Though softness isn't something typically associated with hammers, soft-faced hammers serve a wide range of purposes in both commercial and home use. Soft-faced hammers feature heads made from a variety of materials like brass, nylon, lead, or even rolled rawhide; standard hard-faced hammers have heads made from alloy steel. Soft-face hammers are preferred for jobs that require precision or involve soft metals that should not be damaged.
Avoiding Surface Damage
Hand forming, sheet metal forming and soft metal forming all describe a process in which strips of metal are stretched, shrunk or manipulated into desired shapes. Soft-faced hammers are used for metal forming because they are able to bend and shape metal without causing surface damage. Surface damage is problematic for metals or finishes that are intended to be seen and have an aesthetic purpose. In these situations, soft-faced hammers are preferred.
When parts must be effectively positioned, soft-faced hammers are typically preferred over hard-faced hammers. For example, in machining, soft-faced hammers are used to fit and place gears, shafts or pins. Soft-faced hammers prevent damage to machine parts, which is particularly critical in machine work to ensure the function of the unit.
Tasks which require controlled force and precision often utilize soft-faced hammers. Craftspeople, like jewelry makers, may use soft-faced hammers to manipulating tiny, delicate facets and settings around gems or stone in order to avoid damage to either the metal or stone surface.
Materials Beyond Metal
Soft-faced hammers protect equally soft surfaces from damage. Furniture makers, woodworkers and people who make instruments use soft-faced hammers to construct their items without damaging the surface or disturbing the finish.