Making A Giant Mallet
Submitted by Keith on Friday 02/02/2018
In this video i'm going to be making a giant mallet as a commission for one of my YouTube viewers in the United States. The client has a collection of hammers and mallets and said he'd like to have something made by me and he suggested a carnival or strongman style mallet and I really liked that idea. Traditionally, carnival mallets have a metal banding around the head and I don't really have the right tools or knowledge to do that kind of thing, so I reached out to Alec Steele, a popular YouTuber and talented blacksmith based in my home town with the idea of collaborating on this project but unfortunately I never heard back from him - he's probably busy with other things, so this mallet is going to be just wood - and the client wanted it to be made from oak, which is a good choice as it's very strong and dense.
He sent me some measurements he wanted the mallet to be so I wrote them on my whiteboard before getting started so I could refer to them.
For the head of the mallet I'd use some oak reclaimed from a local church refurbishment, this wood is around 100 years old, and has some great character, and I could make use of the short lengths for the head.
I started by planing one face of each piece flat. I marked the planed face with an X so I wouldn't lose track of which surfaces I'd flattened. Then I could work on getting the edges of each piece square to the face that I'd planed. I first checked the fence was square to the table with a small square and then with the planed face pushed firmly against the fence I squared up both edges.
So now I had two edges which were perfectly square to the planed face on each board.
Next I chose which pieces I could laminate together to get enough width to form the head of the mallet and glued and clamped them together with the planed faces face down on the flat surface of my bench.
After leaving them for an hour or so I scraped off the excess glue with a card scraper and then left them overnight, and I then planed down the laminated blocks planing the already planed faces again just to make sure all the pieces were flush with one another.
Then I set up the planer as a thicknesser, and did several passes on each piece to get the unplaned faces flattened and square.
I used the mitresaw to trim one end of each block and then set up a stop block so that I could cut each block to length.
And here's one of the four prepared blocks ready for gluing. I glued up the pieces to form two halves of the head and I'd glue up the two halves later on after I cut the joinery for the handle.
I applied some weight and left it over night again and the following day I cut the blocks to width on the tablesaw and I took this in a few passes raising the blade inbetween because the oak is so dense.
With the two halves of the head together I then found a centre point and marked up as big a circle as possible using my compass.
Next I looked for a piece of oak to use for the handle and I had a few of these 50 by 50mm pieces which were the upright pieces from some reclaims oak hat and coat stands. these pieces had a cove on each corner, so I marked up some cuts to get rid of the coves where the handle would be joined to the head. I made the rip cut on the tablesaw. And then I did the cross cut with a pullsaw and removed the rest of the material with a chisel to fom the joint. Then I did the same on the opposite side too.
I also removed the old finish from the sides so that the glue would adhere to it.
To cut the joinery on the head, I first centred the handle on to the head, and used a marking knife to trace the outline. I extended those marks using a speed square on to the sides of the blocks.
I used my calipers to measure the thickness of the handle and it was just over 30mm, so I set the calipers to 15mm and then scribed a line on the end of the blocks. I used a pen just to make the marks more visible and then raised the blade of my tablesaw to the depth line. I set the fence to cut within the marks and then made a series of cuts to remove most of the material
I then used a chisel to clean up the joint.
The handle was a fraction too wide to fit in the slot at first, so I took a few passes off the top of the handle with a handplane and then it fitted really nicely.
I decided I'd shape the head of the mallet using handtools as I wanted it to look hand-crafted, rather than looking like it came out of a factory or something... But first I tipped my tablesaw blade to 45 degrees and cut the corners away just to remove most of the material to save myself lots of work.
I also cut a slot in the centre at the end of the handle for a spline which will be added later. Rotating the workpiece made sure that the slot was perfectly centred.
Next I did a dry fit just make sure everything went together ok. And it didn't there was quite a big gap, so made some adjustments with a block plane and chisel.
Then I did another dry fit, and there was still a small gap so I took a little more off and then it seemed perfect.
Next I set up the tablesaw to make a 45 degree cut to remove the coves down the length of the handle on all four corners. And then I rounded over those 45s with a block plane.
I used this piece of sapele for the spline, I first marked it up and ripped it to the right width for the handle at the tablesaw, and then I ripped down the thickness so that it would be slightly too wide for the slot in the handle. I think the slot was around 4mm so I ripped this to 6mm. I cut some of the length away at the bandsaw and then checked that it was wider than the slot, and it was which was good. Then I took some more of thickness away at one end to shape it as a wedge. And then it slotted in nicely. This spline probably isn't strictly necessary for strength because the wood glue is plenty strong enough, but it will help to secure the handle in place really tightly to the head, and also it's going to look cool.
So now I was ready to glue and clamp everything together and it went together nicely.
Once I'd got a couple of clamps on, I added some glue to the slot and hammered in the spline. I cut off the excess with my pullsaw, and then added more clamps and left it to dry overnight.
Next I could start shaping the head, and at the bottom I used a spokeshave for this, but because the handle was now fitted I also used chisels and a block plane to shape the bottom of the head.
I also used a card scraper just to get everything nice and smooth.
For the rest of the head I mainly used my hand plane.
Here you can see the spline joint being cleaned up and it looked really nice.
As you can see this created a nice big pile of shavings.
To clean up the ends of the head of the mallet I used my belt sander and that worked well.
I used a roundover bit in the router to ease over the edges of the head. This left some burn marks so I came back with a sander to clean it up.
Now that the mallet was together, at this point I wasn't too keen on how the handle looked, it was just straight and kind of boring, and also it seemed a bit too thick, so I decided to shape it a bit using the spokeshave and smoothing over again with the card scraper. The final shape was thick at the bottom, thinner in the middle and then thick again towards the head, and I thought that looked much better.
Then I did some final sanding at 120 on the random orbit sander and then 240 grit by hand.
I decided to also adda a roundover to the end of the handle too, as without it it kind of looked unfinished.
I cleaned off the burn marks again by hand.
And then it was time for finish and I used boiled linseed oil which brought out the grain really nicely.
Finally I added my makers mark to the top of the handle near the head.
With the mallet finished all I have to do now is package it up and get it sent over to New Jersey in the States.
I really enjoyed this one, I'm happy with how it turned out. I don't think there's anything I would have done differently if I were to do it again. The oak head has a few imperfections as you can see, but I think that really adds to the character.
It's pretty heavy, i
It took about 15 or 16 hours in total to make this.