What is a California Framing Hammer?

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Forum topic by BentheViking posted 10-27-2011 03:36 AM 13404 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1761 posts in 1651 days

10-27-2011 03:36 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hammer hand tool

I know for most projects that people on this site are doing a framing hammer is a bit much, but I have recently seen these being advertised and was just wondering what exactly is the difference between this and other framing hammers? Advantages or disadvantages? Thanks!

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

26 replies so far

View bubbyboy's profile


137 posts in 1780 days

#1 posted 10-27-2011 03:56 AM

Well the short answer is the major difference is the weight. The handles are made from Hickory, the claw is basically straight unlike a finish hammer but the head is made from titanium which makes the head swing like a 28oz hammer but only weighs about 16oz so you can swing it for much longer periods without your arm falling off, My hammer was actually made by Ruger the gun company they are pricey though coming in at around $100.00 bucks

-- I just don't understand. I have cut it 3 times and it is still to short.

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2734 days

#2 posted 10-27-2011 06:12 AM

The style precedes the hi-tech metals. They have a particular handle shape
and a straight claw. Originally I think they had a heavy head, but these
days they’ve been lightened. Lots of tract homes built in California during
housing booms led to specific tool usage, including the hammers, the
worm drive saws and dado saws for rafter cuts. The housing boom came
to an end but the influence of efficient California methods stuck around.


View BentheViking's profile


1761 posts in 1651 days

#3 posted 10-27-2011 06:27 AM

So if i get this correctly…at one point they were adapted to be a quicker and more efficient hammer, but now are not favored due to the emergence of the metal hammers with the “tuning fork” handles such as the Stanley Anti-Vibes and the Estwings?

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View S4S's profile


2119 posts in 1768 days

#4 posted 10-27-2011 09:18 AM

Ben , did you haul the rocking gator with you to Westchester ? Hope you are enjoying your leisure time . Here is a Bay Area 4 in 1 hammer . Good for crab legs , oysters , mussels , and light carpentry : )

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1761 posts in 1651 days

#5 posted 10-27-2011 03:45 PM

totally not the kind of hammer im interested in…and no i did not bring the gator to New York—it’d be too cold for it. haha. Actually it was for a friend who had a baby in New Orleans. The baby was born in Sept and I recently added a photo to the original post him riding the gator while my friend holds him.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

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Jim Finn

2009 posts in 2008 days

#6 posted 10-27-2011 09:57 PM

I believe that a framing hammer in Calif. is the right length end to end to use as a guide to space wall studs. So some rough carpenters there have told me.

-- "Just my opinion, I may be right"

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David Grimes

2078 posts in 1726 days

#7 posted 10-29-2011 08:06 AM

That would put the overall length at 14 3/8” to 14 1/2” for 16” on center framing… nearly all of these hammers are in the 16” to 18” range for overall length.

Vaughn (around since 1869) was / is the originator of the combination of features as follows:

The Vaughan California FramerĀ® hammer combines the best features of two of our most popular tools into a rugged, heavy construction hammer. The smoothly swept claws were borrowed from the “999” rip hammer, and the striking face, hatchet eye and sturdy handle are a heritage of the Vaughan Rigbuilder’s Hatchet. The striking face is extra large to minimize the chance of missed strikes. The hatchet style handle, available straight or curved, is made from American hickory. To provide extra strength, the handle has a large cross section where it joins the fully polished head.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4018 posts in 3047 days

#8 posted 10-29-2011 09:52 PM

It is a neander answer to the pneumatic framing nailer. They have a place in the arsenal though I don’t use one. Usually have a “waffle” face.


View maljr1980's profile


171 posts in 1543 days

#9 posted 10-30-2011 04:15 AM

i think its marketing, so when you walk through lowes looking for a hammer you buy the one with the cool name. I myself use standard estwing hammers, although i would toss it in the trash if i found a Stilleto

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


16727 posts in 2762 days

#10 posted 10-30-2011 08:47 AM

I just googled the Vaughan California FramerĀ® hammer. It says it holds nails. Carpenters i worked around when I was an apprentice said one whack to start it and one to drive a 16d home. With nail holding capability, these should be single whackers ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Harry_Ch's profile


63 posts in 1762 days

#11 posted 10-30-2011 10:54 AM

If you are going to be whacking a lot of nails all day long, it’s best to use a California hammer. A good one will have a bend towards the end of the handle like that of a hachet. The bend is easier on the wrist and it gives you more power than a straight handle hammer. The long straight claws gives you longer leverage to remove any “oops” nails, not that I did many myself(cough, cough, sputter).

-- Deeds not Words.

View Rust's profile


2 posts in 1560 days

#12 posted 11-24-2011 05:00 AM

Firstly lets back up! Following WWII house construction changed from Balloon type framing to platform. Platform framing required larger 16 penny nails and starting in the 50’s cement coated nails started to be used for greater holding power however, they required a heavier hammer size head to drive them. Starting out on the West Coast carpenters began to use riggers hatchets and then later cannibalized them welding rip claws from hammers to them. This started the Californian framing hammer! As platform framing was done on the flat longer handled hammers made sense and they could be a lot heavier without causing fatigue. Typically a riggers hatchet weighed in around 28 oz. The post that mentions the 16” handle is getting confused with what sometimes are referred to as the Texas Special – a trim hammer that allows the carpenter to use the length of the handle to determine nail placement on clap board etc.

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2 posts in 57 days

#13 posted 09-29-2015 04:21 PM

I know I am a late entry on this post but I couldn’t resist. The days of framing axes, gas and wax are things many wood butchers have never seen or heard of today. Back in the day, early 70’s (long before nail guns) we used framing axes. Great balance but dangerous for the guy standing behind you. Also OSHA or a union rep stumbling onto the job would get one a healthy fine. Therefore, the blade portion would be cut off and 20oz Vaughn claws would be welded on in the blades place. Ground and cleaned up these were great mill faced framing hammers. Vaughn did not have a California Framer back then and I assume what we see today was a popular idea borrowed and patented by Hart, Vaughn, etc.

View Aj2's profile


235 posts in 884 days

#14 posted 09-29-2015 07:31 PM

This is a old post but I do remember job sites I worked on in the early 80s.Mostly Orange county and near the beach I was a roofer and all the framers used hatchets.They also had long hair but weren’t really hippies,But did smoke grass during lunch.No one seemed to bother them.
Houses are built by migrate worker out here now.
I don’t care really anymore I’m too old wornout and tired to roof.

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5614 posts in 1094 days

#15 posted 09-29-2015 10:43 PM

I wanna add that if you ever work with a waffle head hammer, it has a VERY SHORT learning curve. You will only hit your thumb ONCE!

Trust me, you’ll learn SO FAST how not to do that again!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

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