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I keep finding myself needing to hammer nails in places where my hammer is too long to actually make the hammer head contact the nail. This isn't a situation where I need the leverage provided by the handle - I'm choking the hammer anyway for added control and less mess should a strike slip off the nailhead - but I'd rather not saw off a good hickory handle. (And forget trying to hacksaw through a metal handle.)

What I keep wishing for is basically a metal ovoid with a flattened surface, basically a big flat hammer head I can swing with one hand. Does such exist? Or is there some other tool I should be using instead?

I've tried using a nailset, but while it's great for insetting an already driven nail, it's too finicky to get a nail started.

To provide context, I'm trying to hammer in cable staples in the space between the top of the foundation and the ceiling in a basement. That gives me a workspace of about 6 in in height, 16 in in width, and maybe 10 in in depth. With the staple inset about 5 in from the right and towards the back of the space, I can't tuck a hammer crossways into the space to swing at the nails, and the space is too deep and not high enough for me to hang the handle over the ledge and swing down.

ETA: Wow, thanks for the fast (and unanimous) responses! I now have an M12 battery-powered palm nailer on the way. I'm not keen on the noise and hose-dragging of a compressor, and I've got the "swap out the battery" rhythm down from using the M12 impact driver.

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up vote 20 down vote accepted

I think what you need is a Palm Nailer. You can get these in air or electric powered versions. They are compact and are handy to drive nails in tight spaces.

Palm Nailer

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Great minds.... – The Evil Greebo Sep 18 '12 at 19:34
Can it drive regular nails, or does it require a clip full of glued-together nails? The cable staples come with their own intrinsic nails. – Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 18 '12 at 19:35
It can drive regular nails and does not require a clip – Steven Sep 18 '12 at 19:36
Honestly I refer to this tool as "my new best friend" now. – The Evil Greebo Sep 18 '12 at 19:37
It may be a bit fussy because the opening is a larger diameter but you should have no problems. It will drive the nail flush. – The Evil Greebo Sep 18 '12 at 19:59

I saw one of these on demo at Home Depot for $49 CDN:

enter image description here

It's basically a vibrator that slowly drives the nail into the wood. I tried it on a big galvanized spike, and it went in effortlessly. However, you'll be faster using a decent claw hammer and a full swing. This seems to fit the bill perfectly for working in places where you can't get the backswing.

If that's too pricy, I've also had some success in this scenario with one of these (Pricing unavailable.) It at least allows me to start the nail.

enter image description here

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Late to dinner Chris :) – The Evil Greebo Sep 18 '12 at 19:37
Yeah. I've gotta stop typing out complete answers. – Chris Cudmore Sep 18 '12 at 19:38
at least you used a different image :) – Steven Sep 18 '12 at 19:39
Hah, a version of that rock that's made out of metal and has molded grips is something I would pay money for. ;) – Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 18 '12 at 19:46
@JeremyW.Sherman, that'd be a bucking bar. – ArgentoSapiens Sep 18 '12 at 20:22

That problem used to plague me as well until I invested in a palm nailer: enter image description here

There are also electric, cordless versions if you don't have an air compressor.

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I beat you by 20 seconds :) – Steven Sep 18 '12 at 19:34
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooo................................. – The Evil Greebo Sep 18 '12 at 19:35
+1 for slowpokes – antony.trupe Sep 18 '12 at 23:49

Palm nailers are fantastic, I have one and use it a lot. But for very small nails in very tight places, I like to replace the nail with a small square drive finish screw and install it with a long bit extension on my screw gun. Quick and easy.

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I bought a 12 inch Green Robertson bit for my cordless just so I could screw in the drawer locks when my kids were young. It was so easy compared to fiddling around in tight corners. – Chris Cudmore Sep 19 '12 at 13:14

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