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I agreed to turn a carving mallet for a fellow woodworker. He brings me green ironwood that is about 3"-3.5" in diameter, with the pith. He says he doesn't care if it cracks but it seems like a waste of effort unless I can deal with the pith. Wondering if I can just drill out the pith and replace it with a dowel. Might even be better to make it 2 pieces and just make the head from ironwood, drill out the pith, put a tenon on the handle but I'm worried the handle will crack or break as the wood dries. I'm open to suggestions, advice.
 

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Sounds just what I had on the mallet I posted recently. The ironwood had some pith and a couple tiny cracks were starting. I didn't want to take a chance since I was using it for whacking things. I like your idea about drilling out the pith and doweling it. If there isn't that much it should work. That is definitely better than nothing. Capping the ends with a different wood could also be a option. You will still have the effect of the iron wood that way. As far as the handle go I wouldn't use it for that unless you can cut the pith away and make a split handle.
 

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I think you are on the right track … drill the pith out of the head, and turn a separate handle. Do you have enough wood to turn a handle without getting into the pith? As a 'bonus' you could fill the drilled out space in the lead with BB's or lead shot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The section of trunk he brought me is about 3 feet long so I could turn up to 3 full length mallets, or 6 mallet heads. The challenge of turning a whole mallet is that I doubt I can drill straight enough to follow the pith over 12", and I don't have a drill bit that long anyway. I floated the idea of using a different species for the handle and he didn't object although I'm sure he'd rather have the whole thing ironwood. Ah! But I could make it 2 pieces and use an accent wood between handle and head, best of both worlds. The unknown for me is how much that ironwood will shrink.

Here is the sample mallet he wants me to copy.

Wood Brick Gesture Brickwork Material property
 

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Sitting here thinking about it, if I drill out the pith and insert a dowel the ironwood will just crack anyway since it's not the pith causing the cracking but the different contraction rates of the wood shrinking as it dries. Basically I'm replacing one pith with another. I think it will have to be drilled, rough turned, dried, then turned again. I'll talk it over with the fellow and see what he wants to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Maybe if you can figure out a way to infuse the pith with some type of acrylic polymer resin like the cool mallets from Blue Spruce or epoxy?

- ElChe
Yeah if I were making a business of turning mallets but this is a one off favor. It would be cool. Once upon a time I would have tried it just for the learning experience and to satisfy my curiosity but these days I have enough stuff to do. BTW, I'm pretty sure they use a vacuum chamber to pull that resin, I read up on a few years ago.
 

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Get you a long auger bit and drill out the pith.
Then rough turn it; a little over size.
Dry it in the microwave.
Having the pith removed should help the drying process and might balance the rate of shrinkage between the inside and outside. Don't know this, just thinking.
When dry, then fill, dowel, load with shot , or whatever before finish turning.
 

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Green wood covers a large and varying amount of moisture content. Depending upon MC could have water flying off the wood while turning or feeling slightly damp to not noticing anything damp or wet.

Without seeing picture of end grain would be more concerned with MC than pith right now due to weather & temperature swings seeing here in NC! Your piece of Iron wood not losing much water weight this week. I never worry about pith in wood less than 4 or 5 inches in diameter.

Yes, better to let your pieces of wood hang out for a month or two getting acclimatized. Since already discussed cracking and splitting with owner of the wood would just turn him a single piece mallet and a two piece mallet and call it quits. Micro waving or other forced drying methods not a great idea but if into busy work try it!.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
... just turn him a single piece mallet and a two piece mallet…

- Wildwood
That's what I proposed last night and he agreed. I'll turn a one piece now and prepare a mallet head for later. That way he has a mallet to use but I can make a back up mallet next fall.

Thanks everyone, the feedback helped.
 

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Rick, do you know where this Ironwood comes from? I ask because all the Ironwood I've ever seen the pith has cracks in it while growing and before the wood is cut.
I do have a bow stave I got from someone in the east that's labeled Ironwood, but looks nothing like the stuff growing in the desert southwest…. Jerry (in Tucson)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I believe the guy told me it came from Illinois. It's hornbeam, which is hard but not nearly as hard as desert ironwood. Apparently ironwood is just a catch-all name used for many different hard woods.
 
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