The Son of Roy Underhill’s Mallet


During the last class I taught at The Woodwright’s School, I think Roy got a little bored or restless. And so he asked: “Would you like me to make you a mallet?”

The answer was, of course, “Heck yes, please.”

And so Roy spent an afternoon making a mallet for me out of a chunk of live oak (one of my favorite species) as I taught the 12 students to build a Dutch tool chest. After a few hours of sawing, mortising, rasping, chiseling and finishing, Roy presented the mallet to me.

It is, of course, one of my favorite objects. I have put it to good use and, thanks to a defect in the wood, I broke off a corner of the head. No matter. Tools should be used, and so I use the other face of the mallet’s head to hit things.

In case I destroy this mallet, I took some careful measurements and made a copy in maple. I call it the Son of Roy Underhill’s Mallet. It is identical in every regard except for the species of wood and the amount of use it has seen.

And because I have been too long away from this blog, I present the plans to you for Roy’s mallet. Free of charge.

Here are the sizes for the head and the handle:

Head: 2-3/8” x 3-3/8” x 5-3/8”
Handle: 1” x 1-5/8” x 14”

You can download a pdf drawing of the mallet here:

underhill Mallet

Here are a few details not discussed on the drawing.

  1. The striking faces of the mallet head are the same angle as the tapered mortise, approximately 2.1°.
  2. The chamfers on the handle are 1/4” x 1/4”.
  3. Chamfer the top and bottom of the handle. These chamfers are 1/8” x 1/8”.
  4. The grain of the handle and head should be dead straight throughout. And free of knots and defects.
  5. The mallet is finished with linseed oil.

It’s a mighty fine mallet. Balanced in the hand and to the eye. Making one takes an afternoon of pleasant work. And doing so cements your lineage to Roy.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to The Son of Roy Underhill’s Mallet

  1. nrhiller says:

    What’s that weird thing on your wrist?

  2. Nate Thomas says:

    Looks like I have a project for my pile of Texas live oak slowly drying in my garage! Seriously, thanks for sharing, can’t wait to make this.

  3. I wanted to take the Mystery Mallet class but it was discontinued – I understand it was too stressful for all concerned…. This will serve as well, thanks.

  4. clevescott says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to help populate the earth with siblings of the Mallet!

  5. ikustwood says:

    Thanks Chris! See you in Warren!

  6. Built mine from Osage Orange and the knots and defects added lot of character. Looks a lot like yours if I take my glasses off and squint!😀

  7. I’m confused by your statement, “live oak (one of my favorite species)”. I thought it was basically unworkable with hand tools and difficult with power because of how tough it is. Plus, it doesn’t rive straight. I’m surrounded by it so I’m very interested if I am wrong.

    • Of course you can work it by hand. It was used by shipbuilders for centuries. It’s an ornry wood, but succumbs to sharp tools.

    • Nate Thomas says:

      Live oak turns really nicely, my father in law made a carver’s mallet for me I’ve used for years. I’ve used it for lots of small projects since I can only get it in firewood lengths. It’s no good in the bbq, leaves a weird flavor. I’m in Round Rock if you want a log.

  8. jayedcoins says:

    Very cool — thanks for sharing! Nothing can be quite as cool as Roy himself whipping one up and gifting it to you, but this is a pretty cool second place. Looking forward to trying this out.

  9. Rachael Boyd says:

    I have made a couple of these over the years, I really like the look of the one I made out of apple.

  10. charlie says:

    Did the son of Roy rebel and get a tassel? Not sure about decrative cordage on mine, but, if it serves a purpose, some fringe is ok. Thanks for the plans, I think I’ll make a few as gifts to fellow woodworkers.

  11. meanmna says:

    I got to use the original at Roy’s school last summer when building my workbench. When Roy found out I was from Charleston (many, many live oaks here) he came over and handed it to me when I was chopping out my mortises. It really has a nice feel and the live oak is so heavy, you could let the mallet do all the work and you just had to direct it as it fell. It is the same mallet he made on his show in the episode “Big Ash Mallet.” We had some Oaks come down in Hurricane Mathew last year and I went around scrounging as much of the fallen logs as I could with plans to make more mallets like this.

  12. volzwgn says:

    The mortise is tapered but the handle is not… Dimensions are to the chamfer instead of the edge?

    I made one with a SYP head and an oak handle… Works great!

  13. jdcook72 says:

    If you replaced a cracked mallet head then years later replaced a split handle, would it still be Roy’s Mallet?

  14. treenworks says:

    I’ve had this on my list of things to make for a young man headed off to school for cabinetry. Thank you for the timely post.

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