Friday, March 28, 2008

Useless Mallet

A few years ago, one of the guys in my woodworking club suggested that each of us build something using only $5 worth of wood to use in a gift exchange at our annual Christmas party. I thought about making a cutting board in the shape of a handplane but decided to make a mallet instead.

I wanted to be sure the mallet's head wouldn't come flying off someday in use and injure the gift recipient, so I worked out a design where the portion of the handle that fits inside the head has scalloped sides, and fits into a matching dado carved into the head. Since the head was to be laminated, it was easy to cut the channel, fit the handle, and glue it up.

Mallets take a lot of abuse, so to ensure that the laminated parts would stay glued together, I ran square pegs all the way through from one side to the other and glued them in place.

Since this was to be a gift, I chose some nicer woods: apple and walnut for the mallet; and purpleheart and yellowheart for the pegs. And, because I was going to give the mallet away, I went ahead and made two, so I could keep one to use in my shop.

That was four years ago. Notice anything odd about my four year old mallet? There are no dings or dents. Lesson learned: if you're going to make a mallet, don't use pretty wood, or you won't want to use it.

Fortunately, at the Christmas party, I was the happy recipient of a mallet that one of the other guys made. Even more fortuitous, his mallet was built to be used.


Unknown said...

That is good on both fronts then.

Corey said...

Hey VC, I hate to see that mallet being unused, if you'd like my address, I believe I have all sorts of things I could hit with it. If not, I do believe you should start using it yourself (you can always make more.) ;)

Kari Hultman said...


Ethan said...

It isn't just me, then? I turned my first mallet out of Osage Orange about four years ago and haven't so much as tapped another piece of wood with it yet.

I chaulk it up as a sentimental attachment to my first turning.

(BTW... learning to turn with Osage Orange is like learning to drive a stick in a 1964 VW Beetle. After that, everything else is a piece of cake.)

Kari Hultman said...

Osage Orange! That was brave. I've used the wood once and although it can be difficult to work with, it is gorgeous. I can see why you wouldn't want to use your mallet!

XTL said...

The wood that made my current mallet was a few pieces picked off the firewood pile (birch, there's not many trees that grow up here). I don't feel the least bit sorry using it. In fact, I like the "hammered" looking faces when they get packed shiny. :)

Kari Hultman said...

I know what you mean. There is just something about the look and feel of a well-worn tool. : )