Using heavy-duty hammers and nails can get tiresome when working on low-precision projects.
It wastes a lot of time and drains you of all the useful energy you could invest in other activities.
But hey! This doesn’t always have to be the case… at least not with a hammer tacker by your side.
A hammer tacker is a type of stapler that inserts staples upon impact with a flat surface. It is mostly used for fastening low-density materials with a high-density flat surface. Its most common applications include roofing paper installation, insulation installation, and carpet backing.
If you haven’t used a hammer tacker before, don’t worry!
In this article, I will cover everything about this particular tool and how helpful it can be in your DIY and professional projects.
Plus, some basic tips to get you started with the tool as a first-timer.
In this post we'll cover:
- What is a hammer tacker?
- What is the difference between a staple gun and a hammer tacker?
- How to use a hammer tacker
What is a hammer tacker?
A hammer tacker is technically a crossbreed of a hammer and a staple gun. That is to say, it is used like a hammer, but it works as a stapler.
When securing thin and flat material to a particular surface with a hammer tacker, you need to strike the surface with the tool, much like a hammer. This will insert the staple.
Hammer tackers come in various sizes, each requiring a different staple size to function, except for some models that accept multiple sizes.
The most commonly used hammer tackers are sized about 1 foot. However, you can always choose a bigger or smaller option per your requirements.
Hammer tacker has a simple design, with its top resembling that of a conventional stapler but with a distinct handle attached to it.
Another major difference is their working mechanism.
When working with a conventional stapler, or staple gun, for purpose, you usually force the top of the unit into the bottom to insert staples.
However, the hammer tacker works the other way around.
When you strike it on a flat surface, the mechanism of the hammer tacker is pushed upward instead, inserting the staple right at the time of impact.
Hammer tacker has many commercial and DIY uses. It is most commonly used for securing thin and flat materials to a particular surface, e.g., fastening insulation to the roofing material’s underside or stapling fabric to a wooden frame for upholstery.
There are also some heavy-duty hammer tackers available that are used to join wood pieces and metal sheets. However, I wouldn’t highly recommend those for two reasons.
First, the connection formed with staples is not as strong as you might require, making the resulting structure practically useless.
Second, It will require you to strike the tool much harder on the surface than recommended to insert the staple, which could easily damage the mechanism of the stapler, despite being heavy duty.
In other words, it’s a no-no both ways!
What is the difference between a staple gun and a hammer tacker?
Both hammer tacker and staple gun are used for the same purpose- to connect two flat surfaces. You might ask, what is it then that makes one different from another?
Well, there are a couple of things that differentiate them, other than the quite obvious one, their using mechanism; a staple gun works with a trigger, while a hammer tacker works, well, like a hammer?
The staple gun is mostly recommended when doing precision work. It comes in two different variants; the manual one and the electric one.
A manual staple gun is used in projects where we need to cover less area with precision.
However, as we move towards projects where greater area coverage is required with extreme precision, you will need an electric staple gun.
The reason for that is practical rather than technical.
As manually operated staples guns require repeated squeeze and release to secure the staple, your hand can get tired too quickly.
Electric staple guns are comparatively easier to use, have more power, and get the staples through even the hardest of surfaces.
This makes them one of the most popular choices in industrial works, where you want the project to be quick and clean without tiring yourself out.
There are also pneumatic staple guns, but they aren’t as popular and are only recommended for professionals. They are exclusively made for heavy-duty work and are expensive to buy and operate.
A word of caution: whenever you use a staple gun, keep your fingers out of its area of operation.
It can do some serious harm if used carelessly. It’s called a “gun” for a reason.
Talking of hammer tackers, they’re more like “hulk smash.” All you need to do is whack quickly, and it will fasten anything together.
There are no multiple handles to squeeze, just a hammer-like design with a stapler mechanism at the tip.
Hammer tackers are used for tasks in which you have a huge area to cover without any special precision.
Since you will be operating with one hand, for the most part, you can go as fast as you want.
As for loading, the staple gun and hammer tacker have the same mechanism.
You release the magazine from the retractor, insert the staples in the tool, put the magazine back, fasten the retractor, and voila!
You are all set to fasten those carpet paddings, moisture barriers, or anything else you need to; you’re just a “whack” away.
How to use a hammer tacker
Never used a hammer tacker before?
Following are some beginner tips you would like to keep in mind before you get started:
Step 1: Know your tool
Don’t get me wrong, a hammer tacker is quite a sturdy tool, but that doesn’t mean you should push it to its limits.
A normal hammer tacker is supposed to handle only a number of tasks, such as installing insulation, or maybe, carpet backings, etc.
Though some people use it for fastening sturdy wood pieces and metal sheets together, it is a highly disfavourable practice, even with a heavy-duty hammer tacker.
This not only damages the tool and significantly deteriorates its efficiency.
Step 2: Safety first
Ever hit the back of your hand with a hammer? The pain is unimaginable. Pair it with a staple pierced through your skin, and I would rather avoid talking about it.
Always wear a high-quality anti-impact hammering glove on your free hand to minimize the impact.
Additionally, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes when using a hammer tacker, should a staple suddenly pops back into your eyes.
And…be super careful! Though using a hammer tacker might not be super technical, it gets tricky and dangerous when you are adjusting the materials with your free hand.
Step 3: Choose the right staples
A tip from the pros; always chooses the shortest possible staple that can secure a specific material.
This will make the whole process super-convenient and will even save you a few bucks you can spend on other necessary materials.
Generally, staples with 8mm to 10mm lengths are ideal for most DIY and professional jobs.
As a rule of thumb, your staples should be three times longer than the thickness of the material you are fastening.
Step 4: Load it up!
After you choose the perfect staples for the job, it’s time to load up the hammer tacker.
As you flip the top of the handle of your tool, you will see a spring-loaded recoil retractor holding the magazine cassette in place.
You just need to release the magazine from the retractor, put it out, and load the hammer tacker with the staples.
However, ensure you leave enough room for the magazine to fit perfectly. Once done, put the magazine back in, and fasten it with the retractor.
Now flip the handle back down, and you are all set to use your hammer tacker.
Step 5: Position the material
Although a hammer tacker is generally used for low-precision projects, it’s still important to properly arrange the material you are about to staple. This will help avoid a lot of inconveniences along the way. To do that, you would most certainly like to use your free hand.
Step 6: Whack!
When you’re all set, aim for a specific position, and whack the hammer with just enough force to insert the staple correctly.
When hammering, try to keep the face of the tool straight and leveled to the material’s surface.
This will ensure a consistent strike, with the staple piercing the surface evenly. Once you make a few strikes, you will surely get the hang of it.
This video describes everything about a hammer tacker quite elaborately:
Can you hammer staples into wood?
Since hammer tackers are designed to attach less dense materials to wood, it’s not a good idea to use them to connect two wood pieces.
Although people still use heavy-duty hammer tackers to fasten wood and metal sheets, this will soon get your tool out of function.
How long of a staple do I need?
The length of your staples should always be three times the thickness of the material you are fastening. This ensures the connection is firm enough to keep the material attached to the surface.
What do you use a hammer tacker for?
Hammer tackers are used for securing thin and less dense materials to a flat and usually dense surface. Some good examples include carpet backing and roof paper installation.
A hammer tacker is a handy tool to have around in the house for light-duty projects.
It’s also quite an important part of a handyman’s toolbox, helping them with various jobs, like fastening materials together, and doing various types of woodwork etc.
Make sure you watch the video above so you can use your hammer tacker properly and efficiently. And as always, be careful when using any kind of sharp object!
Still looking for a good hammer tacker? I’ve reviewed the top 7 best hammer tackers here
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.