Carve stone
- Scrape and remove rust
- Chip paint
- Deburr and smooth metal
How to Choose an Air Hammer
When trying to determine which air hammer will be right for your project, there are several factors that should be considered. These include:
Power and the Size of Air Compressor
The power an air hammer requires is indicated by the air consumption drawn from the air compressor and is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm). The compressed air powers the piston, which is what creates the hammering action, so the size of the compressor is an important factor in the performance of the air hammer.
Regardless of cfm, most air hammers require a minimum of 90 psi (pounds per square inch) for continuous pressure.
Most air hammers require a minimum of 4 cfm, but more is always better. The more power the air hammer needs, the more air it consumes, resulting in higher cfms. While a compressor that provides 4 cfm at 90 psi should be adequate for most home shops and DIY projects, it would not stand up to heavy duty jobs without resulting in wait times for the compressed air to recharge. For larger and heavy-duty projects, an air compressor that produces 13 cfm at 90 psi will allow for continuous operation, peak performance, and less delays.
Always make sure the cfm and psi of the air hammer are compatible with the air compressor you plan to use.
Stroke Length and Size
The stroke length is the distance the piston travels per cycle and is measured in inches. A longer stroke length per blow gives the piston more time to reach higher velocities, resulting in more power delivered to the attachment and a more powerful blow. Longer stroke lengths are better for heavier duty projects. A shorter stroke length produces a less powerful impact but can produce more blows per minute. These are best for lighter duty projects that require more precision and control. An air hammer considered to be medium duty will have a stroke length ranging from 2-5/8 inch to 3 inches in length.
There is a wide range of attachments that can be used with air hammers, and most are universal. Some hammers come with different chisel bits for various applications. Top brands typically come with 5 different bits and a convenient carrying case.
The shank size of the air hammer determines the type of attachment the hammer requires. The standard size is 0.401 inches. These are great for light-duty projects found in home shops, DIY projects, and some automotive repair. Professional level air hammers have a shank size of 0.498 inches.
Although most attachments fit universally across all brands of air hammers, some hammers may not accept them. Always double check the manufacturer’s specifications before purchasing attachments for your air hammer.
Blows Per Minute (bpm)
The blows per minute are the number of impacts that hammer can deliver in sixty seconds. This number affects the accuracy and overall performance of the air hammer. Air hammers with higher bpms give faster performance, produce cleaner and more precise cuts, and are great for grinding and cutting. Lower bpms are moderately slower in performance but give a more powerful blow. Mid-range models deliver around 2000 bpms and high-powered professional models can be up to 3000 bpm. The most powerful air hammers have high bpms and long stroke lengths but are typically much more expensive.
Barrel length also affects accuracy and overall performance of the air hammer and ranges from 7 to 12 inches. Shorter barrels allow for more blows per minute but lighter impact, while longer barrels have less blows per minute but produce higher impact blows. For example, a short barrel with a length of 2-5/8 inches may produce 3500 bpm, whereas a longer barrel with a length of 3-3/4 inches may produce only 2200 bpm.
Shorter barrels are great for light work that requires delicate precision and control. Longer barrels are ideal for heavy duty and demanding tasks requiring sheer force.
Size, Weight, and Noise
Air hammers range from 3 to 6 pounds depending on the barrel length. It is also important to note the hammers hose diameter to ensure it will fit the compressor house you plan to you.
Typical noise levels for air hammers are 90 decibels or higher and hearing protection is always recommended when using these tools.
Other features to consider:
The type of project
- Examples include, metal work, automotive repair, wood or stonework, demolition, etc.
The size of the project
- Make sure to choose an air hammer with at least enough (but preferably more) power required for the job.
- With the correct attachments and adequate air pressure, standard models should be sufficient for most everyday jobs.
- Ergonomic handle and vibration control.
- Aluminum or alloy housing for a lighter and more durable tool.
- Gradual progressive triggers – giving more control over speed and minimizing the chances of accidentally turning the hammer on.
- Quick-change attachment feature.
- Kits which include various attachments and a carrying case.
The Best Air Hammers
The Ingersoll Rand Air Hammer 114 GQC is a standard duty air hammer with an 8-1/2-inch barrel, 2-5/8-inch stroke, and 3500 bpm. Its alloyed steel barrel and heat-treated piston allow this rugged air hammer to stand up to the harshest environments and repeated drops.
The hammer is lightweight at only 4.1 pounds and has a shank dimension of 0.401 inches. It has a built-in power regulator, professional trigger, and diffused handle exhaust. The included 3-piece chisel set allows for cutting, scraping, chipping, and more. The average required power consumption is 4 cfm at 90 psi.
The Ingersoll Rand boasts an award-winning ergonomic design, which reduces vibration and increases comfort, safety, and productivity.
- Included 3-piece chisel set
- Medium length barrel
- Award-winning ergonomic design
- Quick-change retainer system
- Less power than other air hammers
- No carrying case included
The Chicago Pneumatic CP7150 Heavy Duty Pistol Grip Air Hammer is a heavy-duty air hammer with a long barrel, 3-1/2” inch stroke, and 2100 bpm. Its heat-treated impact parts give this air hammer increased durability.
At only 4.1 pounds, this hammer is lightweight and easy to handle. It has a shank dimension of 0.401 inches and the average required power consumption is 4.5 cfm at 90 psi. The integral muffler minimizes exhaust sound and the ergonomic handle increases user comfort. The easy-change retainer makes changing bits quick and simple.
The kit includes a 4-piece chisel set and heavy-duty carrying case. This air hammer is ideal for muffler and pipe removal, body shop work, scraping rust, and light front-end work.
- Included attachments and carrying case
- Fast performance
- Increased Durability
- Requires a higher cfm
The SUNEX SX243 Hd 250-Mm Long Barrel Air Hammer is a long barrel (10 inches), heavy-duty air hammer with a 3-3/4” inch stroke, and 2200 bpm. Its aluminum alloy housing and hardened steel barrel give this air hammer long-lasting durability.
This 5.7-pound hammer has a shank dimension of 0.401 inches and the average required power consumption is 4 cfm at 90 psi. The ergonomic handle increases user comfort and the easy-change retainer makes changing bits quick and simple.
The kit includes a 4-piece chisel set.
- Integral regulator knob for easy adjustment of power
- Loud at 110 debacles
- Does not come with attachments
The DeWalt Chisel Hammer Pneumatic DWMT 70785 is a medium barrel, light-duty air hammer with a speed of 2200 bpm. It has an aluminum body for increased durability.
This lightweight air hammer has a shank dimension of 0.401 inches and the average required power consumption is 4.5 cfm at 90 psi. The shock-absorbing handle increases user comfort and the touch control trigger makes the hammer easy to control.
The kit includes a 3-piece chisel set.
- Solid, durable construction
- Touch control trigger
- No air pressure adjustment
- Requires increased power
The Craftsman CMXPTSG1010NB Air Hammer is a medium stroke, light-duty air hammer with a speed of 2800 bpm.
At 3.52 pounds, this air hammer is extremely lightweight and has a shank dimension of 0.401 inches. The anti-slip rubber handle absorbs vibration and increases user comfort.
The kit includes a 5-inch flat chisel and chisel retainer spring. This air hammer is ideal for demolishing tile, concrete, and other building materials.
- Extremely lightweight
- Does not come with an air hose fitting
- Does not have a quick-release retainer for swapping attachments
Pros and Cons of Air Hammers
- Relatively small
- Easy to control
- Can be used for a wide range of projects with different available tools
- Great for smaller demolition and auto-repair projects
- Although control is good, it is not as fine as with a Dremel or rotary hand tool
- They are very loud
- They are not overly good for large scale construction, demolition, or fabrication projects
Why Would I Need and Air Hammer?
With power of up to 3000 bpm (blows per minute) an air hammer can increase the overall speed in which a task can be performed leading to increased production and decreased strain and fatigue caused by using an old-fashioned chisel and hammer.
An Air Hammer VS a Rotary Hammer
While both an air hammer and a rotary hammer are used to apply force and both use oscillating pistons to function, there are striking differences between the two. The type and size of your project will dictate which tool will be right for the job.
An air hammer is a lightweight pneumatic tool used primarily for hammering, chiselling, cutting, and grinding. It is powered by an air compressor and consists of a bit which moves in a hammering motion. Air hammers can be fast with lower impact or slower with higher impact. These tools are ideal for smaller jobs like those in automotive shops and DIY home renovations.
Rotary hammers are considerably larger and heavier than air hammers and are used for large, heavy-duty jobs like breaking up concrete, rock, and other large scale masonry demos. Powered by battery or power cord, the rotary hammer has only two functions – hammer or drill – and the bit moves in a rotating motion rather than a hammering one.
In comparison to both the air and rotary hammers, a regular “old-fashioned” hammer is considerably slower with minimal impact – relying solely on the arm strength of the user and their accuracy with a regular chisel.
Is there an electric version of an air hammer?
No, there is not an electric version of an air hammer, but the battery or power cord operated hammer drill has some similar features. It is a light duty tool with a small shank and extremely fast speeds of 30,000 bpm. Similar to a rotary or jackhammer, the hammer drill is ideal for drilling into wood or metal.
What is the most powerful air hammer?
The most powerful air hammer in our product round up is the Chicago Pneumatic at 1800 bpm, followed by the SUNEX at 2200 bpm. The most powerful air hammer on the market seems to be the Ingersoll Rand 12 Super Duty at 1725 bpm.
Is and air hammer and an air chisel the same thing?
Yes, air hammers are also known as air chisels and are one and the same.
The Bottom Line
Adding an air hammer to your tool kit is a great investment whether you need it for metalwork, automotive repair, woodwork, demolition, or DIY projects. The variety of jobs this simple tool can handle make its possibilities virtually endless. We hope that this article has clarified for you exactly what an air hammer can do and where it can be used and given you insight into some of the brands out there. Before purchasing your air hammer, make sure to do some research into the one that will be perfect for you. Let us know if you found this article helpful and if you have any questions about what we’ve discussed. We’re always happy to find the answers you need! Happy hammering!