Joiners Mallet - first "actual" project

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Project by jamsomito posted 11-27-2017 03:31 PM 1394 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This joiners mallet ended up being more like Thor’s Hammer! I’m calling this my first actual “fine woodworking” project. I’ve been making things with limited tools for 15 years, but they’ve all been rough, or I didn’t have the tools I need to really start honing my craft well. I recently picked up a table saw, a ~25 year old Powermatic 63 in great shape, and decided I was going to make all of our Christmas gifts this year so I could get some more experience and try some new techniques. There was a lot of new-to-me going on in this project.

It’s made entirely out of scraps from some of my previous projects – hard maple and red oak. It was intended to be a joiners mallet for my dad for assembling or chisel work, but it ended up being a giant hunk for the next time he erects a pole barn (which he doesn’t do). The dimensions got away from me a bit. Oh well, I branded it #1 and I can’t wait to talk to him about my techniques and process.

Firsts for me:
1. Cutting a block lamination down from scraps. Turning junk from my shop floor into a precise, square brick was really satisfying. I cut the angle of the mortise into the middle chunks so I didn’t have to chisel it out. Everything moved a bit during glue-up so I had to mark the mortise after everything was dry, then figure out how to cut it all square to that. I used CA glue to put a wedge on one side that gave me the right angle and pushed it through the table saw. Table saw wasn’t high enough to make it in one pass so I flipped it over to do it again, and the block I glued on for the angle was above the fence! So I had to rig up a piece of plywood with some clamps to make a taller fence and it worked then. Then removed it all, used the new cut face to reference and made the other cuts. I used the miter saw once the top and bottom were parallel to cross cut the ends.

Bonus learning – had to find a spot inside to do a glue-up when it was too cold in the garage!

Nice and clean.

2. Resawing. I did a one-pass resaw on the oak for the mallet head (~2.5-3” thick) which burned a bit and I ended up having to sand them flat quite a bit. Tried the random orbital which turned out pretty uneven, so I clamped my belt sander upside down on my workbench and flattened them a bit that way. Ended up ok, but with a slight tilt to the surface. Good enough for a glue-up though. The next resaw I did was for the handle – I did 2 passes here and it worked much better. Just a quick pass over the belt sander was all that was needed for a glue surface and it worked much better. I also resawed the maple strips for the outside of the handle and glued them up in a bookmatched fashion which was kind of fun. These did not glue-up flat, so I had to do quite a bit of belt sanding on these to get them flat for a glue joint.

3. First tenon. I made a tenon jig for my table saw which worked great, but I needed the tenon to be about 5 inches long – longer than I could make on the table saw! So I cut it as deep as I could with the blade all the way up and finished it in a dado-style laying flat on the table. Problem is my blade height lock isn’t great and the blade moves slightly so it wasn’t as precise, and I don’t have a dado stack or a flat grind blade so it was pretty rough towards the base of the tenon. Luckily I left some room to sand it all down to fit in the mortise and it wasn’t a big deal. Definitely want a band saw if I’m doing this any more often…

4. First mortise and tenon joint. That feeling when after a long time sanding for the perfect fit and it drops right in with a soft tap… I won’t forget that for a while. So awesome.

5. First wedged tenon. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make a little wedge safely with a table saw or miter saw so I just cut it by hand with a cheap hand saw I had around. Worked fine, but some unexpected problem solving on this one. After the tenon was fitted to the mortise, pounding it in to lock the joint was also pretty satisfying and it was nice and solid after.

6. First time shaping on the belt sander. I cut out the shape of the handle on my jigsaw because I didn’t have a band saw. I don’t have a bench vice so I had to hold the piece while cutting with the jigsaw which was kind of sketchy. I cut half the curve, flipped the piece, and finished the other half of the line from the other direction. My saw kerf lined up perfectly but the offcut was still attached! I flipped it over and the blade had wandered in opposite directions by maybe 3/16”. Ugh. So I cut it off and brought it to the belt sander to shape the curve after. It was… imprecise. I could use a lot more practice with getting the feel right between surface sanding and material removal without digging in.

7. First time with a chamfer bit on the router. Was a little sketchy without a bench vice, but small cut so not bad.

8. First time with a chisel, ever. I cleaned up the inside of the mortise. I thought about chopping it all out, but opted to just leave the gap during glue up. It went fine. After chamfering the edges with the router I thought it would be cool to leave the tenon proud of the top of the mallet head and chamfer that too, but I couldn’t get the router bit in there so I had to chisel these to shape too. I learned a lot about the feel of chiseling with and across the grain. Chisel slipped once across the grain and I left a huge gouge in the top. Oh well… it’s supposed to be used and beat up right? Lesson learned.

9. First time finishing with BLO. I’ve always used water based poly in the past. Learned a lot about how to cut it down and thin it out AFTER I had applied straight from the can. I was surprised it was a lot like something like olive oil or similar… maybe even thicker. I soaked everything good until it wouldn’t soak up any more, let it sit for a half hour, wiped off excess, came back for a second coat in an hour or so, let it sit, wiped off excess, and let it dry. Yikes, it’s been a week and some edges are still drying. Looks really cool though. It brings out the chatoyance in the maple a lot more than the water poly I used – you can see the desk in the first picture that this maple is scrap from and the color and depth is way different between the two. I like them both.

10. “branding” with printer toner and acetone trick. I printed a mirror image of my initials for one side of the mallet, and project number ”#1” for the other side. I put the print over the mallet where I wanted it and rubbed it with acetone. It kind of worked… the #1 came out better than my initials on the other side but it was still pretty light. I’ll have to read up on this a bit more for the next one. I found rubbing harder helped, but I don’t know if I wasn’t giving it enough time or what.

Very fun project. Lots of new techniques and lessons learned. Turned out great except for my misjudging handle dimensions – I need some work on my designs, haha. I’m hooked. New bandsaw is on its way and I have about 6 more projects in the hopper!

Comments and critiques welcome. I appreciate the wealth of knowledge on this site!

5 comments so far

View Kilo19's profile


104 posts in 996 days

#1 posted 11-27-2017 04:28 PM

Sounds a bit like my adventure. I loved making mine. I made one, and it turned out more square then a “mallet” then made a second one and took lessons learned and applied to the second one. It was a fun project. I want to make one that is a lot bigger to use for more “bigger” pounding. Keep it up, now that you have the itch.

-- Justin

View Dave Polaschek's profile (online now)

Dave Polaschek

5379 posts in 1353 days

#2 posted 11-28-2017 12:52 PM

Good job. You made a tool and learned a ton in the process! Pretty satisfying, isn’t it?

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View madts's profile


1941 posts in 3111 days

#3 posted 11-28-2017 05:47 PM

Nice adventure, and well done.


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View Garret D., Rock Run's profile

Garret D., Rock Run

72 posts in 2567 days

#4 posted 11-30-2017 11:39 AM

You made a proper addition to the wackers and smackers set.

View Lalen's profile


176 posts in 1382 days

#5 posted 11-30-2017 06:53 PM

Nice job.. You were more ambitious for your first mallet than I was. Did mine out of red oak flooring a couple of months ago. its a fun project.

-- Lalen, Texas. "If it looks straight, it is straight" Jimmy Diresta

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