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Wooden Mallet: An Exercise in OCD

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Blog entry by lysdexic posted 06-11-2011 02:53 AM 5125 reads 16 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Rationale: I aspire to blend hand tools and power tools. So—I needed a wooden mallet and “practice with a purpose.” This is only my third project in my shop. Right now I am keeping my projects small until I have and inkling of skill and efficiency. I perused multiple projects on LJ’s to get ideas and guidance but the most influential posts were from Purplev and The Village Carpenter.

Design: I don’t have a lathe so no round mallet for me. I like the angularity of the commercial cabinetmaker’s mallet but the proportions of the head are too big. In order to get the appropriate weight this means lead epoxied into the head or a heavy wood. The head proportions are approximate to the golden rectangle of 1.618. The handle is sculpted more than the usual cylindrical dowel shape. The first shaping was a little too curvy and sanded it further to make the curves a little more subtle.

Materials: Some donated cherry cut-offs serve as the handle. The head is jatoba which solved my weight requirements but its hardness, I suspect, will marr my wooden tools. Thus they are capped with leather.

Construction: The head is laminated with the center layer the same thickness as the handle tenon. Actually, it is slightly thinner and I block planed the tenon to fit. This accomplished by gluing the center layer to a side first and then sneaking up on the fit. The Jatoba was really hard for me to plane so used a cabinet scaper a lot after glue up.
The handle is also a glue up of the cherry scraps to make 1.5×1.5” stock. The shape started out as a modified trace of my ball-peen hammer. It was cut on the band saw and shaped of the spindle sander. (NOTE: Now I see the utility of a spokeshave) The head is secured to the handle via a double wedged tenon in a 3 degree tapered mortise. Strike angle is optimized by a 3 degree cut on the striking surface.
The leather is applied with contact cement.

Finish: Use a 3:2:1 mixture of mineral spirits, polyurethane and linseed oil as popularized by Tage Frid and taught to me by Gregory Paolini. The first coat was applied with 400 grit wet dry paper until it produced a slurry. The subsequent coats went on as a standard wipe on varnish.

Results/Conclusion: I am pleased with the results. The final weight is 19 oz and feels balanced. I am humored by the irony however. I spent several hours perseverating over something as stone simple as a hammer and then negotiating the details of its construction and finish – only to beat things with it. This is fun.

Thanks for looking

Planing the mill marks off the scrap cherry

Glue up of the cherry to get 1.5” x 1.5” stock

I traced out the basic shape of the handle from my ball-peen hammer, rough cut it on the bandsaw and shaped it on the spindle sander. I would further sand it because I felt it was too large and bulbous.

Double cut of the tenon with the dozuki saw. I drilled the base so the wood would not split.

One side and the center lamination of the Jatoba head have been glued up. The center is cut with a 3 degree angle to accept the wedged tenon. The wedges are not all the way in – I am just checking the fit.

The finished product. I put leather pads on to soften the hard Jatoba.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali



11 comments so far

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lysdexic

4885 posts in 1318 days


#1 posted 06-11-2011 03:03 AM

Sorry – I can not seem to embed images from Picasa.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

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lysdexic

4885 posts in 1318 days


#2 posted 06-11-2011 02:16 PM

Ahhh – reading the directions helps.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10081 posts in 1313 days


#3 posted 06-11-2011 10:26 PM

To (badly) paraphrase Crockodile Dundee, “Now, that’s a mallet!”

Exacting work, well executed and final product looks fantastic. Really like the finish; when the first application w/ sandpaper turns to slurry, what do you do? (I’m rather a nube at finishes like the one you’ve used here.)

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

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lysdexic

4885 posts in 1318 days


#4 posted 06-13-2011 05:02 AM

Smitty, thanks for your comments.

The finish is:
3 parts mineral spirits
2 parts poly
1 BLO

The first coat is applied with the 400 grit wet dry sand paper. The concept is that sandpaper knocks down high spots and the “sawdust” slurry fills in the low spots. Once you get the slurry you know that you are done and you wipe it off. The next coat can be lightly “scuff” sanded but not nearly as hard. The subsequent coats are wipe on and wipe off. Its kinda idiot/nube proof and thats why I use it. But it takes a while to build up a good coat. Its pretty hard to mess it up and leads to a silky smooth finish.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

View shopsmithpoppi's profile

shopsmithpoppi

37 posts in 1246 days


#5 posted 06-13-2011 07:10 AM

I would be almost afraid to use such a nice mallet for fear of scaring it up!

-- Think it, See it, Design it. Build it, Enjoy it!

View Napoleon's profile

Napoleon

788 posts in 1504 days


#6 posted 06-13-2011 11:18 AM

Wery nice mallet.the most nice I have seen and trust me I have seen and used a lot :)

-- Boatbuilder&blacksmith

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3302 posts in 1350 days


#7 posted 07-19-2011 05:01 AM

That is a gorgeous tool. It looks like you have already taken to heart one of the important lessons for doing this right “use good tools”.

Now get to bashing out some mortises.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

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lysdexic

4885 posts in 1318 days


#8 posted 07-19-2011 05:17 AM

Thanks man. It doesn’t look like that anymore.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

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RGtools

3302 posts in 1350 days


#9 posted 07-19-2011 05:27 AM

Mallets and chisel handles tend to be wear items (as least if you do a lot of mortises), my mallet looks like crap at this point but it still gets the job done.

Can’t wait to see what else you build.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Infernal2's profile

Infernal2

104 posts in 892 days


#10 posted 05-22-2012 02:47 AM

Excellent work, I just made a mallet myself and was perusing the blogs to see what others had finished their work in. This mixture turned out wonderfully on my Poplar head/longleaf pine handle.

View lysdexic's profile

lysdexic

4885 posts in 1318 days


#11 posted 05-22-2012 03:08 AM

Are you referring to the 3-2-1 mixture? If so, I am really glad it helped.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

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