First Mallet...

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Forum topic by Joshuah posted 06-28-2011 08:42 AM 1259 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Joshuah's profile


152 posts in 3257 days

06-28-2011 08:42 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question resource trick

I have decided to enter into the world of handmade tools, and of course I have no idea where to start since I have mostly bought all my current tools.

So…I have two current projects in mind; a mallet and a marking gauge topping the list.

My major questions are concerning design and what wood to use. I have Purple Heart, mahogany, Cyprus walnut, and the obvious oak and maple. Would one of these work, or is there something that would be better?

I am assuming the marking gauge is preference, or is that the novice in me talking? I have read many comments that a knife is best for the gauge…opinions?

Any Help would be greatly appreciated!

-- -Joshuah

7 replies so far

View JSilverman's profile


89 posts in 3177 days

#1 posted 06-29-2011 06:10 PM

hard, dense wood for the mallet- mahogany and cyprus would not be great- oak, hard maple would be great.

personal choice on the gauge (for wood) a knife blade would be my choice.

enjoy these projects- small but very satisfying and gives you some great tools for many years

plane making is next!


View hairy's profile


3004 posts in 4096 days

#2 posted 06-29-2011 06:43 PM

I have several mallets, different shapes and hardness of woods used. Make one. If it’s not exactly what you want, make another. Eventually you will find what works best for you in certain situations. I usually make them from scraps, so all I have is a little time and glue invested.

I use a scratch awl where many others would use a marking knife. Again, personal preference and the kind of work you will do.

I love making tools. Many of my favorites are ones I have made.

-- Genghis Khan and his brother Don, couldn't keep on keeping on...

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4211 days

#3 posted 06-29-2011 07:05 PM

You can make a Japan style marking gauge with a piece of hacksaw
blade for the knife. Real easy. I have one I made years and years
ago with a hacksaw blade and a wingnut and I use it more than
the various antique pin gauges I have.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3340 days

#4 posted 06-29-2011 07:35 PM

Beach and ash are good woods for mallets as well. Some of your old round mallets had a steel or brass band around the head, half way between the handle and striking surface. The band was heated red hot to expand it and while hot, put onto the wood, then cooled with oil or water. As it cooled it tighten onto the wood. then a couple of staples to keep it there. Many craftsmen would soak their mallets in BLO overnight then left to dry for 2 weeks. The result made the mallet heavier and the BLO made the striking surface a little softer so it didn’t damage the work piece – like a dead blow hammer.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View Joshuah's profile


152 posts in 3257 days

#5 posted 06-29-2011 10:07 PM

Thanks for all the input. I think that for the mallet I am going to use Hard Maple. It seemed like that is quite common.

JSilverman: thanks for the tip on using a knife scale for the marking gauge. I think that is what I will use for it.

Loren: in that style of marking gauge, would I just file the blade sharp? It seems like a hacksaw is a little too course for a marking gauge.

dbray45: is a rounded mallet the better way to go? I was thinking about a square one, but I do not want to damage the wood.

-- -Joshuah

View Bertha's profile


13569 posts in 3257 days

#6 posted 06-29-2011 11:09 PM

I’ve made mallets out of all the woods you list. The one I reach for most often has an ash head, figured maple handle, and walnut wedge. Whatever you choose, choose the woods you like looking at and holding. Choose carefully because it will become a highly prized and well used member of your shop. Good luck and keep us posted!

I almost forgot, test out different grips before you make it. Mine has an awkward tapered, square, fat grip that would likely (and rightly) be criticized here. Can’t say why, but my hand just instinctually grabs and directs it. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 3340 days

#7 posted 06-30-2011 01:18 PM

As for square or round – make both and choose for yourself, it is truly a personal preference. Size and weight also play a big part. The square heads have an angled striking surface.

-- David in Damascus, MD

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