Even with the world in social and political convulsions, I seem compelled to write about hammers. There is something that draws me to the most basic device that allows a person to unleash a force outside the realm of what humans can do unaided by tools.

The desire to clobber something with ferocity seems to be one of the more ancient of human needs. It helps us survive. Need to crack open some shellfish? How about a coconut or the skull of a hostile invader or two? You are going to need a hammer.

It’s hard to believe that hammers are older than Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones but it’s true. And, speaking of stones, there is evidence that hammers were first used by early humans at the dawn of the Stone Age, over three million years ago. Ideally, that would have been the time to invest in major hammer makers like Estwing, Klein Tool or Stanley but telephones were still on a distant horizon so it would have been impossible to get through to your broker.

Even though the hammer is fading as the primary tool of the construction trades, it is still indispensable on the job site. When workers need to lighten their load, they will strip down to essentials leaving the tool belt behind and you may see them with only a hammer hanging from a belt loop on the job site. When this happens on my projects, I always ask the guys to put their pants back on out of safety considerations. I tell them that a dangling hammer distracts the other workers. I run a tight ship.

Some garment manufacturers offer carpenter jeans that are available with a loop to hold a hammer below the pocket on the left leg. Personally, I think it’s insane to keep your hammer on the left but I am not biased and don’t discriminate against the stupid nutcases who are happy to work the opposite of normal people.

A lot of carpenters on the job site have their father’s hammer in their toolbox. My father’s hammer, which I still use on a regular basis, appears to be an Estwing E12C leather-covered steel handle claw hammer, made in America, sometime after the war. This is the same hammer he found outside, on the lawn, after a rain around 1960, which was the last time I used any of his tools without returning them to where they belong. I’m sure carpenters have other tools that were handed down but it’s always the hammer you hear about. It may not be the best hammer in the tool box but it is the most hallowed. Don’t be surprised if they hesitate to lend it to you.

Some of us who hammer regularly tend to forget that other people don’t have the opportunity nor skill to vent pent-up frustrations by whacking nails into boards. I was taken aback a year or two ago when I came upon an exhibit at a summer fair offering people the chance to drive nails into a large plank. “That’s silly,” I thought, but when I turned the corner there were at least a dozen folks furiously whacking at nails or very near them, attempting to drive them into a piece of lumber already accommodating two or three hundred nails.

If the nails misbehaved, they were bent over and flattened without regard for any craftsmanship. It was brutal. You don’t often see that kind of emotional purging on a job site.

If you want to go to a museum of hammers, you would have to travel to Haines, Alaska. (Having lived in Alaska for 20 years, why am I not surprised?) The four-room museum, one of the top tourist destinations in Haines, has actual hammer collections totaling over 2,000 specimens currently on display including a gigantic claw hammer that towers over the building like a contractor’s totem pole. Trip Advisor rates it #5 of the 21 things to do in Haines. Having been to Haines, I’m not sure there are 21 things to do there but the Hammer Museum is #5 nevertheless.

There. It was nice to get the hammer musings off my chest but not very cathartic. I think I’ll go out to my job site, assign politicians’ names to some big nails, and then beat them into “oblivion,” which is a nickname for a huge plank I have there. It helps me sleep. You should try it.