Introduction: Brazilian Redwood/Purpleheart Mallet
A few moths ago, I was making a table in my workshop in Brazil from a hardwood called Massaranduba, which in English is known as "Brazilian Redwood". This wood is incredibly strong and dense. I had a few off-cuts from the table legs, and said to myself: "This is hard enough and heavy enough to make a hammer head!" So that's what I decided to do with it. And since I've been trying my hand at building furniture, I've realized a wooden mallet would come in really handy for those situations where I don't want to whack on wood with a steel hammer.
I went to the local hardware store to buy a hammer handle, [which in the US would typically be made of hickory], and much to my surprise came home with two incredibly hard and heavy, wine-colored hammer handles. [Which cost me RS$10, which at the exchange rate at the time was about a-buck-fifty US per handle]. At that price, and since I had the off-cuts, I decided to make two. I found out from my father-in-law that this wood is called Roxhino in Portuguese ["Obrigado Moacyr!"], and in English is known as Purpleheart wood.
So here's how I made my "Martelo de Massaranduba/Roxinho", or my Brazilian Redwood/Purpleheart mallets.
Step 1: Mark the Middle
First I used my newly upgraded marking gauge to mark the middle of the Brazilian Redwood block, then punched a guide hole with a punch tool. This is to mark the spot for drilling.
Step 2: Drill a Hole
This is a lot easier said then done when you're trying to drill a hole through wood as dense as Massaranduba!
First I tried a 1/2" auger bit, which proved almost useless and put a huge strain on my drill press. Then I tried a spade bit, which was even more useless and I got really worried about burning out my motor. What finally worked was a 1/2" "titanium" bit in a hand drill. But with only a half-inch hole, this left a HUGE amount of filing to be done by hand. (My arm ached for days!;-)
On the second one I made, I found a much better technique - First I drilled three smaller holes (1/4") with the drill press, and then drilled a 1/2" hole in the center. This got me much closer to fitting the handle, and much less filing by hand.
Step 3: File, File and Then File Some More
This by far was the most difficult and tedious part of the process. I used a variety of shapes and sizes of files in the process, and got the best upper body workout I've had in quite some time!
Step 4: Prepping the Handle
I cut the Purpleheart handle down a few inches, top and bottom, on my newly renovated Miter Saw workstation to get the right length. Then I gave it a once over on the belt sander, and then a file to narrow the top of the handle a bit. And then I drilled a hole at the top of the handle on the drill press. This hole serves as a guide point to cut to to make way for a wedge. Then I drilled a hole at the base of the grip, to add a grommet and lanyard later.
Step 5: Cutting a Slot for the Wedge
I wrapped the handle in an old rag, so as not to do too much damage, and clamped it in a bench vise, and then used my Japanese Ryoba pull-saw to cut a slot for the wedge. If you have a bandsaw, I'm sure that would work well, but I don't have a bandsaw;-)
But the pull-saw did the job pretty well. This saw is EXTREMELY sharp, so it didn't have much trouble getting through the Purpleheart.
Step 6: Cutting a Wedge
In preparation for this project, I bought a few metal hammer wedges, but with the strength and density of this wood, I was concerned that the metal wedge might either not go in, or end up splitting or cracking the wood, so I decided to make wooden wedges.
I put a scrap of Massaranduba into a small machinist vise, cut with the pull saw, and then sanded them down to size.
Step 7: Fitting the Handle Into the Head
This part is tricky. On my first mallet, I thought I had filed enough out of the hole, but after pounding the handle in (including with a small sledge hammer), the handle came up about an eighth of an inch short of clearing the head. Once the handle was that far in, there was no way of getting it out without possibly destroying the handle or the head. So I decided to fill that space in with wood glue and saw dust. (I'm pretty sure there is no chance of the head slipping off).
The second time around, I made sure to file enough out of the hole so that the handle would clear.
Step 8: Inserting the Handle and Wedge
First I dripped a bunch of wood glue into the hole, then inserted the handle. Then I put a piece of scrap wood on top and pounded it in. Once the handle is in, I dripped glue in the cracks, and then inserted the wedge. Then I dripped glue into whatever spaces there were where the eye meets the handle. (Make sure to save some saw dust from the cutting/sanding/filing process... It makes for great filler when mixed with wood glue!)
Step 9: Trim the Wedge and Fill the Gaps
Once the glue/saw dust mixture was completely dry, I cut the tips off the wedges and sanded. Then checked for little gaps, and added glue and sawdust where necessary.
After all the gaps are filled, and all the glue/sawdust is dry, I gave it a final sanding with a 180 grit sandpaper.
Step 10: Insert Grommet for Lanyard
I like to be able to hang my tools on my pegboard, so I decided to drill a hole for a lanyard. The grommet was inserted with a few touches of super glue gel.
Step 11: Coat With Spar Urethane
The final step was to give these two beauties a coat of spar urethane, so that they won't lose their reddish/purple hue;-)
Step 12: The Finished Product
It was more work than I expected, but I'm very pleased with the final product.
These mallets are almost to pretty to whack wood with;-)
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