Vaughan vs. Stiletto Steel Framing Hammer

For the past couple of years I have been swinging a Vaughan Blue Max framing hammer on the job. I chose the Vaughan mostly out of convenience; it’s the only wood handled framing hammer with a magnetic nail set that is stocked locally. The Blue Max Straight handle is a decent hammer, but has a few details in the design that I didn’t care much for. The uncomfortable blade like shape of the handle and the rounded edges of the face were slightly annoying to me, but not bad enough to make me despise the hammer. The constant ringing however, was enough to drive me insane. I tried tightening the handle multiple times, yet the ringing continues. It sounds like someone is ringing the dinner bell every time I strike a nail. I had enough, and decided to make a change. After extensive searching I decided on ordering the Stiletto 19 oz. Steel Milled Face Hammer with the straight Hickory handle. It was the same weight as the Vaughan, and the price was right on Amazon.
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The hammer arrived on Tuesday, and it felt like Christmas as I opened the box that afternoon to find a polished out hammer with a big Stiletto sticker hanging from it. I’m not big on flash, and definitely didn’t need a hammer that was shinier than the chrome on my truck bumper, but if it got the job done then I could deal with the gaudiness. Plus I could give the sticker to my four year old son; kids like stickers.
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Unlike the Vaughan, the face of the Stiletto had squared off edges, which are nice for toe-nailing. The Stiletto handle was rounded and comfortable, as opposed to the Vaughan which is a flattened oval and uncomfortable. So far two big pluses for the Stiletto. Then I noticed the sticker on the bottom saying “Made in China”. My heart sunk. I almost put the hammer back in the box and shipped it back right then, but decided I should at least give the hammer a try.

Wednesday morning the Vaughan was pulled from my bags and the Stiletto was dropped in its place (after removing the Made in China sticker of course). We were in the process of bracing and blocking trusses on the house that I am currently building, so the hammer was going to be put to the test immediately. I drove the first nail and for the first time in years, NO RINGING! The hammer was comfortable and balanced to swing. the shape of the face was shape was ideal for toe-nailing blocks. I was loving it, till I had to pull my first nail, or should I say couldn’t pull. The inside edges of the claw were rounded off by design so the claw doesn’t bite into the shank of the nail. This makes it nearly impossible to pull a nail. While I’d love to be able to say that I never shank a nail, that would be complete B.S. Since my current project utilizes LSL studs (extremely hard to drive a nail into), the number of nails that I’ve been bending lately are more than the norm.

I pushed on through the rest of the week not wanting to give up on the hammer, after all I had just spent $40 on the thing. Attempt after attempt to pull nails from the LSL, and even green lumber on occasion, has made it clear that one of two things needed to happen. Either I needed to start carrying two hammers, one to drive the nails and one to pull them when necessary, or I needed to pack up that Chinese piece of crap and send it back to Stiletto. I have decided on the latter.

I want my money back Stiletto. Maybe you should put a little more thought into the design of your tools, and less time into polishing them out and making stickers. I’m now back to listening to the ring of the Vaughan, and searching for an AMERICAN MADE framing hammer that is silent and comfortable. Anyone have a suggestion?

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