A New Mallet
To get back in the game, so to speak, I decided on a project that would be easy and fun, plus something I knew how to construct already and—and had the supplies on hand. That was a tall order, but a mallet fits the bill perfectly.
I had an extra 3/4” x 3 1/2” Maple plank laying about in the overhead bins and decided why not put it to good use? I had originally purchased it for some project that was never started—I don’t even remember how long ago I bought the wood, but it’s got to be pretty well acclimated to the shop by now…
I used the whole width of the board to make the parts of the head, based on the popular sandwich design. Click here for one example of the style—you can find tons of images and links to the same style out there.
I only took one picture of this process—told you I was rusty—so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that I used my Japanese saw to cut the four pieces of the mallet head to shape.
Then I flipped the saw over and (after doing a little research to figure out proper form) used it to rip the handle (about an inch wide) from the remaining 5 feet of stock. Here you can see my handle layout, coupled with another little project I’m going to make out of the cutoffs from this mallet—an oven rack pull!
I gotta say, I struggled with the rip-side of this saw last time I tried using it, but if you use it the way you’re supposed to (more on this in a future post) it works like a dream! I may never go back to Western saws…
Anyway, once I had the parts cut out, I glued up the head (a lot of people will hollow out the middle of the mallet head and fill it with lead shot or sand to give it weight and make it act more like a dead-blow mallet). Then I took a chisel and made a cutline around an inch up from the base of the handle, all the way around the wood. Next, I cut down to the line from either side, producing a pommel effect (just an idea that popped into my head as I was staring at it):
Using my el cheapo Groz block plane and a bench chisel destined for use as a rabbet plane in the future, I chamfered the corners and made the handle a little easier to hold. I cut three prongs from the angled head of the handle (for when the mallet is put together, so I can shove wedges down and lock it in place) and I fine tuned the pommel joint:
I used the orbital sander to smooth things down and make the handle even easier to grip (possibly thinking of carving something there to practice) and noticed my cuts weren’t exactly perfect on the three prongs (ah well, there’s more of that rust I mentioned…). We’ll see how it affects the mallet—after all, this project is more about warming up and learning than anything.
After the head dried, I clamped it in the leg vise and attacked it with my planes. After a few minutes, I had a nice rounded shape . I hit that with the orbital sander smoothed up all the edges—here’s the result:
I warmed up the old band saw and sliced off a few oak wedges (still have a ton of flooring left over from when we had the kitchen flooring redone last spring). I set the mallet on the handle (had to use a clamp to squeeze the three prongs close enough to fit in the hole in the mallet head) and drove the wedges home, then trimmed off the excess. Here’s the finished mallet!
You can see it’s not the biggest thing in the world—I originally had the idea to use it to smash ice for my morning smoothie (the kids don’t like it when I use a regular hammer or the meat tenderizer, though the youngest likes to scream “Daddy bam!”). I figured wood pounding on ice might sound slightly less obnoxious than metal. Turns out, I was right—the kids don’t fuss near as much now.
Plus, I figure worst case scenario, I can use it to adjust my wooden planes—it’s got enough mass to easily tap the planes and lock the irons, but still easily used. A good lightweight mallet is handy to have sometimes when I don’t want to destroy something with the wrath of Thor by using Kroktskaft.
It feels good to be back in the shop, making something (and a mess). One day, I’ll move out of the side of the garage and into a real shop. There’s been a rash of people in our neighborhood building detached garages lately—three went up this past year—and it’s making me itchy to get more room. Until then, I’ll just be happy to have some time to spend with the tools!