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.