- Best Claw Hammer
- Best Ball Peen Hammer
- Best Soft Faced Hammer
- Best Club Hammer
- Best Dead Blow Hammer
- Best Sledgehammer
Purchasing a decent hammer should be one of the first things you buy when looking to your assortment of home tools home assortment of tools. However, most people just assume a claw hammer is the either the only hammer type available or the just a option which is suitable for any job from auto body work to demolition. However, there are other hammers which have a bit more specialized use. Just like any other hand tool, there are a wide variety of hammers out there, each with a specific use perfect for certain jobs. Our hammer buyer's guide provided below details everything you need to know if you're in the market for one of these essential hand tools.
Best Claw Hammer:
The claw hammer is the one that everyone thinks of, when you say the word "hammer”. That's probably because they’re the most common hammer around, at least here in the United States. If someone only has one hammer in their toolbox, you can be sure that it will likely be a claw hammer.
What has made the claw hammer so popular is that this is the basic carpenter's hammer. It’s designed for pounding in nails and then removing them when necessary. Since carpentry (or at least simple versions of carpentry like hanging a picture or a shelf) is the most common use of a hammer in the home, it only makes sense that people would have carpentry hammers to use. Besides, they’re also the most readily hammer type available on the market.
Typically, a claw hammer has a round, smooth face which helps prevent marring the wood when using the hammer to drive nails into architectural moldings or finish plywood. Even so, it’s not uncommon to dimple structural lumber when driving nails into it because a greater amount of force is used.
Claw hammers intended for use only as framing hammers will usually have a crosshatched face on the head. This ensures the hammer face dimples the wood to help make sure the nail head is driven below flush. Nail heads sticking up are a problem for drywall work as they can cause the sheets of drywall to not sit flat against the framing; better to have the nail head below flush than to have it even slightly above the surface.
What differentiates a claw hammer from any other type is the claw which is provided for the purpose of removing nails that either go in bent or have to be removed in demolition. There are two different styles of claws available which are the curved claw and the rip claw. The basic difference between the two is that the rip claw is almost flat with very little curve, while the curved claw obviously has quite a bit of curve.
The curved claw is much more common on low dollar hammers which may mean something. The curved claw is actually much harder to work with because if you have to remove a nail, you have to put the hammer handle almost parallel to the wood to get it under the nail head. If space is tight, you're sunk. But some argue that the curved claw can remove longer nails than a rip claw.
Professional carpenters prefer the rip claw, as it’s easier to work with. It can be worked under the head of a nail with the handle almost perpendicular to the board which makes it possible to use in tighter places. For removing longer nails, all that you have to do is bend the nail over once you have pulled it out as far as you can. Then, move the claw farther up the nail's shank, using the bend as the "head" for pulling it out farther.
Claw hammers typically have a 16 ounce head which is plenty heavy for most of us who aren't used to swinging a hammer all day. However, there are some manufacturers who also provide 20 ounce hammer heads. The extra weight means that there is more momentum when the head hits the nail, so it can drive the nail farther. For professionals, that's a real plus. Most of these manufacturers provide the same basic designs in both 16 and 20 ounce versions so that you can pick the one you want.
The other consideration on claw hammers is the handle material. This can range considerably, with steel, fiberglass and wood being the most common. While steel is the strongest, it is not as flexible and transfers more of the shock of striking the nail to your arm which can potentially cause some traumatic injury over time. For this reason, many individuals prefer hammers with fiberglass or wood handles.
I'll have to say that it was hard to pick a "best of the best" here. The first three hammers I've selected all have unique features that make them excellent choices. Any of them could have been the number one choice. The other two are also great hammers, but were included more because of their uniqueness.
DeWalt takes the prize with this 20 ounce claw hammer. What sold me on it is the oval face which makes it much easier to do toe nailing, something that always gives me trouble. Read Full Review
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Weekend warriors should love this hammer from Bostitch, because of its larger face. That helps eliminate those annoying misses or near misses, which mess up your nails an your workpiece. Read Full Review
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This is an actual framing hammer, which I wouldn't dream of using as a finish hammer. But as a framer, it's got a nice combination of features. I especially like the head design and how it can be stood up easily on the floor, ready to grab as soon as you get that stubborn board into position. Read Full Review
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This hammer deserves to be on this list, just because of how long they've been making them. The truly outstanding feature is the leather handle, which is surprisingly comfortable and slip resistant. Read Full Review
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Until I saw Stiletto, I'd never dreamed of a titanium hammer. But there are some definite advantages, mostly in the life of the tool. Chances of actually chipping a hammer head made out of titanium are virtually non-existent, even if you do hit a lot of nails on the edge. Read Full Review
Best Ball Peen Hammer:
To most people, ball peen hammers are nothing more than "mechanic's hammers" but this isn’t actually what they are. The ball peen hammer has been around for centuries and was originally developed for metalworking, with the ball end of the hammer ideal for both curving and flattening metal.
The word "peen" means "to strike, as with a hammer”. Based on that definition, the ball peen hammer actually has two peens, the flat hammer face and the ball face. However, in the naming of hammers, the flat hammer face is ignored as it’s assumed to be there, and only one mentioned is the other striking surface. In this case, the ball peen which is curved for shaping metal parts.
If you want to shape a bowl out of metal (or even a gas tank for a motorcycle) you need a rounded surface for curving the metal, hence the need for the ball peen. Surprisingly enough, striking a bent piece of metal with this curved face is also the easiest way to flatten it.
If you can imagine a piece of metal strap that’s bent and you’re trying to flatten it on an anvil, striking it with the flat surface of the hammer will only flatten it to a bend of one or two degrees. In order to get it totally flat you would have to attempt to bend it past zero in order to make up for the spring-back that’s in any metal. This is accomplished by peening the outside of the bend with the ball peen of the hammer and no other hammer type can do that.
Ball peen hammers are also the best type for shaping rivets. A flat hammer face striking the rivet will most likely cause the rivet shank to expand, jamming it in the hole. But the ball face striking the rivet is highly unlikely to strike it squarely enough to expand the rivet, so it will distort the end of the rivet and help to form the backside rivet head.
You can buy ball peen hammers in a variety of sizes which are intentionally made that way for different sized projects. They typically range from 8 ounce (although I've seen as small as 2 ounce) up to 48 ounces. Larger hammers will provide a stronger blow, helping to bend the metal more or making it possible to bend thicker metal. Smaller ball peen hammers are usually used only for detail work.
Larger hammers are also an advantage for blacksmithing work as the greater mass of the hammer head will not heat quickly from the metal that’s being struck. Typically, blacksmiths use a 24 or even 32 oz ball peen hammer for those times when they don't use a cross peen hammer.
These hammers can come with steel, wood, or fiberglass handles, depending on your preference. Steel is the strongest but does little in the way of shock absorption. To help with that, steel handles usually have a rubber cover slid over them. Both wood and fiberglass offer some shock absorption, as these materials are somewhat flexible. At times, fiberglass handles also have a rubber sleeve which making them the easiest to use in regards to reducing operator fatigue.
As the ball peen hammer is designed for striking metal, the quality of the material used in the hammer and how it is hardened is of the upmost importance. A hammer that’s too hard will tend to crack or chip, while one which is too soft will tend to be damaged by the metal it strikes, rather than forming the metal. Manufacturers must strike the perfect balance between the two.
It was hard picking a best between these hammers, as there aren't many features to distinguish one from another. More than anything, the quality of the materials used and the type of handle set them apart. So, when you're looking for one, make sure you buy something that comes from a reliable manufacturer with a good reputation.
When tools are so close, you have to go for quality which is why I've chosen this hammer from Snap-On as my number one. Snap-On's quality is legendary, earning them the respect of professional mechanics everywhere. Read Full Review
From Estwing's extensive hammer line, I've chosen this 24 ounce ball peen as my number two. The steel handle makes this hammer virtually indestructible, even with the heaviest continual use. Read Full Review
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The graphite handle on this Stanley hammer is the only one I know of on the market. When graphite fibers are added to fiberglass, they create a much stronger and stiffer material, which is unlikely to break in any environment. Read Full Review
I had to include at least one wood-handled hammer in this list, and it came from Vaughan. Of all the materials available, wood provides the most comfort and best shock absorption of any hammer handle. Persoanlly I'm glad that it comes from an American company. Read Full Review
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Best Soft Faced Hammer:
To many people, the ultimate use of a hammer is to move something that doesn't want to move. That's where the saying, "When all else fails, get a bigger hammer" comes from. But while hammers have many other uses, the fact of the matter is that sometimes using a hammer to get something to move into position is the only way to go. However, the problem is the hammer might mar the surface of the object being struck.
Of course, that has a lot to do with the materials the hammer is made of, as well as the material that’s being struck by the hammer. The easy solution is to use a material which is softer than that of the parts to be struck.
Most people think of a rubber mallet in this situation and these specific tools have been used quite successfully for this purpose. But rubber mallets aren't the only soft-faced hammers out there. Brass, aluminum, rubber, plastic and leather have all been used successfully in soft-faced hammers, depending on the specific need.
While most soft-faced hammers come with the hammer faces already attached, there are some which come with an assortment of faces, allowing you to change them out as needed. It’s typical to have two different hammer faces, with one softer than the other. That way, the hammer can be used effectively with more than one type of part.
These hammers are typically considerably lighter than others, as they’re intended for use in fine-tuning the position of parts, rather than to provide a large amount of force for bending parts or moving large pieces of metal. Generally speaking, soft-faced hammers are used only with small objects, in machining, crafts work, and auto body work.
While having a soft-faced hammer in your tool kit may not seem like a high priority, anyone who does any sort of delicate work really needs one or even two. The right tools can really make any job come out better.
Of all the soft faced hammers I've seen, this is the most flexible. Adding brass and copper faces to the normal collection of rubber and plastic allows this hammer to be used in places where others just won't do the job. Read Full Review
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I had to include at least one true rubber mallet in this list and Estwing's is the best. Actually, this is kind of halfway between a rubber mallet and a soft-faced hammer, as it has two different durometer rubber faces, giving you greater flexibility than the typical rubber mallet offers. Read Full Review
This was another "have to include" for me, as I've had one of these soft faced hammers for years and it has served me well. The two faces provide a soft and hard option to match whatever you're working on while the 12 ounce head puts some authority behind your swing. Read Full Review
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Craftsman gives you four different plastic and rubber tips for this hammer, providing the widest range of options without going to soft metal or wood faces. It also has a fiberglass handle which will probably outlast the rest of the tool. Considering Craftsman's lifetime warranty I guess it will never wear out. Read Full Review
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Best Club Hammer:
The club hammer or drilling hammer is essentially a one-handed sledge hammer with a three to four pound head. This provides a greater impact upon striking than what you'll get out of a ball peen or claw hammer, making it ideal for situations where a great amount of force needs to be applied in a small area.
These hammers are more often used in masonry work than anything else although mechanics may use them when they need more force than a ball peen can apply. They can also be used for blacksmith work although experienced blacksmiths usually use a cross peen hammer. It is also a useful hammer for demolition work, when something smaller than a full two-handed sledge hammer is needed.
The true advantage of a club hammer is the accuracy which can be applied with it. Swinging a sledge hammer is a bit of an imprecise art so when it’s necessary to drive a cold chisel for breaking stone, the club hammer is preferred.
These hammers typically have a fairly short and lightweight handle when compared to other hammers. The short handle helps with maintaining accuracy while keeping the weight in the head. The combination of a lightweight handle and heavy head helps produce a swing which gives maximum momentum. That heavier weight transfers more momentum into the object being struck by the hammer.
Since these are fairly heavy hammers which are used to strike either stone or metal tools, one big concern is operator fatigue. The ability of the hammer's handle to absorb the impact is of critical importance, even more so than with other hammers. Fiberglass and wood handles are common as these materials are somewhat flexible and absorb the impact well.
The hammer's head is dual-faced with both faces being the same. They are usually fairly hard, so as to avoid deformation of the head when using the hammer. By comparison, cold chisels will usually be slightly softer. That's why old cold chisels often have mushroomed heads, while the hammers remain virtually unscarred, even by extensive use.
The engineer's hammer was a similar tool invented for drilling in mines when drilling was accomplished by pounding the drill with a hammer. The major difference between a drilling hammer and an engineer's hammer is that the engineer's hammer has a longer handle, allowing it to be used two-handed. These were used for "double jacking" where one man held the drill and another pounded the end of it. The smaller hammer gave better control than a sledge hammer would, reducing the chance of missing and striking the man holding the drill bit.
There's nothing fancy about these hammers, nor do you see many options to choose from. The most outstanding option is usually the handle material. Other than that, choosing a head weight that is appropriate for your personal use is important. While a four pound head provides more impact and more energy transfer, it also requires more strength to yield when you’re swinging it over and over again. If you’re unsure you have the strength for that, stick with a three pound hammer.
The design of this hammer's handle is about as high-tech as you're going to find in such a simple tool. Stanley has gone to great lengths to make this a comfortable hammer to use, with minimal vibration and shock transferred back to the user. Read Full Review
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Forged from one piece of steel, this hammer from Estwing will be a hand tool you can pass on to your grandkids. Surprisingly for an all-steel tool of this type, it does an admirable job of reducing vibration, mostly due to the design of the rubber handle. Read Full Review
A traditional design, with a hickory hardwood handle make this hammer from Vughan a good addition to any toolbox. Even after all these years and modern innovations, it's hard to beat wood for a hammer handle. Read Full Review
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The larger face of the Craftsman hammer helps prevent any accidental misses of a chisel or punch. With Craftsman's reputation for quality and lifetime warranty, you can't miss when buying their tools. Read Full Review
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Slightly lighter than the typical drilling hammer, this one is going to make for a lot less fatigue. If you're not used to swinging a hammer of this type, the lighter weight might be just the thing you need. Read Full Review
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Best Dead Blow Hammer:
The dead blow hammer can be considered a high-tech version of our old friend the hammer. Designed to overcome several common problems which occur when using hammers, the dead blow has a moving weight inside the head which slides backwards when swinging and then forward when the hammer strikes the surface.
The movement of this weight is what makes the deal blow hammer work. When you strike something with it, the hollow head absorbs a lot of the blow rather than acting as a spring to absorb energy and then releasing it. This action prevents the immediate tendency for the hammer to bounce off the work which is immediately enforced by the shot moving forward and striking the back of the head. So, it's like two blows for the effort of one. When all is said and done, the hammer head doesn't leave the work until you lift it off.
This also increases the amount of force that’s applied to the blow. The two-stage blow becomes more effective than a single blow by the same weight hammer because all of the force is directed into the piece being hit, rather than part of the energy being used to cause the head to bounce. So, you end up accomplishing more with each blow.
A dead blow hammer also helps prevent marring of your workpiece by first dividing the force of the blow into two separate blows and then by keeping the hammer head from moving. Many times the marring of the workpiece is caused by that movement rather than the first strike. When the head of a normal hammer moves, it typically doesn't come down in the same place, hitting hardware where the workpiece won't become marred.
This combination of a more effective and non-marring blow makes the dead blow hammer ideal for a number of different applications where care must be taken with the pieces you’re working on. A dead blow hammer is an excellent tool for auto body work as well as assembling/disassembling tight fitting furniture joints or working on masonry/laying tile. The hammer can put the various pieces together, without causing any of the typical damage associated with normal hammers.
Dead blow hammers are also easier to use as far as operator fatigue is concerned. With a more effective blow, less energy needs to be expended in driving the hammer down. Lighter hammers can be used than would otherwise be which reduces the amount of effort needed to raise the hammer head. Finally, the two-stage blow reduces shock back to the arm of the user, reducing fatigue as well as the chance of injury.
Dead Blow hammers come in a variety of different styles and weights, ranging from two to five pounds which allows you to select a hammer best suited to your particular needs. Most are soft-faced to increase the likelihood of being able to use it without marring your work but there are also steel-faced models available for cases where a harder face will convey the force better into the workpiece.
By combining a dead blow hammer and a ball peen hammer, Estwing has created a new tool which can be used in cases where others aren't quite enough. The steel hammer face and pall peen will provide a greater impact than a typical ball peen hammer does, making this a very effective tool to have on hand. Read Full Review
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Vaughan's deal blow hammer comes with interchangeable and replaceable faces, meaning that i will never wear out. The shoulder on the face protects the threads, so they aren't damaged by excessive use. Read Full Review
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If you're needing a really heavy dead blow hammer, Lixie has got one that's perfect for you. At almost seven pounds, this one should be able to take care of everything. It's also extremely well made, with replaceable faces on the head. Read Full Review
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Grizzly's dead blow hammer is unique in that it has a brass face on it. That's ideal when working with metal parts or when you need a non-sparking hammer
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The sledge hammer is the king of all hammers. Whether you need a hammer for moving, breaking, or driving something, no other option can beat the sheer power a sledge hammer offers. That's mostly because of the weight of these hammers which can go as high as 55 pounds. Thanks, but I think I'll stick with the smaller ones and leave that kind of heavy swinging to the Incredible Hulk.
These are two-handed hammers with a long handle which gives you the ability to get the maximum swing out of the hammer so the most possible kinetic energy can be stored in the hammer head. When the hammer strikes, it’s able to transfer that energy into whatever you are hitting.
The two major factors in a sledge hammer's effectiveness are the weight of the head and the length of the handle; the idea is to build up kinetic energy which both of those elements help with. A shorter hammer with a heavier head will provide the same amount of energy as a longer handled hammer with a lighter head.
These hammers are most often used for demolition work although they’re useful for other things as well. For example, if you’re driving tent stakes, fence posts, or a driven well, you'll want to use a sledge hammer. These hammers are also used in blacksmithing work (not by the blacksmith mind you) by his assistant; the blacksmith will hit the part of the work that he wants with his hammer and the assistant will follow up with a harder blow from a sledgehammer.
Sledge hammers can even be used as a workout tool, especially when combined with an old tire. Striking the tire with the sledgehammer is great exercise and is actually used in that way by many professional fighters. If you've ever seen the Hindu Mace workout, the sledgehammer makes a respectable substitute for the mace they use.
In olden times, sledge hammers were used on occasion by miners, especially with a cold chisel. Contrary to popular belief, they weren’t the "double jack" used for driving a drill into the rock and creating a hole for a stick of dynamite. That role was filled by a shorter hammer known as an engineer's hammer which fell in between the sledge hammer and a drill hammer.
Because of the great amount of energy transferred with a sledge hammer, there’s more shock which goes back to the user's arms than with other hammers. The best protection from this is a well-designed handle. Wood or fiberglass are both good choices as they both have some flexibility, allowing them to absorb and dissipate some of the shock while preventing most of it from going up the user's arms.
Sledge hammer heads are slightly softer than some other types, although not enough so that you'll notice a difference. The softer steel is used mostly for the purpose of preventing chipping and breaking of the head.
Of all the sledge hammers out there, none have the advanced design of Stanley's. This handle has had an incredible amount of design and integrated shock-absorbing technology, resulting in minimized vibrations and shock transmitted to the user's arms after each hammer strike. Read Full Review
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A high quality 12 pound sledge, the Truper will provide you with plenty of force and with an excellent fiberglass handle. The combination of fiberglass and rubber makes this handle comfortable to work with and reduces the chance of slipping, even when your hands are sweaty. Read Full Review
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Some people prefer wood handles on their sledges in order to stick with tried and true tool tradition. This sledgehammer combines a high quality hickory handle with a forged and machined head, giving you a quality tool. Read Full Review
Kobald's line of tools are designed to withstand all kinds of use and abuse. This sledgehammers fiberglass handle has a guard molded onto it, protecting it from damage associated with overstrikes. Read Full Review
For those who need a really beefy hammer, for harder jobs, I recommend Truper's 20 pound sledge. I think that this is about the maximum weight that most could handle well but that extra weight gives you lots of momentum to get the job done. Read Full Review
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Hammer Buyer's Guide
The hammer is one of the most frequently used hand tools found in any toolbox. While simple and straightforward in their use, there are many varieties of hammers with each designed specifically a range of tasks from driving nails to shaping metal. If you’re a contractor, construction worker, or just a do-it-yourself-type looking to expand your tool collection, here’s a listing of the most common hammer types along with other essentials you should keep in mind before make a purchase.
Claw hammers are probably what most people think of when they envision a hammer. These tools are great multitasking with the flat, blunt end is used for pounding objects like nails and fasteners, while the “claw” end is used for prying things up like embedded nails and more.
Ball Peen Hammer
Ball peen hammers have a dual hammer head, one spherical and one flat. These hammers are used for “peening” which is the art of expanding and shaping various materials. Naturally they’re very popular in the metal working industry.
Soft Faced Hammer
Soft faced hammers feature soft heads made from rubber or plastic compounds. They’re perfect for hammering sensitive or delicate materials without fear of damaging them making them the logical choice for auto bodywork.
The bulky-looking hammers stand out for their heavy, dual flat head which makes them great for masonry work such as driving chisels into stone. They’re also great for DIY projects where light-duty demolition is required.
Dead Blow Hammer
Dead blow hammers feature hollow heads filled with shock-absorbing material. This allows you to focus the point of impact at a single point rather than spread out across a wide area. These hammers are great for woodworking projects or auto body tasks like popping out dents.
Sledgehammers have heavy, durable heads that apply tremendous amounts of force when swung to smash apart wood, glass, brick, concrete, and more. They feature a long handle and ideal for home improvement projects requiring large amounts of demolition.
What’s in a Hammer?
Most hammers heads are either metal or fiberglass while handle options are either wood, metal (if the hammer is one solid piece), or fiberglass. Hammers with wood, particularly hickory, or fiberglass handles are better at absorbing impact than metal, which reduces hand fatigue.
Metal is durable and hefty, but also quite heavy versus fiberglass which is very strong but lightweight. While wood is strong and light, it’s not as durable as its metal or fiberglass counterparts.
Full Body or Wedged
Hammers generally come in one solid piece, or feature a handle with a wedged head attached with a strong adhesive. Full body hammers are naturally stronger and more durable so if you plan on purchasing a hammer with a wedged head, ensure it’s sealed with epoxy or an industrial-strength adhesive.
Magnetic tips help to keeps nails and other fasteners in place which is handy for hammering at an extended reach or when restricted to using only one hand. This feature is generally found only on smaller hammers like the claw.
Strike Face Size
Strike face size is what determines the hammers accuracy. The larger the strike face, the more accurate your blows will be, making it easier to strike successfully strike nails and fasteners. Also keep the shape of the strike face in mind. Domed faces drive fasteners into the surface of what you’re striking with little to no damage, while flat faces carry sa higher risk of damaging a surface.
Hammering can be a grueling task, particularly if you’re going to be doing it for long periods of time. As such, the hammers weight should factor into your decision. The lighter the tool, the less arm and hand fatigue is accrued.
Hammer handles are wrapped in a range of materials including rubber, nylon, vinyl, or leather, which makes them easier to grip and hold. These materials also make them a lot more comfortable to use, as well as provides a safe measure of anti-slip grip.
For hammers with metal handles or heads, corrosion resistance is important, especially if you plan on using your hammer outdoors. The corrosion resistance in hammers generally comes in the form of a polished surface or powder coating.