Wayward hammers have probably been striking exposed thumbs since ancient tinkerers first started swinging them, but what if hammering nails could be a single-handed undertaking? Designer Michael Young has come up with a rather brilliant tool that uses its own head to drive the nail tip into a surface, making for much safer and more efficient hammering.

Described by the designer himself as a "mad scientist project," the prototype hammer is around six years in the making. It walks the line between a traditional hammer and a nail gun, and could remove the need for single nails on the worksite by easily snapping single units off taped strips of collated nails for odd jobs and small tasks.

The hammer works with standard strips of collated nails designed for nail guns, which are loaded into a narrow slot. Here, a U-shaped hook grabs the row of nail heads and secures them in place. The side of the hammerhead has a large button that, when tapped (with the safety off), pulls the row of nails forward to snap off a single and load it into the chamber.

The tip of this nail can then be driven into the surface with a strike of the hammer, and to finish the job you just keep hammering away as normal. To load up another nail, simply smack the side of the hammer on the surface to engage the hook and repeat. This approach not only eliminates the need to get your second hand involved and risk a swollen or damaged digit, it can make manual hammering a much more efficient affair.

The prototype is made from 3D-printed plastic parts, though Young says the final product would be built from cast titanium with a wooden handle. After six years of trying to get his prototype to work, Young got a provisional patent and began shopping his invention around. But although it attracted serious interest, commercialization didn't eventuate and he's back to his day job of designing race cars.

But the creation is now garnering quite a bit of attention in the design community, and the YouTube video below demonstrating its functionality is attracting quite a few eyeballs. So perhaps the dream is not yet over for Young and his 21st century take on this ancient implement.

View gallery - 17 images