I wrote about the AVX in this month’s issue of Popular Science (pg. 26), and it’s a sweet hammer. Stanley really pulled out all the stops to save your arm: Beyond the tuning-fork vibration dampening system from last year’s anti-vibe hammers, the AVX adds a special grip to address the torsional stresses most hammers impart to your arm when you don’t hit the nail squarely.
The vibration created when you strike a nail with your hammer travels from the head, down the handle, and eventually into your hand and arm; It doesn’t have anywhere else to go. The AVX gives it a better path: into a tuning fork hidden under the rubber grip. The fork’s tines then release the vibration harmlessly into the rubber.
But vibration isn’t the only culprit when it comes to repetitive stress injuries from hammering. In the course of their research, Stanley discovered that framers often end up with symptoms equivalent to what’s commonly known as “tennis elbow.” This injury type is caused by any repetitive activity that causes twisting of the joints, including non-tennis activities like hammering.
When you hit a nail with a hammer, it’s rare that you hit the nail completely 100% square-on. Even when you’re well within the range of accuracy that allows you to drive the nail straight, you’re often still off just a little bit. That tiny distance acts as a lever, directing the massive force of the hammer blow into a twisting motion that’s conveyed right into your arm and joints — setting you up for pain at the end of a long work day (and career).
The AVX’s grip is composed of two layers: a soft inner layer that’s bonded to the all-metal hammer and a harder outer grip. These layers are connected by numerous thermoplastic rubber bars. When you hit a nail off-center with the AVX, the inner soft layer deforms slightly, allowing the hammer to rotate a little inside the grip, absorbing the torsional force. Stanley claims it delivers 30% less torque to your arm.
It’s easy to forget all the science when you swing this hammer. You don’t hear the fork ring, and you can’t feel the hammer rotate inside the grip. What you do feel, however, is an extremely “dead” blow — much easier on your hands.
The grip is quite comfortable, and the AVX’s balance is everything you’d expect from a great hammer. Though it doesn’t look as futuristic as something like Estwing’s “weight forward” models, it does carry quite a bit of the head’s weight in the front — the upshot of which is that it swings and drives like the “alien-head” types, but it’ll hang correctly from your toolbelt.
The nail starter in the head works well. With a little bit of practice you can set a nail very accurately on the first swing. It becomes quite natural.
The best test of all, though, came when I handed the AVX to a professional framer working on the new-build house in the lot next to mine. He had a wood hammer, and complained bitterly about how he goes through a handle or two every few months. When I asked him why he doesn’t just use metal hammers, he said, “They hurt.”
I loaned him the AVX for an afternoon, and when I came back at dusk to get it back from him, he didn’t want to part with it. He said it felt much better than even his wood hammer. When I told him I couldn’t let him keep it, he offered me $20 (then $30) for it — which is great because that’s about what these hammers will sell for when they hit shelves.
This is a great hammer. Sure, it’s a little more expensive than the cheap ones out there, but we’re only talking about $10-$15 difference — for a hammer that’s going to last way longer than wood hammers and feel way better than cheapie steel models.
A variety of sizes should be on shelves soon (if they’re not already).