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How Does an Air Hammer Work?

Air hammers are used to cut, brush and break in demolition projects.
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Air hammers, also called pneumatic hammers or power hammers, were invented in 1890, and patented in January of 1894 by Charles Brady King. These hammers use compressed air to help aid craftsman to hammer, score and plenish (smooth) a workpiece that would take hours, if not days, to produce manually. Air hammers range in size and price greatly. Hand-held models can be bought from around $20 to larger desk size models that can cost up to $20,000.


Air hammers use a piston to work. The piston is the only moving part to an air hammer. The piston moves very rapidly back and forth from the air pressure of the compressor. Air is pushed into the central cylinder forcing the tip attachment forward with great power and velocity. A cyclical valve then reverses the air flow, forcing the tip attachment into the back of the cylinder. This cycle is repeated thousands of times per minute.


Air hammers use air compression to work. Air compressors are large tanks of air with motors attached. Hand-held models of air hammers use tubes connected to an air tank. The motor fills the tank with air that is pressurized. This pressurized air travels through the tube to the air hammer, thus making the air hammer operational. Each air hammer varies on the size of compressor it needs to perform. Smaller air hammers need smaller compressors while larger models need larger compressors. The difference in size of air hammers to air compressors vary according to the cubic feet per minute, or CFM and the pounds per square inch, or PSI required for the specific air hammer model being used.


Air hammers provide many uses to a craftsman. The different tips that can be attached to the working end of the hammer vary from project to project. Hammer tips are used for shaping or plenishing (smoothing). Chisel tips are used for cutting or scoring. There are several varieties of hammer and chisel tips. Either kind of tip will provide a craftsman to pound material thousands of times per minute. This requires a craftsman to be very careful and use precaution.


Air hammers can be used for a variety of purposes. Jobs that require a lot of nailing are perfect applications to use an air hammer. Since different bits can be used in air hammers, a craftsman can find several purposes for the tool. Different bits can be acquired to do jobs such as cutting steel, cutting metal, drilling holes, decorative and ornamental purposes. Contractors can also use these tools for demolition projects, take out mortar, or removing rivets.

Think Safety

Air hammers are very powerful tools which can cause great injury if safety precautions are not taken. When using the air hammer tool, great care needs to be taken to wear the proper safety equipment such as safety glasses and ear plugs. Craftsman should always make sure the air hammer is unplugged when changing the various tips, or bits. Finally, when working with an air hammer, a craftsman should always be aware of the positioning of the tool due to the extreme powerful nature that can cause the tool to jump when operated.

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