RocketScientist, inspiring and impressive. I look up to you, good sir.
Steps 2-5: Preparing the Shaft
Steps 6-7: Preparing the Core
Step 8: Assembly
Steps 9-12: Wrapping
Step 13: Repeat steps 2-12 three more times
Step 14: Evaluation
Step 1: Materials and Tools
-Wooden dowel, ideally, birch or rattan but it can be hard to come by. I used 9.5mm Tas Oak. I believe most commercial mallets are 8mm. You'll need enought, obviously, for however many mallets you are making. Generally, 40cm mallets are good, so a 0.8m or 1.6m length would be ideal for 2 and 4 mallets respectively.
-Chair tips, the things you put on the ends of legs of chairs to stop them skidding. I think I used 19mm size, leftovers from the cajon project. Anything much over 19mm will result in a mallet way to large. I used rubber, plastic ones would give a different tone.
-Larger wooden dowel, to fit in the chair tips.
-Yarn, Wool or Cord, there are no real definitions here, I used thin 4ply wool
-Glue, I just used PVA, you could use epoxy or whatever you feel is strongest.
-Small saw (or large, it doesn't really matter I guess)
-Sandpaper, fine and coarse
-Drill/Drill press (not pictured)
-> Drill bit the diameter of the shaft (not pictured)
-Tape Measure/Ruler (not pictured)
-Safety gear - glasses, ear protection, etc. (not pictured)
Step 2: Preparing the Shaft - Sanding
Note that most shafts in commercial mallets are not 'finished' with oils or finishes, or if so, very lightly. Ergo, the shaft of the finished mallets will feel as they do now.
Step 3: Preparing the Shaft - Marking
Mark along the shaft for the lengths of your mallets. As said earlier, 40cm is a pretty good length, perhaps a bit longer for those with larger hands.
Step 4: Preparing the Shaft - Cutting
Step 5: Preparing the Shaft - Checking Length
Step 6: Preparing the Core - Marking and Cutting the Large Dowel
Step 7: Preparing the Core - Drilling the Large Dowel
The hole should go about 2/3 the depth of the dowel so place the drill bit next to the dowel to see how far down to go. This point can either be estimated while drilling (I did it this way), or you can wrap a piece of tape around the point so you have a visual indication of how deep to go.
All of my holes were off centre, but as they were all uniformly imperfect, they ended up all the same and worked fine. So don't panic if they're a tad off!
This was done at a school workshop, apologies for the lack of pictures.
Test this with the shaft. If you're happy with the way it feels, move on.
Step 8: Assembly - Glue, Tip and Sand
Push the chair tip onto the larger dowel.
One of my large dowels was a bit smaller than the rest for some reason, so one mallet's chair leg tip was not as tight as I wanted it to be, so I just used a small strip of paper to line the chair tip before pushing it on to the large dowel.
To finish, use the coarse sandpaper, followed by the fine sandpaper, to smooth the bottom end of the shaft so you don't give yourself splinters while playing.
Step 9: Wrapping - Start the Wrap
http://www.bostonconservatory.edu/sites/all/files/potter_mallet_wrap.pdf (This one is very, very good. Definitely worth clicking)
I'm a leftie so you may need to flip the hand orientations.
You'll want to begin by wrapping the loose end of your yarn around the shaft of the mallet at the base of the core (see pic).
Wrap it around two full times then bring the yarn over the top of the core, right in the centre. From here (from leftie POV, everything in bold can be opposite-ified):
1. Hold the mallet shaft in your right hand, the bottom resting on your lap or between your legs.
2. Turn the mallet 90 degrees counterclockwise with your right fingers.
3. Use your left hand to bring the yarn over the existing wrap making a cross in the centre of the top of the core of the mallet.
4. Turn the mallet 45/135 degrees (your choice) counterclockwise with your right fingers as in step 2, but with a different angle.
5. Repeat step 3.
6. From here, just keep turning and wrapping trying to fill the largest gaps in the wrapping.
Step 10: Wrapping - Keep Going
Its best to have the instrument at hand so that you can test how the mallet sounds, either as a general sound or in comparison to other mallets. To do this, wrap the yarn around the shaft 6-8 times so that the yarn remains tight around the last core-wrapping, hold the mallet in a playing position and hit a bar. Obviously, more wraps will make it softer and less will give it a harder tone.
People have different methods of keeping track of wraps. Some count the number (mind-numbingly painful, but pays off), some measure how much they've wound by armspan. I simply wrap until it looks about right, test it and refine it from the sound it creates. In a sense, it could give a better result, but it does depend on your musical ear.
When you're happy with how your mallet sounds/looks/tastes, move on.
Step 11: Wrapping - Sewing the Top
Anyways, follow the following steps:
1. Push the needle into the top of the mallet, on the inside edge of the circle made in step 10. It should come out on the outside edge of the same circle. Pull tightly. See images.
2. Rotate the mallet counterclockwise by a tiny little amount and repeat the process.
3. Work your way around the top of the mallet until you are back where you started.
4. Move on to the next step.
Beware, for this step and the next, of creating slip-knots which become really tight and impossible to untie. This happened to me in this very mallet being photographed and I was nearly unable to finish it. To prevent this, move the needle slowly and steadily, untangling any twisted yarn.
Step 12: Wrapping - Sewing the Bottom
To finish the mallet, bring the needle back to the top, push it back in as in step 11 and tie a knot. This is achieved by pushing the needle through the loop created by the yarn BEFORE it is pulled tight.
For a more posh result, instead of simply bringing the yarn to the top of the mallet, push the needle into the mallet on the way up. It will probably come out before reaching the top, so pull it through, then push it back in where the yarn came out, still upwards, until you've reached the top. I'm sure it barely makes a difference, but it feels pro when you do it this way.
Step 13: Finished Homemade Mallets
Now make 3 more.
<A sound comparison will be uploaded in the coming weeks, when busy-ness levels decrease>
Step 14: Evaluation
1. Sound lovely, if a bit tinny and thin. Perhaps could be solved by having a harder, smaller core and more wraps.
2. Heavy, not just at the head, but for the shaft too. When I weighed the mallets, they came to the same weight as the commercial Inaki Sebastian Medium mallets, but they were heavier in the shaft and lighter in the core. This is not ideal. A better weight distribution could probably have been achieved with thinner dowel and a heavier, more-wrapped core.
3. The shaft was too thick. 9.5mm feels noticeably different to 8mm, especially with 4 mallets. I haven't done 8mm with Tasmanian Oak, so I don't know how strong it would be, but I'll be sure to try that next time.
4. The shaft felt really good with a light sanding. I found this surprising. I expected it to be full of splinters and flaky bits.
If anybody does decide to take up this project, I wish you all the best of luck, show us the results of your toils!
If you have any comments or suggestions, I'd love to hear them!