Rawhide and hdpe mallets

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Project by duckmilk posted 11-17-2019 12:37 AM 687 views 1 time favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I had been wanting to make myself a rawhide mallet for some time and when the mallet swap came up, I joined. Rawhide mallets are hard, but not hard enough to mar a project. I’ve seen them in use in forging for shaping hot, delicate pieces of steel.

I went to Walmart and picked up some rawhide dog chews which I soaked in water and cut into 4 1/2” wide strips.
I rolled them up wet to see how it would work and had enough for 2 mallet heads.

Then they were unrolled and kept in the proper order, placed in a ziplock bag with shellac and left overnight to soak.

I re-rolled them as tightly as possible, wrapped them with thin waxed plastic from a milk jug and secured with 4 pipe clamps for a few days. I should have used shiny steel flashing for this because the plastic didn’t slip over itself well when tightening the clamps leaving a slight wrinkle along the side. I also wished I had used amber shellac because they came out pretty white.

Then I took them to the bandsaw to square up the ends and did a poor job on one because they weren’t quite the same diameter on each end. One ended up being quite a bit shorter than the other, so that one was mine :)

You can see I had already started laying out the handle mortise.

Cutting the mortises was a mess because the inside was still wet and rawhide boogers were coming off the drill bit.

A brad point bit eventually did the best job and I let them dry a few more days. Still, cleaning up the mortises was painfully slow using a coping saw and chisels, with skew chisels working the best. As they continued to dry, rasps worked pretty well. The blue tape is to even out the difference in diameter so I could drill straight holes.

All I had for handles in the correct thickness was tight grained oak when I wanted mahogany, so I couldn’t put lipstick on these pigs. Oh well, sigh. I got the handles fit and put copious amounts of amber shellac on the surfaces of the heads to color them a little. Handles got blo.

Then I saw on youtube a guy making a Damascus mallet out of hdpe plastic. So I picked up some containers from work and started to cut them up. Man, were these things tough! I ended up using a hand saw and the band saw to get them cut into strips.

Then spent hours that evening using metal shears to cut them up into little pieces. I used a cheap mug and a tin can to heat the pieces to melting in a toaster oven at 350 degrees. It required little layers at a time and a large dowel to smash them into a solid mass to minimize voids. There were a few voids on the outside, but as they were turned, seemed to mostly disappear.

I took them to my friend LJ Putty who put them in his lathe and also turned the handle. Thanks Putty!!

The mortise in the head was roughed up with a round rasp and the handle put in with epoxy.

My recipient was GrantA, who was also my sender and sent me this awesome hammer.

Thanks Grant!
Also, a thank you goes to Keebler for running this swap!

Thanks for looking!

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

22 comments so far

View KelleyCrafts's profile


4095 posts in 1343 days

#1 posted 11-17-2019 12:47 AM

Ingenious Duck! Excellent work as usual. Very creative. The HDPE mallet will especially be super handy. Very original selections man. Kudos.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View anthm27's profile


1599 posts in 1714 days

#2 posted 11-17-2019 01:06 AM

That was a great read, I took my time with all that.

What great ideas and experimentation, truly unique and going back in time using the raw hide.
And you’ve jogged my memory, My grandfather was a fitter and turner and I have a very very vague memory that he had a raw hide mallet. He was from Scotland learnt his trade in the ship yards on the Clyde bank of Glasgow. (I digress)
Great ideas that came together brilliantly.
I see you did the build two trick with the raw hide, The Only way to go as we have discussed before. Did you do two of the plastic headed??


-- Hand Skills provide freedom.

View HokieKen's profile


11986 posts in 1742 days

#3 posted 11-17-2019 01:11 AM

Outstanding Duck! I like the HDPE because it’s unique. I love the rawhide because I have a tawhide mallet and it’s a very frequently used tool. Replacement inserts aren’t cheap though. Now I can roll my own :-)). Great work as always man!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View woodcox's profile


2386 posts in 2616 days

#4 posted 11-17-2019 01:20 AM

Awesome work, Duck! Both are interesting builds with great results.

-- "My god has more wood than your god" ... G. Carlin.

View duckmilk's profile


3933 posts in 1928 days

#5 posted 11-17-2019 01:22 AM

Thanks guys! Yes Anthony, I made two of both as always because I always screw one up ;-))

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View duckmilk's profile


3933 posts in 1928 days

#6 posted 11-17-2019 01:25 AM

Kenny, if you make one with a solid rawhide head, you can just trim off the damaged ends and keep on whacking. And, I saw a video of a guy who made a hdpe one and drove a nail into a log, they are tough.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View jeffswildwood's profile


4247 posts in 2581 days

#7 posted 11-17-2019 01:33 AM

Duck, this was really some creative work! Nice buddy and a great idea!

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View swirt's profile


4546 posts in 3576 days

#8 posted 11-17-2019 03:17 AM

Quite a fascinating process. Thanks for all the extra photos and description of your process.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

4444 posts in 1186 days

#9 posted 11-17-2019 03:19 AM

Nice work, Duck! There were some problems along the way, but you worked through them and had a couple great mallets for Grant!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Lazyman's profile


4486 posts in 1991 days

#10 posted 11-17-2019 03:45 AM

I think you win the award for most uncommon materials on the mallet swap. Nicely done.

I inherited a rawhide mallet from my dad and I use it all the time. It is amazing how hard they are. I might have to try making one for a friend of mine.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View duckmilk's profile


3933 posts in 1928 days

#11 posted 11-17-2019 04:36 AM

Thanks everyone, your comments are very appreciated. For those who didn’t follow the thread, I’ll post the links there as well. Lots of great mallets were built from these guys.

Here are the links to the inspiring and educational videos I found most useful:



I hope it helps someone who would like to make one or the other :) I’ll post these links on the swap thread also.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View GrantA's profile


2114 posts in 2011 days

#12 posted 11-17-2019 03:04 PM

Excellent work duck! I love em and know I’ll get lots of use out of both, so long as I keep the rawhide one put up so Bo doesn’t find it bahaha
Thanks a lot!

View GR8HUNTER's profile


6810 posts in 1316 days

#13 posted 11-17-2019 05:42 PM

you took two uncommon materials and made 2 excellent mallets GRATZ DUCK GREAT JOB :<)) GRATZ TOP 3

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View 489tad's profile


3727 posts in 3615 days

#14 posted 11-18-2019 02:01 AM

Great mallets Duck! I like seeing different techniques and hit that mark..

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View EarlS's profile (online now)


3416 posts in 2952 days

#15 posted 11-18-2019 03:01 AM

Brilliant work Duck!!! I recall seeing the HDPE damascus mallet head on youtube and thought it was really creative.

Hopefully Bo will leave the raw hide mallet alone.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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