Unintended “Steampunk” Mallet Build

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Blog entry by Woodstock posted 10-03-2020 01:15 AM 719 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

First off. Credit for this idea came from fellow Lumberjock camp764 who found the idea on Pinterest, where he suspects it originally came from Woodsmith magazine. Give credit where credit’s due.

I am a member of a rather active mid-sized woodturning club. “Wine Country Wood Turners” here in the North San Francisco Bay Area, till the Corona 19 snuck up on the world. (And for the last few days, part of the fires in the wine country.)

Now with everyone locally having gone into lock-down mode, our past monthly face-to-face meetings have now evolved into monthly online Zoom meetings with fair amount of participation.

One of the many ongoing evolutions has been a “President’s Challenge” every month or two. Members are tasked with whatever the current (narrowly) defined assignment is, such as “Make a wooden 6” dia. max cereal bowl”, or “Make a small plate 9” or less”. Things that all of our members could turn no matter what sized swing over the bed of their wood lathe happens to have. And as long as it is turned on a lathe, we can submit up to 3 photos of our efforts for general discussions within the Zoom meeting. Great fun to see other’s take on a President’s Challenge assignment.

This latest one we were given a little more leeway in the task, which was to “design & build any kind of mallet we wanted”.

Of course being the local instigator (aka smart-ass), I had to confirm if they wanted to give us a task that let us design & make our own “anything” without any (in my case) real “adult” supervision.

Specifically I emailed the group this picture & asked:

“You REALLY want me to design & make my own mallet? SERIOUSLY???”

(Credit: Gallagher – “Sledge-O-Matic” One of the best comedians & at the absolute top of my funny-man list for several decades now.)

All kidding aside, this mallet concept as seen from my top photo had been on my Lumberjocks favorite to-do list forever. So I thought I give my take on a great idea for this month’s President’s Challenge.

As much as possible I made it out of whatever I could scrounge up in my shop’s various scrap piles & stuck away on the back shelves & drawers gathering dust. You can NEVER have too much scrounged/scrapped/upcycled/cutoffs/or misc. “FOG” wood (found on ground.) After all, since I’m in a lock-down situation. I can’t be left to my own demise in the local big chain “orange blob” hardware emporium full time as much as I like to. So I have to make do with what I have in house.

I was able to find the needed components: A 1” bronze tee fitting. Some kiln dried hard American maple cutoffs for the mallet faces that I had left over from my bathroom remodel several years ago. And what I am thinking is a cutoff of a piece of nicely figured mahogany with relatively straight grain for a strong handle. I think that I won the mahogany from our club’s wood raffle donated by a fellow club member several seasons ago.

Normally, prior to 2020BC (Before Covid) I turned lots of solid bowls, hollow forms, segmented bowls & staved hollow forms, but never any real spindle work. So being completely board after six months hiding from the world at home, I thought what the heck, let’s get a bit wild & try spindle turning as a change from the norm. I might just learn something new.

I had read about off-center spindle turning and have seen a few examples, but that idea didn’t ever caught my eye. Too random & uneven in format. (i.e. “drunken candlesticks”, etc.) Fine for others. Just not my thing to turn.

But here is a different spin. I thought why not offset equally on both sides of the spindle handle center a bit so as give me a balanced oval grip for the hand to hold on to. Rather than a typical round grip on the shaft where your hand lays.

An oval shape will tend to align the hand with the head of the mallet. I can make the shaft from above the hand grip to the head a sweeping cove but still with a round shaft with a bell shape for additional style where it joins to the head.

I ran into some difficulties on some sample prototype handles early on. By offset turning freehand first one offset hole then the other, the top & bottom “ridge” of the handle wasn’t even over the center line at where the two ovals meet on the top and bottom edges. The ridge on each side wandered back & fourth where they joined, and were not centered or straight. Alternating cutting from one offset hole to the mirror offset hole to even things up was rather fruitless. Basically chasing my tail trying to clean it up by going back & forth.

Cutting to the chase I came up with a solution.

I repurposed a large 7/8” coupling nut that fit nicely over my ½” square EWT (Easy Wood Tool) cutter. I drilled and tapped two thumb screws to lock it to the EWT shaft. The idea is that first, if the tool rest was absolutely in parallel with the bed of the lathe and it wasn’t moved. Then

the nut became a “depth stop” to help keep the EWT from cutting too far into the turning as I slid left and right across the tool rest.

Both offsets stayed even & straight right down the center line of the turning most every time. No matter how many times I put the tool down, stopped the lathe, changed offset holes to the other mirrored side of the handle, started the lathe again & picked up my EWT, it was straight, even, centered in line with the axis of the turning & repeatable.

Now I can see most of you complaining that it weights too much. I completely agree. It’s slid off the EWT handle & removed when not turning straight oval handles. And returning your EWT back to normal use.


In use, the ridges where the two edges cross are a bit too sharp on my hand to hold comfortably as it comes off the lathe, but nothing that a bit of sanding on top of both sharp edges on the corners to round & soften the edges up a bit.

Moving on to the bronze head

I chose a 1” NPT tee fitting for the head. Mine was really oxidized & a just plain ugly bronze.

I decided to use the Ryobi 3 compound crayon / 3 wheel polisher made for a hand drill to polish up the head.

While the Ryobi polisher works, it leaves a lot to be desired. There are no REAL usable instructions beyond “don’t mix compounds on the same wheel” on the package. OK. So which crayon on which sized wheel & in what order?

Here are my notes on polishing. Hopefully it will fill in what’s missing.

For all three crayons. Each is a wax based crayon with the various compounds mixed in. Important to know when you go to clean off the current compound before starting the next.

For those who haven’t wheel polished like this before. All buffing wheels when brand new will toss LOTS of fibers into the air. They ALL shed till they get loaded with their crayon’s respective compound and get broken-in with a bit of use. That’s normal. Some newbies have freaked out in the online reviews thinking they have inferior buffing wheels because of lots of shredding fibers are getting tossed from the wheels & into the air. They are good wheels, just not broken in yet.

RPM speed is really your friend here. I chucked up my wheels one at a time with a homemade wooden extended adapter that was a press-fit for the metal hex shaft into the make-shift wood adapter. Just for my chuck to hold the wheels at a safe distance away from my hands & whatever I was holding onto that was getting polished on my lathe. (Finger’s don’t like metal chuck jaws, especially at 3,000 RPM for some unknown reason.)

I set the speed on the lathe to the max -3000 RPM. If you have a geared down hand held drill it as this kit was designed for, it will take a whole lot longer. But it can be done.

Label the side of the wheel with a pen as what crayon compound is loaded on it. (All three wheels eventually will look black.) Don’t mix different crayon compounds on the same wheel. One crayon compound, one wheel. No exceptions. You’ll get nicer results overall.

First I used the emery compound (black) with the smallest diameter wheel. Whatever you are polishing will look absolutely UGLY!! Even worse than before you started. Just so you are warned.

While it cuts through the oxidation & grunge it looks really dirty. Keep at it. It takes a lot of work to remove the oxidation & cut down to the cleaner metal underneath.

When you think you are done, here’s a critical missed step I did that’s not mentioned anywhere. Go outside away from any ignition sources like your electric drill. With one paper towel & acetone, Start rubbing hard by hand, wiping off the emery compound residue on you bronze tee as the acetone dissolves the wax crayon & the compound suspended in the wax. Your single paper towel will load up & become very black. Toss this paper towel & get a new one soaked in acetone. Rinse & repeat this process till the last paper towel is almost completely free of the black residue. It took me 8 paper towels to remove the last of the emery compound. But it MUST be removed completely before going forward to the next wheel & compound.

Btw: Don’t toss the used paper towels into the garbage bin yet. Spread them out (flatten) the used sheets outside with a weight on each separately to keep from blowing away and let the acetone evaporate off. Once dry then you can safely toss them in the garbage w/o worrying about spontaneous combustion or the fumes drifting & meeting up with a point of ignition such as your drill motor brushes, shop pilot light, or static somewhere.

The tripoli compound (red) crayon and the mid-sized wheel are next. Same procedure as before with the emery compound. But this time things will start to shine up a bit. Same cleanup.

Last is the white rouge compound and the largest wheel. Now what you’re polishing will start to really be smooth & shiny. And this wheel will also turn black with use.

If you are planning to shoot some finish such as a coating or two of lacquer to keep any new oxidation at bay from the bronze tee, you also must remove the remaining white rouge off the surface. Same as before: acetone, paper towels and a lot of rubbing. Polish & buff by hand. Rinse & repeat. Right down to a now VERY smooth & shiny bare metal. But it’s worth it.

A couple of coats of glossy lacquer rattle can finish or better yet, sprayed with a HVLP spray system will help keep the bronze looking really nice for a long time. Coat it before adding weight or gluing in the wood parts. Let the finish cure fully typically 24-48 hours to harden fully.

Adding weight to the Bronze Tee Head

On my first prototype. I went a bit overboard with the weight. Here is what I did the first time.

At first I felt the bronze tee wasn’t heavy enough in relation to the length & size of the 14” handle. I decided to back fill the hollow section in the tee with BB’s & epoxy.

So I put the maple face caps in to the ends of the tee, but not yet glued. Hold the two faces in place with a single squeeze clamp. Then I filled up the inside of the tee with steel Daisy brand BB’s. I made sure I left room for the handle plug in the end of the tee. But it was really full. It took eventually 185 grams of BB’s + ~25 grams of two part 60 minute slow cure epoxy. Turns out in the end the head was now way too heavy.

Next time I will use 60-90 grams of BB’s and 8-12 grams of epoxy, or ½ of a twin epoxy syringe. (1/3 to ½ the original amount), for a 1” tee. That should be enough.

Pour out the loose BB’s into a non-waxed paper Dixie brand type cup. Set aside for a moment.

For this next step unclamp & remove the maple faces. Next layer two 4” squares of the stretch plastic film over each opening & replace the maple faces back into the ends of the tee. Clamp with a quick clamp to hold them in place (Stretch plastic film. Comes on a very long roll. Made for wrapping &securing cardboard boxes to pallets, and other uses.) Place over the two end openings in the tee.

It acts like a dam separating between the maple faces & the BB’s/epoxy mixture.

I added blue painters tape turned inside-out & stuck it to protect the threads covering the center opening (where the handle will eventually get glued in later. Just to give some protection if you get BB’s & epoxy on the threads as I filled the tee. (Remember you can cut the volume inside the tee by using only 1/3 to 1/2 as much by weight so as to not make the head so heavy. Pack the remaining volume inside with foam or wood shaving.)

(Corrected recipe here.) I used a small Dixie brand paper cup & mixed in 1/2 syringe of two part 60 minute (slow–cure) epoxy, Then added 60-90 grams of BB’s to the cup and really mix well. No hurry as you have 60 minutes of open, or work time before things start to harden. It gives you lots of time to get the BB/epoxy mixture positioned inside the tee with a rubber gloved finger, or a Popsicle stick spreading the mixture inside of the tee between the two maple plugs. And then take a break for two hours.

This wait time seems long. But it’s important. This gives the epoxy time to partially cure enough to not let any of the BB’s flow inside the casting when you remove the clamp and the two maple faces to remove the dams. But before the stretch film permanently sticks to the epoxy. For me the film didn’t stick to the epoxy at all. It just about fell out of the tee on its own. I was expecting to have to tear it away from the partially cured epoxy.

Old picture of first prototype. I recommend 1/3 to 1/2 as much BB’s & epoxy. Leave the rest empty or stuff the extra space inside with foam or wood shaving to fill up the space inside the tee.


For the wooden parts I added a small metal screw hook about 3/4” long to hang the wood parts to dry between coats as I finished them. I used blue painters tape & taped off any wooden faces that will eventually get epoxy on before I started to spray the finish.

I kind of went overboard here on these next steps. But it was fun & a challenge as I had never used lacquer or any type of tint/dyes, or even shot this many coats on a single item before. After full sanding all three wooden pieces (mahogany handle & the two maple mallet faces) to 80- 400 grit without missing any grits in between, I blew everything off with compressed air and wiped down with a tack rag.

Then using “Aqua Coat” -Wood Grain Filler, (Amazon) per the instructions let dry 30-40 minutes. Then cut it back using 400 grit sandpaper glued to a wood block to level any irregularities and hollows on the surface between coats. I blew everything off with compressed air and wiped down with a tack rag. Repeated for a total of 4 coats. And as advertised it came out perfectly glass smooth. I had never used wood grain filler before. Definitely will be using this filler as a standard finish step on my projects in the future. Very impressed with the end results.

Roughed up the surface lightly with 400 grit again. Just for some tooth.

I then shot 1 layer of dewaxed clear shellac as an intermediate primer layer between the wood grain filler and the topcoat(s). Just for adhesion. Let fully dry and then I taped off the upper layer with blue tape (where you see the natural brown area of the finished handle), and shot the lower handle with the colored tint & lacquer.

Here I kind of wrote my own rules as I went. I used a well-mixed satin Deft brushing lacquer & cut it down to a 60% lacquer thinner & 40% lacquer mix of about 1 pint in volume.

I added enough (~ 40 drops) of Transtint black tint to turn the handle a transparent black after a number of coats Really super thin so I could shoot it with my HPLV sprayer.

Each layer flashed off quickly for each re-coat. But the first 5 layers or so didn’t seem do much other than move the very light brown color of the raw wood to more of a very dark orange. I had to get above 10 more coats before I was convinced I was going in the right direction and things turned a very cool noticeably transparent black.

The Deft instruction said to re-coat every two hours. But because I added so much thinner it was ready to handle in 15 minutes and I re-shot each layer every 20 minutes (3 re-coats per hour) without sanding in between. The new layer of lacquer dissolves into the previous layer. So no need for roughing anything up between coats for any added tooth. With the Transtint it takes many re-coats before it is obvious that things are darkening up any amount. But it will. It stays really transparent to show the wood grain underneath. Which was the effect I was aiming for. I shot 19 layers of tinted lacquer. I should have stopped at 12 re-coats. I ended up going too dark than I was envisioning.

To finish up I removed all the blue masking tape except that which was covering the plug of bare wood at the head end of the handle that will be epoxied in the next step.

I then over-coated two clear layers of lacquer over everything to finish. Set it aside and let dry for 24-36 hours. Excessive I know but I wanted a really hard & fully cured surface after a total of 27 coats of various finishes all told. I don’t want to have to repeat all 27 layers again for a while!

Final assembly

(Note all of the following steps show pictures of some extra prototype parts that do not yet have finish applied. But the steps are the same as a finished handle & tee. I can’t holds the camera and apply finish or epoxy things together while shooting pictures. I don’t have eight hands! And I don’t want to get finish & epoxy on my iPad.)

Using blue tape wrap the handle right at the epoxy joint where it will fit against the bronze head. Continue to wrap to the other end of the handle to keep the epoxy off the finish.

Trim off the excess tape with a #11 X-acto knife flush with the step in the handle. Make sure the cut line is parallel with the step as this will help give you a clean joint without any excess epoxy that might squeeze out.

For each of the 3 openings on the polished bronze tee. I placed a layer of blue tape across the face of each overlapping strips about a third to the previous strip to cover the entire opening.

Then carefully cut away the tape at the inside wall of the bronze with a sharp #11 X-acto knife. This “gasket” will help keep any epoxy squeeze out from getting on the outside bronze surface and your finish as you assemble everything together.

Mix up the remainder of the epoxy in another small paper cup. Place epoxy on all the mating surfaces starting with the two maple face plugs, and then the handle. Be sure to cover with freshly mixed epoxy over the already hardened epoxy plug/BB’s. Then cover all the threads on the fitting as here is where the real epoxy bond will be at its highest strength. Lightly clamp with a single squeeze clamp to not only hold the maple faces into the bronze tee, but also to help keep the center opening on the tee facing level & pointed straight up to receive the handle itself in a vertical position seated till the epoxy hardens.

Here are both pieces right before you cover the threads of the tee and the raw wood section of the handle with epoxy. Make sure the threads are completely covered with the epoxy as this tight joint filled with epoxy will be needed for strength.

Seat everything together. Expect some squeeze out. (That’s what the blue tapes for to protect the finish.)

Once fully seated you can carefully wipe away any epoxy squeeze out with a paper towel keeping the epoxy from any finished surfaces. (i.e. no unintended epoxy fingerprints on the lacquer!)

Carefully start pulling the tape away from the joint at a diagonal angle from the piece. Start with the blue tape on the tee, then move to the handle. Since you have already wiped off the squeeze out you should have a nice clean joint without any epoxy showing.

This will leave you with no outward sign of epoxy while insuring a really good coating of epoxy on all glue surfaces that are touching one another & nowhere else. Set aside to cure. It took about 3 hours to cure before you can lightly handle the mallet. But give it 24-36 hours to fully cure hard before use.

Cleanup you mess in your shop. Then go admire your work.

September 2020BC (Before Covid)

-- I'm not old. Just "well seasoned".

7 comments so far

View recycle1943's profile


5056 posts in 2633 days

#1 posted 10-03-2020 10:34 AM

A great write up explaining all the steps to a really nice mallet. Too nice for anything but display purposes. Thanks for sharing and congrats on a well thought out project. ( pretty sure I see a DT3 )

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View clieb91's profile


4209 posts in 4946 days

#2 posted 10-03-2020 10:49 AM

Very cool mallet idea and a good write up to follow along.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3809 days

#3 posted 10-03-2020 02:34 PM

Much more elegant than mine. Very nice work!

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Doug's profile


1209 posts in 3772 days

#4 posted 10-04-2020 10:54 AM

Very nice! Very sleek! It looks like it would be comfortable in the hand. I like the BB and epoxy idea. I took a much more lazy approach when I made mine. You can check it out on my projects page if you want. Again, nice work!

-- Doug

View flintbone's profile


213 posts in 4167 days

#5 posted 10-05-2020 01:15 PM

Beautiful work. Thanks for sharing your process and I really liked your lesson on buffing.
Keep up the good work.

-- If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. - Albert Einstein

View rhybeka's profile


5009 posts in 4132 days

#6 posted 10-05-2020 05:48 PM

Very nice Woodstock!! Thanks a bunch for the in depth explanation!

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View sepeck's profile


488 posts in 3152 days

#7 posted 10-10-2020 06:02 AM

This is an awesome write up. Napa Valley is not very far from me as I am just a tiny bit south of Sacramento.

I have some Transtint dye that I got as a present but never really knew how to use it so it’s been hanging out on a shelf. I may have to put this on my to do winter list. Few things ahead of it first as the daughter and wife are getting irate, but between the smoke and heat I hide inside. Since this weekend is going to be nice, some clean up in the shop and helping my daughter with her cane prop is on the agenda.

-- -Steven Peck,

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