Wooden Mallet Homemade Woodworking Tools
I’m not much for using hand tools, but occasionally there is some work that has to be done by hand. Using a wood chisel to chop out a mortise or groove is something that we often need to do. An ordinary hammer can be used, but is hard on the handle of the chisel and can damage it.
A good mallet can be handy for other things as well. If heavy enough, it can be used to ‘persuade’ tight fitting parts together or to beat them apart.
Starting with the concept and some raw materials – hard maple salvaged from a skid. The wood is well seasoned, drying in my shop for several months after it was culled from the wooden pallet:
The handle and head are cut to the rough dimensions. The head is 6″ long, 3-1/2″ high and 2-1/2″ thick. The handle is about 12″ long overall and 1-1/2″ wide by 1-1/8″ thick
Cutting the striking faces at a 2.5 degree angle:
The head is cut to final dimensions, as illustrated above right. Of course, the angles are incorrectly maked, they should read 87.5 degrees. Too late the change the picture!
The mallet is meant to be fairly hefty, with a long handle to do some serious pounding if need be. For more delicate work, a smaller version with a shorter handle would be more appropriate.
The head is laid out with a centre line all the way around, and the handle gets the first shaping cuts:
The straight cuts on the handle were done on the table saw, stopping short of the tapered part. These cuts were then completed on the band saw to make the taper in the handle. The handle is then cleaned up with a block plane and some sanding. The taper needs to be smooth and straight, for a tight fit inside the head:
The handle thickness is reduced to 3/4″ in the area of the grip. The part that goes through the head is left at 1″ thick.
To start the mortise through the head, a 7/8″ hole is drilled:
I use a 1/2″ chisel and a guide block to cut the right shape mortise.
The mortise is tapered inside, to match the taper on the handle. This wedges the handle in place when it is assembled. The guide block is cut to the same degree of taper as the taper on the handle and, as shown, guides the chisel on that angle. I have accurate layout lines on both sides, transferred from the actual handle. I cut about half the depth of the mortise on this side, then flip it over and complete the cut, using the guide block on that side as well:
After it’s done, some fine tuning with a file to get a precise fit. Slipping the handle in to check the fit occasionally. Having it loose would not be good, so it’s better to take this part slow.
The completed mortise. It is as exact as it needs to be. Having it a bit rough on the inside is not an issue, as long as it fits tight at both ends:
With the handle put in:
It’s a good, snug fit. A few taps on the end wedge it in place. Glue is not used here, just the wedging action to hold the head on the handle.
Some sanding to round the corners and smooth the handle and it’s ready for finish.
I gave the whole thing three coats of clear polyurethane to seal the wood and keep it clean:
I then wrapped the handle with stringline.
I wrapped it tightly around the grip then submerged it in urethane to solidify it and keep it from loosening.
Makes for a comfortable, reliable grip.
An interesting and useful project, I’m sure it will be a well used addition to my shop tools.
I made a video showing how I made this mallet from start to finish: