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Making and Using Tools - Percussion Tool


A Different Mallet by Scott Grandstaff

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Do you have a great mallet?

I mean a mallet you can get ugly with and pound brutally with wild abandon? Sculpting and outright medium duty timber framing? Takes a lick'n and keeps on tickin?

Well, I didn't.  Oh, I've had mallets.  Must have made a dozen of them over the years.  All eventually failed but one.  They were either too light or they would crack or get beat up too soon.  I tried all the local woods one after the other. Nothing would really hold up.  Finally, in desperation, I cut disks from some commercial plywood flooring and glued them up with small bolts (electric motor bolts the long thin kind) set in to keep them all together.

The through hickory handle was drilled out to take some poured lead up top for more weight and I made a leather tab/hanger to be able to hang it up so's I could find it easier.  Good mallet, it's served me well for the last decade.  But it wasn't heavy enough for some tasks and I didn't exactly feel great about brutish work with it. 

Well...  Roy Griggs put a bug in my ear with a picture of an antique mallet.  It was a pip using hard sole leather for it's stuffing.  No way am I finding a big fat stash of sole leather nearby and cheap though.  So, I let the idea lay at the back of my brain for a few days.

Now, here comes the part of the tale that some of you are not going to like much.  The truth is, there is only so much you can get from the big box Borgs.  They sell a lot of stuff but the selection isn't exactly endless.  The quality is passable in some instances and it isn't passable in others.  If everything you do has to come off the shelf from the Borg, you lead a Home Depot life.  I'm terribly sorry, but that's how it is. 

If you want more than this, you pay for real.  You wait like a hungry spider for just the perfect materials to surface.  You keep your eyes peeled and scrounge wherever you go and whatever you see.  And you prepare yourself to work for it, when the materials do show up.  Because pre-made and pre-finished are not so likely to appear.

Well, I was scrounging material when what should appear?  But a scrap of "pipe blind".  In industry sometimes you need to temporarily blind off big pipes for maintenance and such, so they make reinforced plastic materials for this job. 

This particular stuff is poly based with linen cloth layers so it's amazing strong but not terrible hard.  I suspect it will last and last but not beat up my mortise chisel handles much.   First order of business was getting some disks.  I used a hole saw and a heavy 1/2" drill and it tossed me around like an angry little girl with a rag doll, but it worked.

Here are the disks cut out and some of the waste material from the in between. You just do your best not to waste any more than you have to.

Next of course was to make the holes bigger to stack over the central rod of the mallet.  I used a Forstner bit and it cut well, but it was a lousy choice.  Next time I'll regrind a spade bit with edge flutes to work like a Forstner somewhat, but have the center point be a lot bigger to center the bit over the hole saw pilot hole better.  This will get the holes in the center of the disks a lot better and make it easier to turn it true in the end.

Rounding up hardware was next.  It happens that the cross arms on medium sized power poles use 5/8" threaded rod.  This is plenty beefy and the price is right.  This is something you can also buy at most large hardware but the cost takes some of the fun out of the project. 

Also shown are some huge flange washers from bridge construction and the big thick square washers from the same power pole cross arms.  Plus nuts to fit, both square and hex.  I took a hack saw and cut the flat nuts in 1/2 for top nuts. They're still plenty strong and with the 5/8" rod and thick washers etc, there is no need for more weight in the mallet.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.

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Swan Chisels



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