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Thread: wooden mallet

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    wooden mallet

    While camping this week I finally decided that I should make myself a wooden mallet. The billets of birch firewood seemed about the correct size, and since they were easy to set on fire, I assumed that they were reasonably well seasoned. It turns out that a moisture meter isn't in my arsenal of camping equipment, and after chopping it out I noticed some splits and checks.

    So any way after after a couple of thousand chips, 3 blisters and several hundred mosquito bites I had this

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    Questions
    1) how can I stop the splitting from completely ruining the mallet?
    2) what is the usual weight of a wooden mallet?

  2. #2
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    Paul.
    Not much you can do to keep a log round from splitting. Since it burns well, maybe the wood is fairly dry and has split all it's going to. You could try soaking the end grain in some sort of finish to help slow drying. I would also be tempted to do a handle wrap with some fine chord. If it doesn't work out, whittling is good for the soul and you can make another one

  3. #3
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    Yup, like Ted says, the pith is your enemy here. To get one that's 100% guaranteed rack free you'll want to find that piece that was split as a quarter off of a bigger block 5-10 years and hid out in the bottom of the wood pile somehow surviving big free (disclaimer nothing is 100% ) On the flip side a few cracks aren't fatal either so if it ain't to bad, wrap up the handle and use it until it gives out.

    As to weight, somewhere between 2oz and 20lbs. It really depends on what you're doing, for detail work I have a couple of pretty light ones, a few oz. For most work somewhere in the 1-3 lbs range is a nice trade off between heavy enough it doesn't take a lot of wacking and isn't too heavy to swing for a while. Generally I like them heavy enough that they propel the chisel withou having to apply much down force, but not so heavy that they're tiresome to lift or push on the chisel to hard. So for a real small chisel or taking fine finish cuts something sub 8oz feels pretty nice to me. For hammering out a timber frame mortise maybe closer to 5 lbs. For driving a froe maybe closer to 7-8lbs, although someone in better shape might like a 10lb there. For driving posts maybe 20lbs with iron banding.

    So really the solution is to make a whole bunch more and try them all, open up an etsy store selling them, move to the country to get easier access to wood, have all of your friends stop talking to you because you won't stop going on about the intricacies of mallet design... Actually that's starting to sound less like a solution, and more like adream.. Anyway maybe make a few and try them out on various things to see how it goes, every hand is different.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the answers. The firewood was split maybe, about 1/8 of the log. I've already removed the pith to have 4 surfaces more or less at right angles to each other. The face shown in the picture is the only one with the bark on and it has a gentle curve.

    I do have a sledge hammer for heavy work, but this at the least would be a persuader when I don't want to mar the surface.
    I will try it with chisels as well.

    The outer bark came off quite easily, but the inner bark is still firmly attached. I gave the whole thing a coat of water based varathane. Possibly this would have been a reason to by some linseed oil.

    Anyhow, it didn't cost much.

  5. #5
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    A couple of things, why are my thumbnails so small? In the browser used for uploading, the file sizes were 80 to 107 kB, but after uploading they were only about half that.

    How can unwanted uploaded files be deleted?

    It was while using that big knife as a froe for making kindling that I got the idea to make a mallet out of one of the billets. It turns out that is it exactly 12" long, so it was the correct length.

    I checked the curvature of the bark face against some pails and pots and figure that the log must have been 8 1/4" dia. That makes for 25.9" circumference, so the 3 3/4" bark width is 1/8 of the original log.

    It seems to be about the same weight as a 20 oz hammer, but of course it swings easier because the weight is not all at the tip.

    The split in the handle showed up after about 2 days. It hasn't increased since I've put 2 coats of the varathane on it. I realize that the varathane will crack from use, but hopefully it'll slow down the drying process. Click image for larger version. 

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    This is weird, the first time i tried to insert the pics, it came back and asked me to select some, so I did it again and got double value.

    Oh yeah, that knife is so big that I used it a hatchet for chopping out the mallet and then as a draw knife for smoothing the handle.

  6. #6
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    Yeah, with the bigger pictures (click to expand) that looks pretty much like normal checking. I wouldn't worry about it and just use it to destruction (which may well take years). The bark will likely fairly quickly self destruct with use, wouldn't worry about it though.

    The problem is essentially that larger blocks like that can take a really really long time to dry, up to quite a few years. Seal the end grain as quickly and as well as you can and that will minimize the problem.

    The only other solution is to leave them in long blocks, put them in a dry place for 5-10 years and then claim the ones that survived (or build/find/borrow space in a kiln and do it in a couple of weeks).

    Somewhat interestingly the more gnarly the grain the less it will get long cracks forming. Basically the twisted wood is kind of the equivalent of ripstop. That's one reason root balls were fairly often used for heavier mauls and mallets. Really a bear to work though.

  7. #7
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    Re: wooden mallet

    Eh Ryan you forget root balls were also used for shillelagh in Ireland and elsewhere Lol.
    cheers

  8. #8
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    Talking about splitting; while making the kindling, I found that it was much more difficult to split the billet radially across the grain.
    What I ended up doing was splitting it parallel to the grain first and only splitting across the grain after the pieces were quite thin.

    Hopefully this means that the mallet will be tough and last a long time if struck on the bark side.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    Eh Ryan you forget root balls were also used for shillelagh in Ireland and elsewhere Lol.
    Well ring me crotals and wack some heads, if I make that mistake again I'll be haunted by me ancestors for sure.

    That may actually explain my irrational liking of walking sticks, it's a genetic self defense survival skill.

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