What Is An Air Hammer?

What Is An Air Hammer?

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Air hammers are responsible for most of the great jobs you see in a metal, and stone shop. You may not have an idea what this tool is, or does, but if you can read through this guide to the end. You’ll have your questions answered.

What Are Air Hammers?

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 craftsmen to hammer, score and plenish (smooth) a workpiece that would take hours, if not days, to produce manually.

An air hammer, which is a replacement for the traditional hammer and chisel, is a handy tool that is very valuable for its speed which at times may lack a bit of precision in the final result. Pneumatic hammers are generally attached by a tube or hose to a large tank that pumps up air and thus making the pistons move.

Uses of an air hammer are:

  • Stone carving
  • Brick removing
  • Masonry stone breaking
  • Tiles and paint chipping
  • Nuts, bolts, or joints breaking

And many others.

This tool is different from a regular hammer since it is a pneumatic tool and can do many tasks that a regular hammer can’t.

An air hammer is a widely used tool in the automotive industry. It uses different types of accessories and bits for metal cutting and shaping. Even with a chisel, it allows a user to straighten any dents.

What Are the Best Uses for Pneumatic Air Hammer?

When buying an air hammer, consider the task that you will be competing with it. With the right attachment, an air hammer is much efficient in delivering an effective result.

Below are the most common pneumatic air hammer uses

  • Metalworking shops need to shape and cut metal daily. And they accomplish these tasks using an air hammer. Whenever your project requirement is to flatten, shape, or cut any metal such as copper, aircraft-grade aluminum, 10-gauge structure steel, and many more, choose an air hammer. Metal deburring and smoothing also can be done using an air hammer.
  • Cutting exhaust pipes, unbolting frozen fasteners are cumbersome work. And these tasks will become much more comfortable when you have an air hammer in your hand. Split ball joints and rubber bushings are other tasks where an air hammer plays a vital role in finishing them successfully.
  • Air hammers are a faster tool and penetrate hardly on tile, mortar, stone, concrete, and other masonry materials. As a result, when the task is to remove strong and robust materials, an air hammer is the best tool to do this easily.

You can choose multiple attachments for your selected air hammer according to your project.

Air hammer attachments are universal, and different manufacturer’s attachments easily fit another maker’s air hammer.

How Do Air Hammers Work?

  • The Piston

The piston, which is located inside a cylinder, is the only part of the air hammer that moves. Compressed air is pumped in the cylinder so that the metal piston moves up and down mimicking the movement of a hammer. While moving up and down, the piston opens a valve that allows the compressed air to enter the cylinder and thus pushing the piston itself.

Therefore, when the piston reaches the top of the piston, air flows from above it and pushes it down, whilst when the piston reaches the bottom, air flows from below pushing it upwards. Thanks to the compressed air the piston moves up and down at the desired speed.

  • The Drill Bit

The speed and force of the piston are regulated by the drill bit which is a metal bar at the bottom of the cylinder. Each time the piston hits the drill bit, this is pushed into the surface to drill. These two objects (piston and drill bit) move in opposite forces: every time the piston moves downwards and hits the drill bit, it is pushed upwards again, and whilst the piston moves upwards, the drill bit goes downwards into the pavement. It is important to note that these two forces move in equal but opposite strength and direction.

  • Tips and Bits

To perform different actions, some of which are to smooth, to cut, and to drill, the pneumatic hammer uses different tips or heads which are also known as the drill bit. Various tips are employed for the different tasks. So for example a hammer tip is used when you want to shape materials, a chisel tip is employed when you want to score or cut into the surface.

Bits have the same function as the tips or heads. A ‘nibbler-like’ bit is perfect for cutting steel, while a round-tipped bit can punch holes through metal and a flat spade masonry bit is ideal to take out mortar.

How to Use an Air Hammer to Get the Best Output?

Learning about the working process of a tool will assist you to get the best output from it. Read below to learn more on-air hammer how to use.

  • Step 01: Ensure a Clean Work Area

Before starting your project, clean the work area thoroughly. Confirm the area is properly enlightened. Also, the pressurized air pipe is accurately trimmed to avoid tripping issues.

Since it is a powerful tool, avoid working with it besides the flammable materials. Ensure wearing goggles and ear protection.

  • Step 02: Determining the Required Bits

According to your job requirement, select the drill bit. Pick a clean and sharp bit.

If the required bit is unavailable in the box, buying the ideal bit is mandatory. If you are familiar with using an air hammer, check the sharpness of the bit. You will get an uneven result when the bit is blunt. This will be a waste of valuable money and time.

Make sure to sharpen and clean the bit to get the expected result.

  • Step 03: Lubricating and Installation of the Bit

Lubricating the air hammer is necessary before every use. Generally, 2 – 3 drops of oil are enough to lubricate a brand new air hammer. In addition to assembling the air hammer, you will also need to apply a thin film of oil. This way, abrasion, wear, and tear will be prevented.

Moreover, you can work with the tool for a longer period without any problem if you apply a few oil drops every 2 – 3 hours.

Now you might be thinking, can I use any oil? Before selecting the oil type, read the instruction manual available with the air hammer.

Next, the retainer spring needs to be unscrewed, and the bit needs to be inserted into the cylinder bit. Then properly screw the retainer spring.

Tag your bits to make sure it is safely placed. You may hear some noise, which works by vibrating the bit back and forth, considering it perfectly fine.

  • Step 04: Making a Connection Between the Air Hammer and Pressurized Air Tank

First, make sure the air connector is the right one for your air hammer. If you own an air hammer with an air connector, you are the luckiest person.

The bad news is; most air hammers don’t come with an air connector. Inspect the seams thoroughly if any leakage is available. 90 – 110 PSI is the range of pressurized air of handheld air chisels. Keep the pressurized air limit to a maximum of 200 PSI. The tool may explode if you apply more than 200 PSI pressurized air to it.

Confirm the air is clean and dry. Don’t try to go with any type of pressurized gas like oxygen or carbon-di-oxide. You can severely damage yourself since an explosion may happen if you do so.

  • Step 05: Turning the Air Hammer-On

After attaching the air hammer to the pressurized air tank correctly, turn the air hammer on.

Hold the air hammer using both hands. Place one hand on the cylinder and the other one around the handle. Thus, adjusting the air hammer will be much easier. When working, keep the air hammer as steady as possible. This will let you work with the air hammer for an extended period.

Safety Tips

Since pneumatic hammers are very powerful tools it is important to always keep a steady hand. Moreover, make sure to safety glasses and earplugs to avoid. Take note to always unplug the air hammer when changing the tips and bits.

Pneumatic hammers are one of the great advancements in power tools that we have today. Such technological advancements allow faster and safer working methods to craftsmen without the traditional time and energy-consuming methods.

What are the differences between rotary hammers and air hammers?

Below are the key differences

  • Rotary hammers are bulky, while air hammers are lightweight.
  • Rotary hammers are suitable for larger projects. But air hammers are mostly used for smaller projects.
  • You can use a rotary hammer either as a hammer or drill or in both modes. In contrast, an air hammer is compatible with different bits depending on the project.


Hopefully, understanding the air hammer uses will let you accomplish any project that requires an air hammer. Safety should your top priority when working with a hammer, especially if you are a newbie to air hammers.