In The Shop: Beating and Pounding Made Easy

September 26, 2015 02:08 AM
In The Shop: Beating and Pounding Made Easy

A pneumatic hammer is a multipurpose problem solver. With a proper bit, an air hammer can accomplish in seconds what it would take 15 minutes of pounding with a 32-oz. ball peen hammer. An air hammer is the go-to tool for the following:

  • It’s obvious an air hammer works great to drive frozen pulleys, sprockets or hubs off shafts. If there’s room to get the air hammer to bear on the backside of the component, unleashing 3,000 to 5,000 impacts per minute quickly persuades the stubborn piece off the shaft.

If there’s not room to get behind the obstinate component, an air hammer is still useful. Put the tip of the air hammer’s bit on the end and in line with the shaft, and use a sturdy pry bar to pry outward on the piece to be removed while hammering the end of the shaft. “Buzzing” while prying on the stubborn component often persuades the piece to magically release and slide off the shaft.

  • With a tapered bit, the furious hammering action of an air hammer can loosen stubborn lock collars before the shaft has time to turn. One hand holds the shaft, one hand holds the air hammer and “brrr-rrupp,” the lock collar is loose. 
  • ​Some planters have metal scrapers/dividers mounted between the disk openers and held in place with two small short roll pins. Driving out those roll pins with a hammer and punch is frustrating because the shank in which they are mounted bounces and absorbs hammer blows, leaving the roll pins in place. Installing a special roll pin bit in an air hammer makes knocking out those roll pins a breeze. With practice and a cautious trigger finger, the air hammer also makes reinstalling roll pins fast and easy.
  • ​​An air hammer also saves time when removing or installing plastic skid shoes on the bottom of soybean platforms. Use a sharpened chisel bit in an air hammer to shear off rivet heads that hold the poly in place.

To install new poly and rivets, use a rivet bit with a concave tip. With the sheet of poly held in place, insert a rivet through the poly into its mounting hole, use the rivet bit to press the poly and rivet firmly into place and hit the trigger. A flurry of impacts sets rivets in less than a second, without the bloodied fingertips common when using a hammer.

  • Install a ball joint fork, aka “pickle fork,” in an air hammer to knock loose ball joints. The long taper on pickle fork bits also works well to wedge between and vibrate apart any components that are frozen together.

There are numerous air hammers on the market. Some have a short “barrel” that creates short high-speed strokes. This type of air hammer works well when cutting sheet metal, doing work where impacts per second are more important than power per stroke and in more confined areas. Long-barrel air hammers have fewer strokes per second but tend to have more power per stroke. Mechanics generally prefer long-barrel air hammers for their power, even though their size can be awkward in tight quarters.

There are mail order houses that sell air hammers for as little as $30. Snap-on, Mac, Campbell Hausfeld and other industrial-grade air hammers retail for $200 to $400. When purchasing air hammers, you get what you pay for.

Accessories add to the value and convenience of air hammers. First-time buyers might cringe at the $50 price of upgrading from the economy-grade spring-loaded bit retainer that comes with many air hammers. Second-time buyers always spend the extra cash and equip their new air hammer with a quick-change bit retainer simply because they are more handy and secure than the factory-issued option.

Air hammers are only as useful as the available bits. Basic bits include a tapered punch, straight punch, chisel, panel cutter, rivet cutter, bushing splitter and 11⁄4" hammer-head. To some degree, hammer bits are “consumables” and prone to replacement. Plan on spending $50 to $250 for a bit set that might need replacement no matter how high the initial cost.  

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