Because geologists search for fossils and artifacts in a variety of landscapes, they often need quality tools to pick away dirt, clay, rock, and other substances. Rock hammers are such tools. Also known as geologist hammers, rock picks or prospector's picks, rock hammers are tools with a flat head on one side--perfect for delivering a hard blow to solid surfaces--and a pick on the other side, which can be used for picking away at softer materials or debris that has been loosened from the flat head side. Geologists determine which side to use based on the type of rock they will be working with.
Rock hammers come in a variety of sizes and weights, and their quality is generally determined by the weight and construction. Rock hammers are typically forged from solid hardened steel, and the weight of the head determines the balance and effectiveness of the entire hammer. Professional geologists typically prefer heavier rock hammers so that they may use the tool consistently without quickly breaking it. Heavier rock hammers also allow the geologist to break and pick harder rock substances. Lighter rock hammers are perfectly fine for children or amateur geologists, and they can be less cost-prohibitive than heavier, professional models.
Rock hammers may also come with a chisel head, which is good for clearing debris or brush away from rocks and fossils. With any of the variety of rock hammers, a steady hand and careful processes are essential to successful geological exploration. You must be extremely careful with rock hammers, not only for your own safety and the safety of others, but also for the safety of the artifact being explored. Because rock hammers are heavy, powerful tools, the potential for damage to an exposed fossil or artifact is quite high; professional geologists will spend much time with their rock hammers to get acquainted with the weight and balance of the tool, thereby reducing the risk of damaging their work or injuring themselves and others.
Be sure to wear eye protection when using rock hammers. Because they are made of hardened steel, rock hammers will send off rock chips when they strike rocks, and the hard chips can strike the user's eyes without protection. Never hit a rock hammer with another hammer like a chisel; chisels are made of softer metals and are made specifically for such a task, whereas rock hammers are made of less pliable materials that are likely to shoot off dangerous rock chips.