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Dead Blow Hammer vs Rubber Mallet: What’s the Difference?

Deadblow hammer vs rubber mallet

When you need to hit something with force, a hammer is the perfect tool. But if you also need to avoid damaging the item you’re hitting, a hammer is no longer such a great option. Obviously, the metal head on a hammer can cause some serious damage, especially with so much force behind it.

In such cases, you need something a bit softer, like a dead blow hammer or a rubber mallet. Neither will damage the object you’re hitting the same way a hammer would. But which one should you choose? Is there even a difference between them?

While they are pretty similar tools, stark differences separate a dead blow hammer from a rubber mallet. Those differences mean that sometimes one is the clear choice while the other would be less than optimal. Let’s explore those differences and get a better understanding of both tools and their uses.

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Overview of Dead Blow Hammer:

dead blow hammer
Image Credit: Anton Starikov, Shutterstock

A dead blow hammer is a type of mallet made from a soft compound such as rubber, but it’s not a rubber mallet. This type of mallet is much heavier and has some special characteristics that set it apart from all other types of hammers. Since a dead blow hammer is covered in soft rubber, it’s not going to damage or mar any surface you’re hitting like a metal hammer would. So far, it sounds pretty similar to a rubber mallet. But rubber tends to bounce, which isn’t always desirable.

What’s Inside a Dead Blow Hammer?

While a dead blow hammer is mostly made of rubber, the head is filled with something else. Inside the head, it’s hollow, and a lot of that space is filled with a medium, usually sand, lead shot, or steel shot. This adds some extra weight, but it’s really meant to compound the force. When you swing a dead blow hammer, the sand or shot inside will all shift to the front, transferring the energy into the object you’re hitting.

Dead Blow Means No Bounce

The defining characteristic of a dead blow hammer is that it doesn’t bounce. When you hit something with it, all of the shot or sand being thrown to the front prevents any rebound from occurring. This means you get the non-marring benefits of a rubber mallet with a lot of extra power, allowing you to move objects and strike with force without worrying about the mallet rebounding back at you.

Pros
  • Hits with greater force
  • Doesn’t bounce
  • Won’t damage or mar
Cons
  • Not very precise

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Overview of Rubber Mallet:

It’s pretty easy to tell a rubber mallet and a dead blow hammer apart by looks. But since they’re both mallets made of rubber, it can be a bit more confusing trying to figure out what the differences are in their usage.

As the name suggests, a rubber mallet is a mallet made of rubber. Well, the head is made of rubber. The handle is usually made of wood. Unlike a dead blow hammer, there’s nothing inside the head of a rubber mallet. It’s just rubber, all the way through.

rubber mallet
Image Credit: Ray_Shrewsberry, Pixabay

Rubber is Soft

The rubber head on a rubber mallet is quite soft, especially when compared to a metal hammer. This means that you won’t damage the surface you’re hitting with a rubber mallet. Since the head on a rubber mallet is all rubber with no filler, these mallets are very light. You’ll get less impact force with a rubber mallet, which is great when you are trying to avoid cutting too deep with a chisel or something similar.

Watch Out for the Bounce

But the flip side to that soft rubber head is that it creates quite a bit of bounce. Whenever you strike something with a rubber mallet, it’s going to rebound with similar force. If you’re working in a tight space, this could cause you to accidentally hit something that you didn’t intend to. Even if you’re not in a tight space, it could rebound back and hit you!

This is the main difference between a dead blow hammer and a rubber mallet. A rubber mallet hits with less force and rebounds. A dead blow hammer hits with greater force and won’t bounce back.

Pros
  • Won’t damage or mar
  • Very lightweight
Cons
  • Will rebound when you strike
  • Doesn’t hit with much force
  • Lacks precision

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Neither is Precise

various hammers
Image Credit: donatas1205, Shutterstock

While both of these mallets are great for their intended purpose, it should be noted that neither is a precise instrument. The heads on both of these tools are rather large. If you need to hit something small with precision and still want to avoid damaging anything, then neither of these mallets is your best bet. In such cases, you’re probably better off with a soft face hammer.


Application of Force

One of the major differences separating dead blow hammers from rubber mallets is the amount of force behind each swing. Rubber mallets are very light, and the entire head is made of rubber. When you swing it, you won’t get much force behind the impact. But a dead blow hammer weighs considerably more. Plus, the shot or sand filling the head multiplies the impact force. This means you can get the non-damaging benefits of a rubber head while hitting with a force that’s similar to a mini sledgehammer.


To Bounce or Not to Bounce

The other big difference between these two tools is the rebound. When you strike with a dead blow hammer, there is no rebound. The force is all transferred into the object you’re hitting. But that’s not the case with a rubber mallet, which will bounce back with similar force to your initial swing. If you strike hard, a rubber mallet will rebound back nearly as hard. When this happens, it could hit the user, or it could even cause unintentional damage elsewhere.


Which Mallet Should You Use?

Both of these tools allow you to hit something without damaging it. How much force you need to apply and how much space you have to work in will usually determine which tool is the best choice.

If you need to hit with serious force, then a dead blow hammer is your best bet. When you’re working in tight spaces, around sensitive objects, or you need to hit something hard, you won’t want to use a rubber mallet since it will rebound when you strike with it. So, a dead blow hammer is still your best bet.

But if you’re trying to avoid striking with too much force, like when you’re using a chisel or a cutting tool, a rubber mallet is the superior choice.

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Conclusion

There are times when you could use a dead blow hammer or rubber mallet interchangeably. But for most situations, one is going to be a better choice than the other. Ideally, you’ll have both on hand, so you’re prepared for anything! Neither will damage the surface you’re striking. So, figure out how much force you need to apply and whether a rebound is acceptable or not, and you’ll know exactly which tool to use.


Featured Image: StockSnap, Pixabay

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