The Best Rock Hammer For Amateur Geologists and Beginner Rockhounds: An Informational How To Guide

best rock hammer for amature geologists and beginner rockhounds

The Best Rock Hammer For Amateur Geologists and Beginner Rockhounds

Every amateur geologist and rockhound needs to have at least one good rock hammer or geology pick in their toolkit.  But before you get your hands on one and start banging it against rocks, you should at least have some idea of how properly use a rock hammer.  You also need to know which is the best rock hammer for amateur geologists and beginner rockhounds.

How To Choose The Best Rock Hammer

First of all, know that there is a large variety of rock hammers available to amateur geologist and rock collectors.  The reason there are so many is because each type of rock hammer serves a specific purpose. For example, there are hammers for smashing, prying, chipping and cracking.

Below is a list of several kinds of rock hammers. Use this information to help you choose which kind of rock hammer you want to add to your took kit.  Any one of these have potential to be the best rock hammer for amateur geologists.  However, below I will share with you my top choice as best rock hammer.


Mason’s Hammer/ Bricklayer’s Hammer 

masons hammer or brick layers hammer rock hammerCheck Current Price
  • square head
  • chisel end  
  • cushioned handle

     excellent for:

  • loosening hard soils
  • breaking rocks into small pieces
  • good control where precision is required.
  • splitting soft rocks
  • can be used as a chisel.
Chipping Hammer
 chipping hammer rock hammer Check Current Price
  • vertical chisel end used to fashion rock tiles
  • pointed tip end.
  • cushioned handles to
  • Can deliver precise blows to small areas
Geo Pick/ Paleo Pick
 geo pick or paleo pick rock hammer Check Current Price
  • perfect digging tool for rockhounding and prospecting
  • pointed end
  • chisel edge
  • excellent for tearing apart sedimentary rock and digging small holes.
Crack Hammer

crack hammer rock hammer  Check Current Price
  • excellent for breaking large rocks into smaller rocks
  • two flat polished ends
  • looks like small handheld sledgehammer
  • Also used to drive chisels and point ends into rocks
Sledge Hammer

sledge hammer rock hammer  Check Current Price
  • long handle
  • A heavy tool
  • used to break large size rocks into much smaller, manageable size pieces
  • essential tool when working with big rocks
  • can be difficult for some rock collectors to use.
Cross Peen Hammer
 cross peen hammer rock hammer

Check Current Price

  • flat hammer face
  • blunt chisel end
  • great for reducing hand samples and driving chisels
  • cushioned handle to protect hands

The Best Rock Hammer for Amateur Geologists Geologists and beginner Rockhounds


The next thing to do is choose the best rock hammer for you, whether you are a amateur geologist or a beginner rockhound.  Take into account what you will be using it for the most and choose the right hammer for your needs.  

Will you be driving chisels and splitting rocks?  Will you be working with sedimentary rock looking for fossils and making tiles?  Perhaps you will be digging and unearthing thundereggs.

First Place Best Choice Rock Hammer

Fact is, there are many different types of uses for rock hammers. But If I could only have one rock hammer in my tool kit, I would choose this Estwing chipping hammer. It is a versatile rock hammer, lightweight, can easily break small rocks into smaller sized pieces and is affordable.

Second Place Best Choice Rock Hammer

If given a second choice, or if a chipping hammer wasn’t available, then I would choose the mason’s hammer.


How to Use a Rock Hammer

The first rule to remember when using a rock hammer is to always use eye protection. There is not one rock or fossil out there that is worth losing your sight over.

The second rule is to use a good pair of gloves. Your hands will get cut up if you don’t use them.


How to Break Small Hand Samples


Remember that rocks have extremely poor tensile strength. The easiest way to break a rock is by taking advantage of this natural weakness. If possible, apply the hammer so that the force of the blow induces tensile stress.

  • cup your free hand, palm up, with the sample supported by the pads of your hand below your fingers.
  • make sure you have space between your palm and the sample.
  • Hit the center of the rock sample with a solid blow from the rock hammer. Make sure you hit “through” the sample, kind of like Bruce Lee punches “through” a board with his fist. The goal is to make the rock give, or bend, ever so slightly. With a little practice you’ll have a nice, fresh surface to inspect.

Tip: Choose your samples carefully. If the rock doesn’t break, your hand will absorb the energy of the blow from the rock hammer instead.  Tabular or elongated samples will break easier than cubic or spherical shaped samples.


How to Break Large Rock Samples


The same theory applies to break larger rock samples as it does to breaking smaller, hand held size rock samples, that is…take advantage of the rocks natural weakness.

  • For larger samples, try to immobilize the sample under your foot to eliminate any “give”.
  • Strike the rock hammer on the exposed part of the rock.
  • If the rock doesn’t break, or all you end up doing is make dust, then stop and regroup.  It’s not being done correctly.
  • Remember, breaking larger rocks efficiently takes practice. Don’t be afraid to turn or adjust the rock sample during this process.

Rock Hammer Tips and Things to Remember


  • Always use eye protection
  • Choose the right rock hammer for your needs. I’ve chosen the Estwing chipping hammer.
  • Know what kind of rock you will be hitting. There are many different kinds of rock that is much harder than your rock hammer.  This can damage your hammer, and worst, inflict damage on you!
  • Do not use your rock hammer for things other than what it was designed for. Don’t use your hammer as a chisel. Use a rock chisel as a chisel.
  • Use your body as leverage instead of using only arm strength.  This will maximize the force delivered by the rock hammer.
  • Pry with the chisel end of the hammer. Don’t use the chisel end to smash rocks
  • Invest in a nice chisel to use with your rock hammer. It will save you a lot of money to wear out a ten dollar chisel than a forty dollar hammer.
  • Make sure you hit what you’re aiming at, and know what’s behind the swing. If you miss, what will you hit? Your leg? Another body part?
  • Don’t use a rock hammer as a chisel and strike it with another hammer
  • Again…always use eye protection.

The best way to learn how to use a rock hammer is to get out there and practice. Be safe and have fun!  Leave a comment below if you have any tips or tricks on using rock hammers.

Additional Information

So now that you’ve got a good start on how to find the best rock hammer for beginners, where do you go from here?  If you’re looking for information on other rockhounding tools, you may want to take a look at my article, The Ultimate Guide To Rockhounding Tools.

In this post, I not only go through all the rock hammers we talked about here, but I also describe in detail all the other tools a successful rockhound needs.

Happy Rock Seeking!


A Short Video Of How To Break Rocks With A Rock Hammer


A Closer Look At the Estwing Chipping Hammer


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here