In Chris Schwarz Blog, Joinery

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I enjoy a good beating. Chopping dovetails or mortises is almost as pleasurable as sawing or planing. So, as you can imagine, I’m picky about my mallet.

For years I tried to make myself like the traditional round mallet used in carving and cabinetmaking. But I couldn’t grow to enjoy using it. I’d be more likely to pick up a hammer than a round mallet when it came to chopping time.

So I abandoned the round one and have since been trying out a variety of mallets that are wooden or both wood and metal. I bought a couple English mallets that have a brass head that’s filled with wooden striking surfaces. These are good, but replacing the wood when it expired was no fun.

So I’ve settled on two mallets that I really like. One is the Veritas Cabinetmaker’s Mallet, which I’ve had since the company started making them. It’s well-balanced and heavy enough (1 lb. 5 oz.) to get the job done. The head is brass and the wooden inserts are 1-1/2″ in diameter, so you can cut them using a hole saw and pop them in (I’m about to replace one of my faces with a synthetic material that toolmaker Paul Hamler sent me. Don’t know what it is, but he swears by it).

The handle is, I believe, ash. I stripped the finish off of it and applied a little oil and wax so it suits my hand better. This was the only mallet I used , until May.

That’s when one of my students, Dante DiIanni, handed me one of the mallets he was developing for sale through his woodworking supplies store, Di Legno Woodshop Supply. It looks like a smallish beech carpenter’s mallet you might see in a typical woodworking catalog. I’ve never cared much for this form because they were so lightweight that I ended up getting a sore forearm.

But Dante’s mallets are different. He soaks them in linseed oil for a long time. This greatly increases the weight of the mallets, and gives them a nice feel in the hand. The mallet I tried is listed as approximately 22 oz., but mine weighs 19 oz., according to our postal scale. The mallet is 13″ long overall with a 2-3/8″ x 4-5/8″ head. So it’s a nice small size , you’re in not going to smack yourself in the head and you can get into fairly tight places.

All the right edges are chamfered (I like chamfers), and there’s a nice leather wrist strap, which is great for hanging the mallet over the bench (or keeping it on your wrist should your palm become separated from the handle during a wild swing).

I like this mallet. And so does Senior Editor Glen D. Huey, who has been chopping out about 100 dovetails for the cabinet base on his workbench. The mallet packs a ton of punch for its size and is a good fit in your hand. The mallet comes in four sizes between 18 oz. ($22.95) up to 32 oz. ($29.95). The 22 oz. model we tested is $24.95. you can order one from the Di Legno web site or by calling 877-208-4298.

– Christopher Schwarz


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Showing 6 comments
  • Ross Manning

    Hi Chris,

    (Not sure if you read comments from older posts?) I was watching the Lie Nielsen video on Youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yg7ntJKNJQ&feature=channel)where you demonstrate drawboring & noticed you using a beautiful looking brass soft faced (wooden?) mallet wqith a square head. It looked like a small carpenters mallet. Can you tell us where this comes from? IS it better balanced that the Veritas round head? It looked to have a bit more heft to it!
    Thanks,
    Ross.

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Kevin,

    I like the Garlands as well, but they are not as well balanced as the other two options. They do work *great* for beating in chair legs into a seat (where balance isn’t as important as oomph).

    Chris

  • Kevin Adams

    Chris–

    I thought you were sold on the Garland rawhide mallets? I haven’t even had a chance to pick one of those up yet and now you’ve found a new favorite…!

    Take care,
    Kevin Adams

  • andy hsieh

    Here we go again…wives against schwarz 🙂 I got the veritas cabinetmakers mallet after speaking with you on e-mail and I could not agree more – it is my go to mallet right now – I would be interested in finding out about the new filler.

    andy

  • Christopher Schwarz

    Yeah, if I ever figure out what it is. It’s hard. Real hard. But Paul says it is easy on the wood.

    Chris

  • dave brown

    I’m guessing you’ll give us a report on Paul’s synthetic insert after you’ve had some time to bash some stuff?

    😉

    Dave

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