Woodworking Essentials: Shop Mallet Selection
by Glen D. Huey
If you’ve ever whacked a carving tool or pounded a joint using your palm or the side of your fist – I know you have because we’ve all done it – you know the result: a sore hand and unfinished business.
This is why we need mallets. And while a mallet is not supposed to compensate for dull tools or force an ill-fitted joint closed, it is a much-needed woodworking tool. In reality, any device will do in a pinch – I once used an old baluster for drawer dovetailing. But what mallets do we need, and why? Where do you begin?
Mallets generally fit into one of three categories.To determine what fits where, we need only examine the head. Traditional joiner’s mallets have large rectangular-shaped heads, the key word being “large.” These mallets are typically wooden and have a variety of duties in a woodshop, including assembly and, as the name implies, joinery.
The head of a carver’s mallet – most often turned or round in shape – is generally smaller is size. These mallets run the gamut when it comes to size and weight, and of what material it’s made. There are really two camps within this category: mallets made with wooden heads and those that have brass (or other metal) as the striking surface. A carver’s mallet of the non-brass variety is sometimes used for many of the duties covered by a joiner’s mallet, but you seldom see the reverse. And mallets with brass or other metal heads are most often used when carving.
The third group of mallets could be best described as “other.” This category is a catch-all for rubber mallets, dead-blows and the like.
From April 2014 issue, #210