In Chris Schwarz Blog, Joinery

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The last few weeks I’ve been doing lots of hand joinery, and in that short period of time I have completely fallen for my Blue Spruce Toolworks mallet.

It’s the perfect weight (1 lb.) and size (8-1/2″ long). It’s beautifully finished. It’s perfectly balanced. But what is really astonishing about the mallet is how it can take a beating without getting beat up.

Most wooden mallets (round or square) become dogmeat in short order , no matter what sort of wood you use. The Blue Spruce sidesteps that problem by using an acrylic-infused head. Every pore is filled with plastic, yet the mallet feels like wood to your hands and responds like wood when you hit something. That is, it doesn’t bounce like a rubber mallet, which should be reserved only for circus clowns.

I’ve had this Blue Spruce mallet since February, have been using it just about every day and have yet to make a dent in it. It still looks as good as when I got it out of the box. Yes, it is more expensive than the mallets in the $2 bin at Home Depot that smell like a possum’s underarm. Yes, you can turn your own for less. Or you can send Dave Jeske at Blue Spruce 80 of your hard earned American dollars and get the most well-designed and durable wooden mallet I’ve ever used.

Don’t just take my word. After messing with my mallet, both Senior Editor Glen D. Huey and Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick bought them. Megan bought a blue one. (The vacuum process that adds the acrylic can also be used to infuse the wood with dye.) Glen got a red one (Psst. Don’t tell Glen but some people think it looks a little… uh.. pink.)

I think this plastic technology could be used in other woodworking tools. Blue Spruce already uses it in handles for bench chisels. It would be great for the handles of mortise chisels , those receive a whooping. It also could be used in the totes for saws and planes , these are notoriously fragile. How about a wooden try square made from it? (I assume the acrylic reduces or eliminates the expansion and contraction process.) Hammer handles?

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 27 comments
  • Jim

    It looks very nice, but I prefer natural materials too. I still have the first mallet (oak) I made years ago and while it has dents and marks, it still functions just as well as it always has! Most of my friends have had me make mallets for them too, so they seem to like them too.

    Maybe if we could all afford this mallet, Bridge City planes, Starret squares, etc., this would be exciting. I prefer to make things and enjoy reading magazines whose focus is on making things. While the tool is beautiful, so are my creations. Perhaps I should start making dressers and tables from plasticized woods. LOL

    Couldn’t you just see your grandchildren going oh and ah over the real wood things you’ve made? Will they feel that way about stabilized wood?

  • Rob Kruy

    Hey, anybody have a phone number for Blue Spruce? I placed an order online a couple weeks ago, and haven’t heard squat from them. I can’t find a number on their site….

  • Christopher Schwarz

    When you’re from Arkansas, you know.

    It’s kinda sweet and musky. Seriously.

    Chris

  • Bikerdad

    Oh, great, ANOTHER Blue Spruce tool that wants a home in my shop!!

    btw, I can’t believe I’m the first to ask this, but, pray tell Chris, HOW exactly do you know what a possum’s underarm smells like?

  • Tom

    I like my big ole one-piece rock maple mallet. If it gets beat up, so be it. I enjoyed turning it and will enjoy turning its successor.

    But the Blue Spruce mallets are something to behold. Beautiful.

  • Christopher Fitch

    I just got mine in today. I wish I had seen the option for colors on the page. I would have bought a blue one (yes this is very nitpicky).

    I’ve been using either a deadblow or a rubber mallet for most work but I have a Veritas brass mallet as well. I never use the brass mallet. I’ve just never been comfortable with it. I also had a traditional beech mallet but I never liked how it felt.

    On the other hand, this mallet is very nice. Besides looking great (yes I like how the standard colors look too), it feels VERY nice. Even my wife said she thought it looked and felt nice. I whacked some of my chisels (wood handled and a few with steel caps on the end) and it really hit them well. Normal examination reveals no marks but you can see a bit of roughness on the finish in a raking light.

    I was a bit reluctant since I was unsure about a round mallet vs a square mallet but I’m very happy with this one.

  • Mark Salomon

    I have a good half a dozen mallets and I like the Blue Spruce for all but the toughest, e.g, white oak, jobs. It’s not only beautiful but wonderfully balanced for dovetailing. It does get small dents but they can’t really be seen unless you hold the mallet against a light source. I’d buy this mallet again in a heartbeat.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Richard,

    Both tools are great for a wide range of operations. Their differences are aesthetic and at the margins of performance.

    I bought the Glen-Drake when it first came out and have used it for many years at home. It has more punch than the Blue Spruce. Kevin Drake, the guy who makes it, compares it to using a drumstick (he’s a drummer). And I tend to agree with his assessment. You tend to "throw" the hammer as you use it.

    You can use it for chopping dovetails or even mortising.

    The Blue Spruce seems better suited for operations that verge on the finesse. There’s something about a round mallet that makes me feel like I’m getting more control. Maybe it’s just me.

    You can use it for chopping dovetails or driving a carving tool.

    Just a few early morning thoughts.

    Chris

  • Richard Darby

    Chris,
    I’m assuming you’ve used Glen Drakes Tite hammers. How about a comparison/opinion between Blue Spruce’s offering and Glen Drake’s?

    Thanks

    Richard

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Stephen,

    Perhaps the cockroaches will let us know!

    Chris

  • Stuart Hough

    The natural-colored mallet is TRES SEXY!

  • Stephen Shepherd

    Wood was developed millions of years ago. Acrylic was developed in 1954. I wonder which will last longer?

    Stephen

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Mark,

    I bought it. Pretty much every tool here is bought with my money (not the magazine’s or the company’s). Those tools that are not bought are tested and then returned.

    And I’d buy this one again.

    Chris

  • Mark Green

    Tell me the truth. You really bought a plastic slick mallet for $80 or Dave Jeske gave it to you for free?

  • Gary Roberts

    Gary says to Chris (taking him aside for some fatherly advice):

    "I have just one word to say to you… Plastics!"

    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist it. I’ll go back to work now.

    Gary

  • Tim Put

    Electric bass luthiers have been using acrylized (acrylic-stabilized) hardwoods for bass fingerboards for quite a while. Not only does it give you an extremely durable slick material, but it also lets you use woods chosen for aesthetics that would otherwise be too soft or unstable. Think spalted maple or various burls.

    Google Larry Davis and Gallery Hardwoods (no affiliation) to see some.

  • Old Baleine

    I’ve had my lignum mallet for about thirty years. It has a few shallow dents where I’ve really walloped something with it, but it hasn’t cracked. But for power with superior control and absolutely no bounce, I prefer my Calvos.

    http://djc48.powweb.com/store/

  • Jonas

    Professional knife makers often use this kind of wood where every pore is filled with plastic. The name for it is "stab" or "stabbed" which is short for stabilized.

  • Jeremy

    About ten years ago I was working for a swordsmith in Texas who used something similar for axe handles, staffs, and the like. It was a heavy, resin-impregnated wood. Pretty much indestructible, which was great for his purposes, and only a little heavier than a dense hardwood would’ve been.

  • Jonas Jensen

    I have turned my own mallet, and even though it gets some small dents, it still works perfect.
    When I need to make a new one, I get to use my lathe for something useful.
    If you are happy with the purchase, then I guess it was an OK deal for you, but still… 80 $.

  • John Abbott

    After a misguided half century of trying to turn plastic into wood we discover the industry had it backwards and has now discovered how to turn wood into plastic. Our favorite renewable resource is now an oil byproduct. The future brightens.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    I considered a benchtop. My question would be how slippery it is. Or, more precisely, how grippy it could be. The mallet is too slick for a benchtop.

    Chris

  • SchreiberBike

    Mostly these are rhetorical questions; but what if there were a totally plastic mallet which worked even better? What if there was something which is made with wood and looked like wood, but which was really a space age plastic? (Isn’t that’s what this is?)

    I don’t object to technology or new materials, but as a woodworker, I like wood. And I like wood with all it’s living breathing faults.

  • Chick

    I think this plastic technology could be used in cabinetmaking too. And how about a benchwork top made from it? Or for the wheels of my skateborard…

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Samson,

    I agree with you. However I’ve had too many students show up with dead blows or spongy rubber mallets that they use to drive chisels. It’s like using a Superball….

    Chris

  • Samson

    I’d always thought of rubber mallets as something folks would use in assembly operations rather than to drive chisels and carving tools. If you meant Urethane mallets, like those "Wood is Good" products, I find those work very well and never bounce.

  • Mag from Indy

    Heck, bring back wooden planes in high-tech fashion! How about transitionals! The race is on.

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