Like every woodworker, I have a short list of tools that I wish were still widely available today. Most of these are tools that have wound up in my shop and proved themselves useful.
About five years ago I got a cool mallet that was common in England but not so much here. It has a heavy brass head, wooden striking faces and a nice chamfered handle.
The whole thing weighs more than 3 pounds – my wife weighed herself with it on our digital scale. Then she weighed herself without the mallet. (That is what passes for both love and entertainment in the early 40s.)
This is not a tool you want to wield all day. In fact, mortising with it wears out my forearm after only a couple mortises.
However, it is great for assembly tasks. It knocks dovetails together with ease. I use it for driving drawbore pins – both through a dowel plate and into the holes. I use it for knocking together mortise-and-tenon joints. If you want to see it in action, check out this video on YouTube. Anytime I need force with finesse I reach for this tool.
Well, I used to.
About a year ago, the wooden striking faces dropped out of the brass head like two rotted teeth. They had shrunk out just enough – friction was the glue. I set the mallet aside on my bookshelves until a month ago. I decided to try to fix the thing.
I considered fabricating new wooden faces, but their shape is complex. So I decided to first try to get the pyramid-shaped faces back in their holes. The staff at the magazine suggested removing a little wood from the back of the faces and driving the faces back into the brass. The hope was that this would compress the wood, and friction would do its job again (lazy friction).
I tried it. It didn’t work. Another suggestion was to drill through the brass head and pin the faces with a metal rivet. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that kind of implant surgery.
So today I took a different tack: high-impact epoxy. I glued and clamped the faces in place this morning, and now I’m just waiting for the clock to make it around the horn again so I can take the thing for a test beat.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. I know that Australian toolmaker Chris Vesper has this tool on his drawing board. If you’re interested, you should drop him a line through his web site. To see a photo of his prototype mallets scroll to the bottom of this page.
15 thoughts on “Heavy Metal Mallet”
You used claw hammer in the video to drive the peg through the dowel plate. The english mallet wasn’t in site.
sight (not site)
Hi Chris – well, this is spooky! I posted a comment on the Woodworking Magazine blog just yesterday against an older post about mallets (old post) after watching the Lie Nielsen video on Youtube where you demonstrate drawboring (Drawbore video).
I noticed you using a brass wooden faced mallet with a square head, that looked like it was patterned after a small carpenters mallet, that took my fancy. I guess it was this one!
You mention that these are (or were) reasonably common in the UK, but I have not seen any after a few on-line seraches. Can you tell us where they come from? Is it better balanced that the Veritas round head? It looks to have a bit more heft to it!
I have been watching Chris Vesper’s site with interest for more news of his version of this mallet (being in Australia, I was hoping he might have them ready for the next round of woodworking shows here). Chris makes some great tools – I particularly like his bevels & marking knives. His bevels are unique – well worth a look if you have not seen them ‘in the flesh’, and worth every penny – they don’t move once set!
The mallet is in Part II of the video, also available on YouTube. You can access Part II from the page for Part I.
Thanks. URL to get directly to Part II is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yg7ntJKNJQ&feature=channel
I like the tape. Should hold for a few mortises each time and it is pretty cheap.
Sounds like you should suggest to Rob Lee that they make an oversized version of their cabinetmaker’s mallet.
I very much like the asthetics of the english mallet. However, if you want a functional though maybe not as pretty alternative; the Garland Manufacaturing Company in Saco, Maine makes all kinds of mallets and has a cool split head design. You can get the mallet without faces and turn your own wooden ones or purchase several different faces to switch out depending on the task.
We use a couple of them were I work for machine assembly and positioning of tooling. The leather faces are very soft while the nylon faces provide a bit more persuasion.
Look them up at http://www.garlandmfg.com/mallets/products.html.
I have a Garland and wrote about it here.
I like it.
About the mallet and the falling out wooden inserts. One approach to try to get new tapered inserts in, could be to heat the brass end, which would swell the openings, then freeze the wood,looking for a little shrinkage, and pop the inserts in.
I am sorry I under estimated the extent of your hammer addiction …er… collection. If you have not already written one, perhaps you could share the contents of your entire collection with the rest of the kids in a blog or article.
You have referenced several of them before and even hinted at the potential number you own. I think a roundup of all the pounding tools you own would be interesting. Kind of like the "what’s in your bookcase" series. You could list them ranging from those you are most proud of down to those you are thinking are more like that first shelf you built for your girlfriend. Alternatively, you could group them by type/use like the Garland and Veritas mallets in the link you referenced above.
Chris, that epoxy set up might work ok, but you could try cutting blocks to the perfect size, then leave a space for a block to be forced in like a keyway sandwiched in between. Maybe even bevel the pieces so they lock in place, kinda like a dovetail joint. I would then coat it with glue before you force it in place. Then to make it real tight, soak the whole thing in water so the wood expands and fits like a glove. Simple ideas sometimes work the best for me.
P.S. thanks for the tip about Chris Pye on carving.
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Somehow, looking at that mallet, I can’t help but having vivid mental images of bearded screaming vikings pounding heads into the ground. I think my ancestry is starting to come out!
Heavy Metal Mallet.. Great! 🙂
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