When All of Your Problems Look Like Nails

Thomas Lie-Nielsen sidled up to me with a drink in his hand, a sportscoat on his back and a sly look across his face.

He opened his green jacket to reveal… a stick.

I repressed my urge to pluck it from his jacket because I stank like a monkey’s armpit after hauling four workbenches all over the campus of Berea College for our Woodworking in America conference.

But Thomas (who raises horses and must be accustomed to large, malodorous hairy things) nodded that it was OK for me to grab the stick. I did. Then I squealed like a little girl.

It was a brass Warrington hammer and looked just like my favorite hammer of all time, the little guy shown at the top of this blog entry. I use the round end of this hammer for adjusting all my planes. A few subtle hammer taps adjust the lateral position of my iron with more accuracy than any lateral-adjust mechanism.

I’ll also use the round end to advance the irons of my planes that don’t have mechanical adjusters. Oh, and I drive small pins with this end, too.

The flat end, called the “cross pane,” is ideal for starting nails. You pinch the nail with your fingers and use the cross pane to sneak through your fingertips to strike the nail’s head. Very handy.

There are probably 100 other uses for this little hammer because I take it with me whenever I travel with my tools.

So here’s the news: Lie-Nielsen Toolworks is going to begin making this hammer in both steel and brass. I don’t have information on pricing or availability, but who cares? I’m getting a set (or two) the minute they come out.

You see, I have a hammer problem. I probably have 20 or more of them, all different. Most of them came into my hands when I wrote about hammers for Woodworking Magazine a few years back, but for some reason I can’t seem to get rid of them.

But the Warrington’s size and weight have made it my favorite shop hammer (followed quickly by my 16-ounce Maydole hammer). And soon – thanks to Lie-Nielsen – you are going to be able to see if you agree with my assessment.

— Christopher Schwarz

All I’m saying about this photo is that I’m glad it’s not scratch ‘n’ sniff.

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to When All of Your Problems Look Like Nails

  1. Eric Paisley says:

    There should be a special place in heaven for men like Thomas.

  2. Sweet! I’ve been looking for a nice Warrington hammer for awhile now. The ones I’ve been finding on eBay just haven’t been that nice. I can’t to see the Lie-Nielsen hammers once they are available.


  3. David says:

    FYI, Chris – It’s bad practice to strike a wooden plane with a metal hammer. Even if done gently, it will put a lot of dings on the back. A better solution is the bubinga-handled plane hammer that the The Best Things sells. It has one brass face (for tinking the irons), and one maple face for whacking the back of the plane to release the wedge. The bonus of the brass face is that it adjusts the iron just as well as a steel hammer, but won’t mushroom the top.

  4. Christopher Schwarz says:


    I use the hammer only to tap the irons and then to lightly tap the wedge (for wedge planes). It’s for subtle adjustments that are unlikely to mushroom anything. In fact, the hammer is too lightweight to make coarse adjustments (unless you are Conan). So for coarse adjustments, I use a hammer like the one you describe. Mine is from Chester Toolworks.

    Also, not to be a stickler, but I wasn’t talking about just wooden planes. I use the little hammer to adjust infills that have a strike button at the rear and are designed to be plinked.


  5. Eric says:

    One day, I hope that I am the kind of woodworker that I can start a story with, "Thomas Lie-Nielsen sidled up to me…"

    Then I’ll know that I’ve made it.

    Oh yeah, and if my projects aren’t crap.

  6. Eric says:

    Gorgeous. Love the stick on the end too (the handle, not the writer).

  7. Devon says:

    Just stumbled across this – I am very excited. Now I can stop scrounging for tiny hammers on ebay (like this one if the link comes across: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&item=360090231486 )

    I was even considering milling my own from a round of C836, and would have done so if I could locate stock small enough.


  8. Ed Lindley says:

    Nice! Much prettier than mine. BTW, Chris, isn’t that called a cross peen (or is pane an alternative name)?

  9. Christopher Schwarz says:


    Several readers have commented on my use of "pane." I have some old tool catalogs that use that spelling, and it also is acceptable in some of the dictionaries I have. I selected that spelling to sidestep the "peen" and "pein" debate….


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