Introduction: Wooden Dead Blow Mallet

Picture of Wooden Dead Blow Mallet

Mallets are a necessity for any woodworker and dead blow mallets have their advantages. When striking a surface, it does not rebound like a traditional mallet, but falls flat and heavy. This can be helpful when trying to squeeze together difficult glue joints or whenever you'd like to minimize damage to the working surface.

Not finding any wooden dead blow mallets online (without the use of CNC equipment), I decided this would be an excellent challenge. The weak point of this mallet is where the head and handle meet together. Since not as much force is required to use a dead blow mallet compared to a traditional mallet, I don't think I will see failure with this project. However, being an experiment, it may fail. If it fails, I will be sure to update this instructable.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

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These are the materials and tools I used. They aren't necessary as the project can be made with less tools if you don't have access to everything listed here.



Step 2: Melt Lead

Picture of Melt Lead

Using a foundry would be the best, but since I do not have a foundry I used a Mapp Gas Torch to melt the lead. Doing this above the water will allow small drops of molten lead to fall and cool into small pellets.

I ended up with almost 32 oz of lead pellets, but I did not need that much.

Step 3: Glue Handle

Picture of Glue Handle

For the handle, glue together two 3/4 x 1 1/2 x 12 inch boards to form a handle blank measuring 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 by 12 inches. Clamp with even pressure.

Step 4: Assemble Bottom Half of the Mallet Head

Picture of Assemble Bottom Half of the Mallet Head

While the handle is drying, construct the head of the mallet. The sides of the mallet measure 6 inches long and 3 inches tall. The top and bottom of the mallet head are 6 inches long and 1 1/4 inch wide.

Cut an angle in the bottom of the mallet head. This will be what holds the handle to the head. Using a miter gauge, cut a 3 degree angle from square having the bottom opening 1 1/4 inches wide.

GLUE ONLY THE BOTTOM BOARDS IN PLACE! You will need access to the top of the opening to drive the wedges in place. Use the top board to act as a spacer while gluing the bottom board in place.

Step 5: Cut Tennon

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Using a tenoning jig, cut tenons that fit tightly inside the hole at the bottom of the mallet head.

Step 6: Shape Handle

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To shape the handle, I drew in 1/4 of an inch in from each side with a straight line from the top and bottom.

I repeated this step on the front and back going in 1/8 of an inch (not shown).

Using a band saw, cut out the profiles and keep your scraps. You will use them as wedges later on.

Use a belt and spindle sander to smooth out the edges of the handle and bring to the final shape.

Step 7: Shape Bottom Half of Mallet

Picture of Shape Bottom Half of Mallet

Using the table saw, cut the bottom of the edge profile using a 10 degree angle on the blade. I marked half way up the mallet head and slowly moved the fence closer and closer to the blade until the middle was reached . Remember to use a push stick to keep all your fingers attached.

Step 8: Attach Handle

Picture of Attach Handle

I used a band saw to cut the slots for the wedges. Do not cut completely to the shoulder or the handle could split. Using the off cuts from shaping the handle, make some longer wedges. When making the wedges, be sure the thinner end is just thicker than the slots in the handle. This will ensure they don't bottom out.

Cover everything in glue in drive the wedges in place. Wipe away any excess glue.

Once the glue is dry, remove the wedges. I used my band saw again but you can just as easily use any other long reaching saw.

Step 9: Glue Top in Place

Picture of Glue Top in Place

Glue the top piece in place. Unfortunately I don't have any other pictures of this, but once it's glued in place, sand the top smooth using a belt sander. This will be important for the next step.

Step 10: Shape Top Half of Mallet

Picture of Shape Top Half of Mallet

Use the same technique as before, cut the top half of the mallet head profile to 10 degrees. Use push sticks to keep the top of the mallet in contact with the table saw and fence.

Step 11: Attach First Face

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I used a piece of 3/8 inch wood for the business ends of this mallet. Glue one face in place and let dry.

Step 12: FIll the Mallet Head

Picture of FIll the Mallet Head

If you are looking to have a dead blow mallet, do not fill the head 100% full.

I filled the mallet head about 60% full. Having never made one before, this was just a guess. If anyone knows what percentage is best, be sure to leave a comment!

Glue the other face in place and let dry.

Step 13: Shape Mallet Head and Final Sanding

Picture of Shape Mallet Head and Final Sanding

Using a flush cut saw, remove the excess wood from the faces of the mallet. I usually use a piece of paper or painters tape to keep the kerf of the saw from cutting where it shouldn't. Use a belt or palm sander to smooth out all the other edges of the mallet.

Step 14: Apply Finish

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I used some spray lacquer as it gives a nice finish and no hammering will occur on the finish itself. However, from what I've read online, linseed oil is best for mallets.

Step 15: Apply Leather

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Using contact cement, glue leather to each face of the mallet (follow the directions on the bottle). Once attached, trim the leather around the mallet.

Now that your mallet is finished, it's time to make use of it on your next project.

Please feel free to share your own mallet designs and ideas in the comments!


Mikhandmaker. (author)2017-06-05

Beautiful mallet! I love it
Well done

Kris82 (author)2017-05-31

Good Instructable. Have you used this hammer yet and how is it holding up? I never thought about melting lead into a water bath.

tomatoskins (author)Kris822017-06-01

I actually just finished it a few days ago. But it honestly feels really solid to me.

deluges (author)2017-05-31

Simply stunning. The pictures are amazing and the craftsmanship top notch, thank you for sharing. I favorited it and will try to make one soon

dustin_little (author)2017-05-30

This is brilliant. I will attempt to make one asap. hate the rubber deadblows cheers!

Tuomas Soikkeli (author)2017-06-22

Great that you made lead pellets by yourself! Mallet looks very beautifull too!

Thanks! It was much more cost effective to make my own.

That's crazy cool, keep it up!

procter (author)2017-06-01

Excellent Instructable, thanks.
I think your making of lead shot in a bucket of water with a blow torch is so elegantly simple that I laughed - brilliant!

My understanding of physics and Newton's second law, tells me that the principle of a 'Dead' blow is that it doesn't bounce (much), so delivers less force, more gradually, and so protects the surface of the target. This is absolutely pivotal if you are tapping something like a sheet of glass.

Therefore, the greater the compression on the hammer-head at impact, the more gentle the blow on the target, while delivering exactly the same 'force'.
(note: same force as another hammer that doesn't bounce, as opposed to one the rebounds)

So my question (#1): Does the lead shot compress on impact?
I think the answer is YES, but it will deform and not resume its original shape, therefore will eventually need replacing to remain effective.
Solid lead, enclosed, will not compress materially and therefore is of no benefit other than mass.

So my question (#2): Will the face of the hammer compress sufficiently?
I think you can tweak the surface material to suit your needs when you make the hammer.

You could possibly use some Trump hide which is very thick and very elastic and can be thrown out when past its use-by date.
tomatoskins (author)procter2017-06-01

Thank you for the nice complement! You are correct that the force applied by this hammer and one of similar size and weight (that doesn't move within) are the same. The difference is the time that the equal force is applied over. In physics this is referred to as impulse or the integral of force over time.

You are correct that the lead shot will compress on impact. However, I don't think that over time the shot will fuse together and become a solid mass of lead. Because of this, I don't think it would need to be replaced, but time will tell.

The leather does compress somewhat. But the veg-tan leather shouldn't need to be replaced anytime soon.

mrspock212 (author)tomatoskins2017-06-05

after you get the lead you want just melt hot glue over it to keep it in place

tomatoskins (author)mrspock2122017-06-05

The point of a dead blow mallet is that the weight inside the mallet moves. If you just want to add weight, then gluing it in place would work just fine.

wemja (author)tomatoskins2017-06-05

I don't think that lead compresses, it is more that there is a slight delay between the wood and the lead "delivering" their force. This inertia of the head greatly reduces the rebound causing the dead blow effect.
If you were to fill the mallet completely with lead shot the compression would be the same but there would be no second "impact" and thus no force to counteract the bounce back.

Ofcoure this is just speculation, and someone would need to do some tests to see if this is the case.
Also it wouldn't matter what material is inside as long as it can freely move around in there and has a significant weight. Plain sand should work since the wood isn't that heavy. Only downside would be that you need a slightly larger compartment to hold the sand making the hammer a bit larger.

marksstudio (author)2017-06-03

Melting lead over a bucket of water.... genius! That is a great tip. Thanks man. Well done.

Moose Dr (author)2017-06-02

I am concerned about the toxicity of lead, especially molten lead. Could one use steel ball bearings instead?

gregjd5000 (author)Moose Dr2017-06-02

I would like to guess that any dense material will work, but you may want to avoid anything that will rust, especially if you live near the water. Good point though!

tomatoskins (author)Moose Dr2017-06-02

You surely can! I selected lead as it has a low melting point and has a higher density compared to steel. 11 g/cm^3 vs 8 g/cm^3

pierre93 (author)2017-06-01

good job! very clear tuto

khpeter (author)2017-06-01

This is a very nice project. thank you.

If you are concerned about the handle to head joint you can extend the tenon up and through the top surface. That will divide the chamber into two separate sections. Fill each of the sections with 60% lead shot. Both sections will act the same and deaden just as effectively plus the handle should never come loose. Some commercial mallets have angled striking faces which could also be incorporated into yours.

ale409 (author)2017-05-31

Nice work but why didn't you put a small screw through the top to the handle to hold it in place while letting the shots pass through?

theguido (author)ale4092017-05-31

^ This guy is on the right path. It looks great but you are right to worry about the handle. It could be connected through the head for more stability with basically no negative impact on the function of the hammer. Just be safe using it!

Kevanf1 (author)theguido2017-06-01

Agreed. I personally would have looked at holding the handle in place with one or possibly two wooden dowels side by side. You could still do this even with the finished, and quite excellent, mallet. If you used a light beech wood dowel it would add aesthetic contrast/interest/beauty to the tool next to the darker sides.

relbatto (author)2017-06-01

genius idea, it could stand having the handle tenon extended through the top , but the leather pads on the outside to stop marring are a grand concept, the beauty of the design of a simple object is the marriage of art to antiquity, this deserves recognition, thanks for the instructable

papashanty (author)2017-05-31

Very detailed your instructable.

I'll try to do it.

Nice work!

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics graduate studying Mechanical Engineering. I love making things and doing anything outdoors (especially SCUBA diving). I am ... More »
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