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Thread: Wooden Mallet

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Indianapolis, Indiana

    Wooden Mallet

    I need to make a wooden mallet, mostly for chiseling. Anyone want to suggest your favorite materials and design?

    Thanks in advance.

    Michael Ray Smith

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Blog Entries
    My mallets are of a few designs.

    It depends on what is being done that determines which mallet to use.

    It also depends on what kind of equipment you have to make a mallet.

    If you have a lathe, it is easy to make a "carvers mallet."

    Before making a traditional woodworking mallet, it might be necessary to have a mallet.

    Here is one I made:

    One of my mallets is made of an oak a piece of 2X4 oak with one end cut down and smoothed for the handle.

    Chisel Work.jpg

    This one is for adjusting planes and is about 7" tall:

    Plane Hammer.jpg

    The handle is mytrle (if my memory is working) and the head is lignum vitae.

    There are a few threads on mallets here is one:

    Lots of ways to make a mallet. For working with a froe, I have taken big hunks of fire wood and cut or turn a handle on one end. When it breaks, it can return to its original purpose.

    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    St. Louis
    For chisels, I also like carving mallets. This one is made of osage orange. Like Jim said, if you have a lathe, eazy peazy.

    Any material will work. Even pine.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Where did I put that tape measure...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Va. Beach, VA

  5. #5
    There are lots of designs that work. One thing I did want to mention, though, is be careful what you make it out of. Traditional English mallets are usually done in beech, which is on the soft side and slightly less prone to splitting like mad (oak and ash and ring porous hardwoods generally like splitting). I have my grandfather's mallet which is made of some exotic Australian timber and is hard as a rock and keeps destroying my chisel handles. I have one in lignum that doesn't do that and a number of others; maple is probably a pretty good one, but you can't go too far wrong with whatever you can find in turning blanks. Remember that a mallet is semi disposable; if it lasts a year or ten before getting too chewed up to use and you make another one, that's not really a big deal.

  6. #6
    "I have my grandfather's mallet which is made of some exotic Australian timber and is hard as a rock and keeps destroying my chisel handles."

    This is why my are pine, beech and something soft from a indo forrest somewhere. I don't want to replace my tools... much happyier making a new mallet every 20 odd years. than chisel handles every two!

    Steven Thomas

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Lafayette, Indiana
    Robert, thanks for posting these. I have a "potato masher style" that I picked up at an antique/junk store, but am inspired by these to try my hand at a shop built mallet.

  8. #8
    For a mallet, I guess the best wood would be anything hard and dense, and not likely to split. If it's too hard, though, it might be likely to damage your chisel handles.

    I've used birch for a mallet head, with ash for the handle. The birch might be too hard, but we'll see. I've also made one out of cherry because I had a chunk laying around and because I figured it would be good for assembling softer woods without damaging them. The handle is some maple I had on hand. The maple/cherry combination is attractive, though I don't know how the cherry will hold up, as far as splitting goes.

    Anyway, as far as the design, the ones I've made are all traditional joiners style, with the wedged handle. Chop the mortise in the head about 1" in length (by whatever width you want--3/4" is okay), then after you have that done, flare the mortise wider on the top about 3/16" overall, and make the taper all the way down to the bottom. Then take the mortise measurements and plane down the wood for the handle accordingly. Just be sure to test fit it often so you don't remove too much from the mortise or handle.

    Make sure you also leave a little extra length and width at top, so that the handle has room to continue wedging itself more tightly as it's being used.

    Also, for the grain direction in the handle, make sure you orient the growth rings to be parallel with the striking, or as close to it as possible.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    An afterthought. . . here's the mallet I ended up making, based more or less on this method that Robert posted. I don't have a lathe, and I'm not a turner, so those designs weren't options for me.

    Both the head and the handle are maple. The head is made from 3/4 inch stock, and as you can see I didn't bother shaping it -- basically out of laziness. The handle is made from a 1 1/2 inch maple turning blank that I turned into a slightly elongated octagon shape using my LV low-angle block plane with the chamfer guide and 50-degree blade. (I started out with the 25-degree blade that I usually keep in the plane, and, as you can imagine, the split-out with the maple was horrible. The higher angle blade worked like a charm, making a nice, smooth surface.) Some might prefer a rounder handle, but this one is comfortable enough for me.

    One thing I did differently that I might recommend to others. Rather than using fishing sinkers, sand, etc. as weight, I bought a couple of 1 1/4" copper tubing caps (outside diameter = 1 1/2") and filled them with solder. (I doubt that's the cheapest source of a dense metal, but with metal prices these days I'm not sure there's any such thing as a cheap source -- and I happened to have a pound of 50/50 lead/tin solder that had been lying around my garage since I stopped doing stained glass work years ago.) The caps were 1 inch long, and instead of cutting them down to fit the middle piece of 3/4 inch stock, I extended the cavities into the two outside pieces. I glued the caps to all three pieces with epoxy, thinking that the cap might provide a bit of reinforcement to hold the three pieces of the head together. I used 1 1/4" caps because I wanted a lot of weight to it. If you want something lighter, use a smaller cap and less solder. If you know how much weight you want to add, it's easy to calculate the size of cap you need based on the density of the solder (which you can find online for the particular solder composition you might use).
    Michael Ray Smith

  10. here's one I made a long time works well. the flat sides of the handle are parallel to the flat sides of the head, which helps to make alignment in your hand automatic- and makes building it with power tools easy.2012-07-10_23-33-28_717.jpg2012-07-10_23-33-22_492.jpg

    the head is apitong, the handle is red oak. these were selected because the were available as scrap at the time.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Urbandale Iowa
    looks good Michael.
    Good, Better, Best never let it rest
    until your Good is Better and your Better is Best

    Member of M-WTCA Area D

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Blog Entries
    Nice ! looks like a good way to go

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Belden, Mississippi
    I made my carver's mallet, froe maul, and wedges from dogwood. Very good wood for that purpose.
    On the other hand, I still have five fingers.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Ellsworth, Maine
    It sounds as though you plan on making a mallet but at the last Lie Nielsen Open House in Warren I ordered one of Blue Spruce Toolworks mallets and there is nothing out there that even compares to the feel, weight, strength, and beauty of this thing. It is worth every penny IMO but they are pricey. And in comparison, I have a bit of a mallet/hammer addiction for some reason. Counting this mallet I have over 15 mallets and hammers to choose from, some of which I've made for special purposes but when I want to pound on my chisels I always turn to my Blue Spruce. Oh, and this thing WILL NOT dent for some reason.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Burlington, Vermont
    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Shea View Post
    Oh, and this thing WILL NOT dent for some reason.
    If I remember correctly, aren't the Blue Spruce tools made with a resin-impregnated wood for the head? Supposed to make the thing sturdy as heck, and help from damaging the non-end-grain sides of the turned head.
    " Be willing to make mistakes in your basements, garages, apartments and palaces. I have made many. Your first attempts may be poor. They will not be futile. " - M.S. Bickford, Mouldings In Practice

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