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.