Claw Hammer with Bench Chisels?

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Forum topic by Alan S posted 08-25-2010 04:23 AM 5335 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Alan S

181 posts in 3343 days

08-25-2010 04:23 AM

I’m sure it’s not ideal, but is it acceptable to use a claw hammer to chop with a set of bench chisels like the Irwin Marples? I’d love a wooden mallet like some of you have made on here, but I’m just starting out. Thanks!

15 replies so far

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Rick Dennington

5911 posts in 3220 days

#1 posted 08-25-2010 04:32 AM

Greetings Alan,
I guess if that’s all you have, it has to be exceptable for you…...but I wouldn’t use one on a set of good chisels…...If you can’t make a wooden mallet yet, you can always buy one from woodworking supply dealers like Rockler, Woodworkers Supply, Woodcraft, etc., etc. I have 2 sets of chisels, and wouldn’t ever dream of laying a hammerhead on any of them…..You can always improvise, overcome, adapt….....

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

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5726 posts in 3258 days

#2 posted 08-25-2010 04:33 AM


The odds of missing and whacking your hand with a claw hammer is MUCH greater…

FWIW, you CAN, and might be better off using a rubber mallet with chisels… Wooden mallets are ideal, and I am hoping to get there soon myself…

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View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3552 days

#3 posted 08-25-2010 04:37 AM

If you want a cheap wood mallet in a hurry get an old baseball bat and cut it down. I have used a finishing nail hammer (claw hammer with no knurling on the hammer face) and it was ok with light taps but… Try and find something a bit more suitable and you will be amazed what a difference it makes.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3165 posts in 3135 days

#4 posted 08-25-2010 04:43 AM

You splurged on chisels, don’t stop now. I made a couple of “mallets” from some hard maple and birch I bought many years ago. They were used to drive leather tools for my Cub Scouts. The heads are maple, the handles are birch dowels. Cheap, but effective. I still have both, but have (Pfiel) woodcarving chisels. Not something you’d use a mallet on…though I don’t use them yet for more than some custom trimming on my high-power rockets.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

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David Craig

2137 posts in 3135 days

#5 posted 08-25-2010 04:52 AM


The mallets you see used on chisels are round for a reason. When you are striking the chisel, the focus you want to have is on where the chisel connects, not on the handle. When you use a round mallet, you can concentrate on the work piece because no matter how you strike the chisel, you will hit it dead on. When you use a rubber mallet or claw hammer you have to focus your eye hand coordination on the chisel handle to make sure you hit dead center. This in turn raises the potential for a bad hit and driving your chisel in a direction you don’t want it to go. Many of the online woodworking stores have brass head and solid wood mallets. I picked up a 32 oz. one from Highland Woodworking. It is small, hefty, and allows you to dig deep or just give it light taps. It is occasionally on sale at 1/2 price. I would invest in one of those or a wood mallet if you do not have the immediate means to make one.

Good luck,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3674 days

#6 posted 08-25-2010 04:55 AM

the metal head of the hammer will also wear out, crack and ruin your chisels.

I just made a mallet last week – it’s GREAT. but until now I was just using a scrap piece of maple, or other hardwood piece I had laying around. just works better than metal

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View JimDaddyO's profile


548 posts in 3105 days

#7 posted 08-25-2010 01:02 PM

I just used a piece of cut off 2×4 with mine….not great chisels, craftsman.

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View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3490 days

#8 posted 08-25-2010 04:51 PM

Any wood striking tool would be better than metal on metal or metal on plastic handle. I’d follow the advice above and use a scrap before deforming good chisels with a metal hammer. Good question!

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

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Alan S

181 posts in 3343 days

#9 posted 08-25-2010 07:12 PM

Thanks for all the replies! It seems like great advice. Can someone tell me when to use a “round” mallet and when to use a “flat-faced” mallet?

By “round” mallet I mean something like this

and by “flat-faced” I mean this


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Rick Dennington

5911 posts in 3220 days

#10 posted 08-25-2010 07:50 PM

Greetings Alan,

The “round face” mallets are used mainly by carvers

The “square face, or flat face” mallets are used mainly by joiners, or jointers (I heard it called both ways…....

I think actually both are used by both the carvers and joiners…I’m not a carver, so I prefer the square face one myself…. better for the chisels for me….. lol.

Most of the turners on here usually make their own round ones on the lathe…

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 2978 days

#11 posted 08-25-2010 07:53 PM

Hi Alan, good choice deciding to use a wood mallet on your chisels. Ones like yours should be used with a wooden mallet. A metal hammer should be used on japanese chisels. Anyway, for the two mallets you show on your last post, I have one of each type. I use the round one for light work, anything other than heavy chopping. For heavy chopping, I use the flat faced one.

Good Luck!

-- Mike

View swirt's profile


2785 posts in 2998 days

#12 posted 08-25-2010 09:21 PM

A mallet is pretty easy to make, but just in case you want a possible quicker / easier alternative, Lowes has a white rubber mallet that sells for about $4. It works pretty well on chisels and assembly tasks. I prefer the white rubber over the black, because it doesn’t leave marks on the wood.

-- Galootish log blog,

View rimfire7891's profile


123 posts in 2929 days

#13 posted 08-26-2010 04:58 AM

Wooden handle chisel, wooden or urethane mallet
Plastic handle, either
Wooden handle hopped, either, better with steel IMHO Claw hammer OK but others are better balanced.
Round or square. Straight cuts full cutting edge square. Partial cuts like carving round because you might want to hit just the edge of the top.

Thanks jb

-- Playing with wood and metal for the last 50 years, driving and building Land Cruisers for the last 40. Experience is what you get when you don't know what you are doing.

View Tony Strupulis's profile

Tony Strupulis

260 posts in 3149 days

#14 posted 08-27-2010 12:02 AM

I have a set of Stanley chisels with metal plates on the handle. I use a 3 lb maul with them! The work I use them for is cutting mortises for electrical outles for a log house. I keep them sharp and only use them for coarse work like this.

I have a set of Lie-Nielsen chisels that ONLY see a wood mallet.

It all comes down to their purpose in life.

-- Tony -

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 3759 days

#15 posted 08-27-2010 03:54 AM

I frequently use a piece of 2×4 as a mallet. Probably wouldn’t be happy with it if I had to work with the chisels for a long period but for a few strokes, it works ok. I have the same Marples chisels and don’t want to ruin the plastic handles using a metal striking implement. Actually, with a little shaping, a piece of 2×4 would make a decent mallet.


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

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