Chris Schwarz's Blog

When You Run Out of Material…

When I teach a class on sawing and making a sawbench, it is usually a one- or two-day event. One of the nice things about teaching at The Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, N.C., is that it’s a three-day class.

That makes the pace of the class quite relaxed, and we have plenty of time to indulge in sidebars, explore wacky historical facts and details about sawbenches.

There is a problem, however, when we combine a good crop of students with a casual pace: We were done at lunchtime on the third day.

So we got to do some extra stuff. I did a workshop on through-dovetails (which went much better than my class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking last week). And then Roy Underhill showed off his puzzle mallet, which is a tool where the head and handle are joined by seemingly impossible joints.

Roy taught a class on this mallet on Thursday (today!), and had to prepare the material and a sample mallet for his class as I was teaching my class. I shot a little video of the action – note that no alcohol was actually consumed during this filming. Honest.

Today I headed back home to Kentucky – dog-tired and ready to get back to editing a lot of very important (to me) books on our craft. More details this weekend.

— Christopher Schwarz

Meet St. Roy: Roy Underhill’s best book “The Woodwright’s Guide,” is available in our store. If you like hand tools, this book is a must-have reference.

15 thoughts on “When You Run Out of Material…

  1. mcgarig1

    What PERSON mixed the audio for this video ?
    Do your sound mixers not wear headphones or have speakers ? ?? ?
    The MUSIC IS WAY TO LOUD.
    PLEASE TRAIN YOUR SOUND MIXERS.
    If someone is using some computer program to set the sound levels on the different sound tracks then please tell me so I can cancel my subscription.
    I have gotten too old to tolerate any crap.

  2. tsstahl

    I asked Roy to sign my mallet about a year ago. He graciously agreed, and added the quote “with mallets toward none”. I didn’t realize it was one of his catch phrases. Too funny.

  3. Julian

    It is pure pleasure to watch Mr Roy Underhill at work. He has a great sense of humor and makes woodworking an absolute pleasure. I was disappointed the video ended without seeing the mallet parts assembled.

  4. mrphil

    This video reminds me of a cartoon showing a scientist standing in front of two large blackboards covered with complex scientific calculations. Between the blackboards is the scribbled statement: “then a miracle happens”. An onlooker speaks, ” George, I don’t think this will fly with the academy.” So, until I see Roy actually pound that sucker together, this ain’t flying with me.

    1. wdworker@bellsouth.net

      I Know it works. I attended a demonstration by Roy @ Highland woodworking in Atlanta. & he demoed the mallet & passed it & then the parts around the room for actual hands on time with the mallet JHB

  5. mdafran

    I must admit putting the joins need meticulous attention and skill.Don’t you think its helpful to many wood ethusiast out there if you can show us the full video? Nice job.Keep it up…

  6. BillMoser

    OK yer killin’ me. Here’s how it *has* to work: the tails ( the handle) are not nearly the thickness of the pins (the head) maybe only half. You push the tails through, and then wedge & glue from the top. Just a guess — unless the parts are actually wood-colored metal, in which case, many hours with a ball pein hammer will do the trick :-)

    1. archae

      There are no added wedges and glue is unnecessary.

      The trick is in the profile of the two outside tails and the surface contour of the groove bottoms. The grooves slope up from the shank end of the head to its top. There is a broad valley about a third of the way down from the top into which the thickened part of the tails fit. The V of the tails springs upwards to effect a locking mechanism. Pure mechanical pressure prevents the head from flying off into space. (Pause the video at time 2:37 to get a good view of the head and handle.)

      Similar mechanisms are found in common modern electronics where cables are joined by barbed plastic connectors.

  7. archae

    Bechorovka, the woodworkers best friend after a hard day in the shop. Can be sipped or used as liniment for those overworked muscles. It may be an acquired taste, but it sure works wonders! ;-)

  8. NHSchreiner

    Okay Chris, you showed us the video of how Roy assembled his mallet. Just when you get to the cliff hanger you went to a commercial. Please show the un-edited video detailing how the actual joint went together. We want to see that maple & walnut get it’s beating. It’s all in the details.

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