New Small Carving Mallet plus, What kind of wood is this?

  • Advertise with us
Project by docholladay posted 06-28-2010 04:29 AM 3640 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been wanting to make a carving mallet. I had some time to just kind of play in the garage this evening and this is what I came up with. It is a little smaller than I originally intended (thanks to some bloopers with the skew chisel). Perhaps what is most intersting about this project is the wood. Can anyone tell me what this is. I included pictures of the log still with the bark on it. This was a small tree growing in my back yard that I cut down about a year ago. I saved it purely because I was really curious about the bark. It has what looks like warts all over it as you can see from the pictures. The wood looks and feels much like hickory or pecan. I am familiar with the common hickory trees that grow here in Alabama and that is not what this is. The wood is very hard. I was really amazed at how hard it is. It polished very well on the lathe, but has a kind of porous, open grain much like an oak, but I just can’t get past that bark. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

10 comments so far

View Alster's profile


101 posts in 3719 days

#1 posted 06-28-2010 05:03 AM

I think it’s hackberry—super hard, super tough stuff. Nice work!

View jaedwards575's profile


90 posts in 3563 days

#2 posted 06-28-2010 08:46 AM

Did the tree have little BB sized green balls on the branches? If so, it definitely is Hackberry. I know of no other tree around Alabama that has bark like that.

-- Aaron Possom Town, TN

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 3582 days

#3 posted 06-28-2010 12:49 PM

Looks just like a Hackberry tree my Father In-Law had in his back yard before he cut it down. I still remember him cursing about how hard it was on a chain saw….lol

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3564 days

#4 posted 06-28-2010 01:33 PM

I don’t remember about the branches. I cut it down about a year ago. After doing a little research via google last night, I do believe Hackberry is what it is. According to Google, it is a very common kind of tree. It is one of the top 100 most common in the USA. However, I don’t remember seeing one before. This one was a small one (only about 6-8” in diameter). The wood is quite pretty (my pictures didn’t really display it very well). I really like the color variations between the lighter and darker streaks. I would think that it would make a great looking hardwood floor. Especially considering how hard that would was. It was slow going turning it on the lathe.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3580 days

#5 posted 06-28-2010 06:21 PM

I cut down a large hackberry tree about 18 months ago and I agree that this looks like hackberry. I don’t think of hackberry as being abnormally hard. I would say that is about the same hardness as oak.

In this area, it is an abundant, cheap hardwood. It is often favored by schools for shop class projects (primarily because it is so cheap).

It spalts better than most other woods and I am hoping that I am getting some good spalting action with my hackberry. The third picture in my project below is made with some spalted hackberry.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View jaedwards575's profile


90 posts in 3563 days

#6 posted 06-29-2010 06:24 AM

From what I remember about hackberry is it likes to warp and twist a lot. Not a very strait grained wood when milled into lumber. Because of it’s pliability it is one of the best wood to steam bend, but does not like to stay true when laid.

-- Aaron Possom Town, TN

View Les Casteel's profile

Les Casteel

160 posts in 3565 days

#7 posted 06-30-2010 01:16 PM

I am fortunate to own 12 acres of Arkansas. I have 10 to 12 HUGE hackberries. You have what we call “common or sugarberry” hackberry without a doubt in my mind. There are many, many sub-species of hackberry (20?). If you’ll notice everyone above is talking about the relative hardness? That’s because in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (RICHGREER) for instance the hackberry grows slower (in the river bottoms naturally, near the city streets by choice) and its genus is the “northern hackberry”. I’ve cut it in Iowa and I guess you could make something from it. Anyway, It is soft further north. Here in Arkansas we see natural rapid growth but for some reason it is harder. Usually, hackberry doesn’t grow in your area as much. I suspect you live in one of the areas of that has a bunch of iron in the soil. Reddish soil? Its alkaline and makes the tree faster growing and much, much harder. I lived in Oklahoma, in the red earth areas and hackberries were like ironwood, right next to osage orange (Bois D’Arc). Usually, hackberry is bright white when cut, when finished it turns the light brown you have. Don’t make the mistake I did. I cut some, made lumber, made outdoor chairs and they rotted in less than a year. It has zero rot resistance.

Thanks for sharing your work.

-- Les, Missouri,

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3564 days

#8 posted 06-30-2010 02:06 PM

I really appreciate all of the comments and information. I now feel like an expert on Hackberry trees. To be quite honest, I am a little sad that this tree wasn’t any larger. I have a few more sections left to play with to see what I can come up with. I know that I am going to take one section that is larger in diameter and make another mallet similar to this one, but larger. BTW, I used this little mallet last night for cutting a small mortise for some door hardware where I was installing a deadbolt lockset. After wacking a chisel pretty hard in cutting this mortise (obviously, I need to spend a little time in sharpening that chisel) I took a look at this little mallet. There wasn’t a mark on it. This stuff is pretty darn hard. No wonder I had to touch up my turning chisels several times while trying to turn this stuff.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4228 days

#9 posted 07-06-2010 06:15 AM

The barks is really unique. Is the bark hard enough to turn a vessel and keep some of it on a decoration?

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View mafe's profile


12104 posts in 3595 days

#10 posted 07-19-2010 01:00 AM

Wonderful little mallet.
That reminds me that it was making a mallet that broke my lathe…
Just bought a better and bigger model, hope it will be better for me!

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics