I mean a mallet you can get ugly
with and pound brutally with wild abandon? Sculpting and
outright medium duty timber framing? Takes a lick'n and keeps on
Well, I didn't. Oh, I've had
mallets. Must have made a dozen of them over the years.
All eventually failed but one. They were either too light
or they would crack or get beat up too soon. I tried all
the local woods one after the other. Nothing would really hold
up. Finally, in desperation, I cut disks from some
commercial plywood flooring and glued them up with small bolts
(electric motor bolts the long thin kind) set in to keep them
The through hickory handle was
drilled out to take some poured lead up top for more weight and
I made a leather tab/hanger to be able to hang it up so's I
could find it easier. Good mallet, it's served me well for
the last decade. But it wasn't heavy enough for some tasks
and I didn't exactly feel great about brutish work with it.
Well... Roy Griggs put a bug
in my ear with a picture of an antique mallet. It was a
pip using hard sole leather for it's stuffing. No way am I
finding a big fat stash of sole leather nearby and cheap though.
So, I let the idea lay at the back of my brain for a few days.
Now, here comes the part of the
tale that some of you are not going to like much. The
truth is, there is only so much you can get from the big box
Borgs. They sell a lot of stuff but the selection isn't
exactly endless. The quality is passable in some instances
and it isn't passable in others. If everything you do has
to come off the shelf from the Borg, you lead a Home Depot life.
I'm terribly sorry, but that's how it is. If you want more
than this, you pay for real. You wait like a hungry spider for
just the perfect materials to surface. You keep your eyes
peeled and scrounge wherever you go and whatever you see.
And you prepare yourself to work for it, when the materials do
show up. Because pre-made and pre-finished are not so
likely to appear.
Well, I was scrounging material
when what should appear? But a scrap of "pipe blind".
In industry sometimes you need to temporarily blind off big
pipes for maintenance and such, so they make reinforced plastic
materials for this job. This particular stuff is poly
based with linen cloth layers so it's amazing strong but not
terrible hard. I suspect it will last and last but not
beat up my mortise chisel handles much. First order
of business was getting some disks. I used a hole saw and
a heavy 1/2" drill and it tossed me around like an angry little
girl with a rag doll, but it worked.
Here are the disks cut out and some
of the waste material from the in between. You just do your best
not to waste any more than you have to.
Next of course was to make the
holes bigger to stack over the central rod of the mallet. I
used a Forstner bit and it cut well, but it was a lousy choice.
Next time I'll regrind a spade bit with edge flutes to work like
a Forstner somewhat, but have the center point be a lot bigger
to center the bit over the hole saw pilot hole better.
This will get the holes in the center of the disks a lot better
and make it easier to turn it true in the end.
Rounding up hardware was next.
It happens that the cross arms on medium sized power poles use
5/8" threaded rod. This is plenty beefy and the price is
right. This is something you can also buy at most large
hardware but the cost takes some of the fun out of the project.
Also shown are some huge flange washers from bridge construction
and the big thick square washers from the same power pole cross
arms. Plus nuts to fit, both square and hex. I took
a hack saw and cut the flat nuts in 1/2 for top nuts. They're
still plenty strong and with the 5/8" rod and thick washers etc,
there is no need for more weight in the mallet.
Some Light Machining
I have a little lathe. I love
it. For this job a good wood lathe would do as long as you
can slow down the speed enough and have a 3 jaw chuck to center
round stock with. My wood lathe is a mangy dog of a lathe
which is barely passable for woodwork, forget metal work on it.
So, I divvied up the disks I'd cut
into three piles, for the three mallets and measured, then cut,
the threaded rod. The only reason I needed the lathe at all,
besides final turning of the plastic to shape, was to center
drill one end of the big rod to be threaded to take the small
rod for the handle and start the tap square too. Drilling
anything on end and perfectly centered and square to the host
metal requires a lathe. On a lathe the hole -wants- to drill in
the center and up the axis. Any other way, anything at all, and
you are fighting it every minute.