mallet purpose?

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Forum topic by tommysan posted 12-27-2011 03:09 PM 2538 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View tommysan's profile


3 posts in 3059 days

12-27-2011 03:09 PM

Hello to all out there in woodworking land! As a newbie woodworker, I am still in the process of buying and learning how to use power/hand tools to the best of my ability. One thing I want to know is the reason for a wood mallet for chiseling versus using a regular hammer for chiselling. Does it have something to do with impact? A softer touch? Any feedback would be much appreciated.

10 replies so far

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2742 days

#1 posted 12-27-2011 03:20 PM

Using a hammer with a metal head damages the handles. This is especially true of chisels with wooden handles, but is also true of modern chisels with plastic handles (I have at least one that shows the consequences of using a hammer).

The simple rule is to use a metal headed hammer with metal tools such as nail and centre punches – and nails of course. Use a mallet, typically wooden but rubber will do, for chisels.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3154 days

#2 posted 12-27-2011 03:33 PM

Buy a dead blow hammer and you will be a happy camper. 8-)

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View HamS's profile


1834 posts in 2629 days

#3 posted 12-27-2011 04:27 PM

There are times when the mallet is used outside the shop, applied gently to the side of the skull of the male offspring to gethis attention.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3314 days

#4 posted 12-27-2011 05:02 PM

If I’m assembling something, I often grab the mallet to apply some light force to help the tenon slide into the mortise. It will not hurt the wood unless I swing it real hard. If I have to swing hard enough to hurt the wood, the fit is too tight and an adjustment is needed.

I find using a mallet to be more convenient than a hammer with a separate block of wood to cushion the blow and protect the wood.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3192 days

#5 posted 12-27-2011 05:34 PM

Mallets are necessary when using chisels with plastic or wood handles. Having said that, if you use Japanese chisels, the ones with a metal hoop at the top, it is recommended that you use a steel hammer on those. For the others, you need a wooden mallet so that you do not destroy the handle. Some chisels, mortise chisels for instance, take a lot of hard hammering to do their job. You do not want to kill the handle by striking them with a steel hammer. It has not happened to me (yet), but I have heard of mortise chisels with very robust beech handles, being destroyed by wooden mallets. That is a testament to hard they get struck.

Personally, I have a very large beech mallet that I use for bigger chopping tasks (mortises). I have a smaller lignum vitae round type mallet for small chopping tasks (dovetails). I have a smaller metal hammer I use on my Japanese chisels. Get a mallet (or two) and save your chisels.

-- Mike

View Bertha's profile


13551 posts in 2933 days

#6 posted 12-27-2011 05:36 PM

^I do what Paratrooper does. Mike’s deadblow hammer is nice for bringing parts together. Don’t foret the small brass hammer for adjusting plane irons;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 3105 days

#7 posted 12-27-2011 05:54 PM

One important aspect that wasn’t mentioned here so far is surface area.

At least for me, I’m busy looking that the cut, and making sure the chisel is aligned (plumb, square, etc) correctly when chiseling. Having a mallet with a large head means you always hit the chisel properly. I’ve tried using a steel carpenter’s hammer in the past. You end up with a lot of glancing blows on the chisel, and very sore bruised knuckles. Usually I end up with a less-than-ideal project, and a grumpy attitude to go with it.

I made a large mallet from some scrap hard maple that I use a lot. I would like to build a smaller one for more detailed work like dovetails someday.

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4114 days

#8 posted 12-27-2011 06:02 PM

I agree with the points above, but especially Lumber2Sawdust. With a hammer, you’re looking at the target (e.g. the head of the nail) so a smaller tool surface is good. With a chisel, you’re usually focused on the cut, and moving the chisel slightly to correct the direction of cut. In that situation, it’s pretty easy to swing and miss with a hammer!

-- -- --

View andrewr79's profile


36 posts in 2592 days

#9 posted 12-29-2011 12:21 AM

Deadblow has the wrong face angle for driving chisels…a wooden mallet has angled sides so that why combined with your arm swinging it hits the chisel square on the top, stopping it from skewing.

If you want to use a hammer, buy something like the Stanley Fatmax chisels which have a steel strike button on the top. Preferrably just buy or make a wooden mallet (

-- Visit my blog @ to see what I've been up to

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15822 posts in 2858 days

#10 posted 12-29-2011 01:08 AM

I have a planishing hammer that strikes my through-tang steel-ended Everlastings, and there’s the modern Fat Max versions still out there. Wood mallet for wood-handled socket chisels to extend the life of the hornbeam handles.

A mallet head that’s angled is prefera le, as stated above. When fitting pieces, I use a scrap block so the hammer (Any Kind) doesn’t strike the work directly.

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

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