Introduction: How to Make a Traditional Joiners Mallet

About: I have been working with wood since I could stumble into the shop with my dad. About a year ago I moved into a house with no space for a full shop so I decided to take up all hand tool wood working. That start…

A joiners Mallet is a great first tool to make. not only is it an extremely useful tool, but it is a great exercise in skills. this simple project can be made in a day with basic tools, and in this case is made from firewood.

Tools needed. #4 Hand plane setup for smoothing:

Scrub or foreplane:


Marking Gauge:

Bevel Gauge:

Frame saw:

Panel saw:

Bevel up Low angle plane:

Round bottom spokeshave:

Marking knife:


Bit set:

Chisel Set:

Block Plane:

Supplies used

Oak Firewood: free craigslist, look for dried or something that has been sitting out for a year or more.

Epoxy: Resin Hardener

Boiled Linseed Oil:

Past Wax:

Related videos

Frame Saw Build:

BLO and Past Wax:

Paul Sellers Mallet build:

Step 1: Flatten the First Side

Chose a piece of firewood that you think you can get a mallet head out of. I like a piece of wood with figure ad that will often make the head last longer but it makes it more difficult to shape. I chose the side that is closest to flat and then use a #5 heavily set hand plane or scrub plane to flatten that one side. This then becomes the reference side that I make all my marks off of.

Step 2: Cut Other 3 Sides

With one side to measure off of, I mark on the end of the firewood the sides to be cut off. My Mallet heat is about 3 ½” high and 3” wide, but you can make it whatever you think looks good. I start by cutting off the two sides 90 degrees to the reference face so that I can follow the line on the reference face with the saw. To cut It I use a Frame saw that I made a while ago here: but you can use a hand saw it will just take a bit longer.

Step 3: Cut to Length

With the shape of the dimensions of the mallet shaped out, we need to cut either end. I like to cut them at about 5 degrees but again whatever looks good to you. I make the cut with a Crosscut hand saw in the vice of the bench. I draw out the cut lines with a square and bevel gauge.

Step 4: Cut a Handle

You could easily cut a handle out of firewood the same way you cut the head out of the firewood.I used a scrap of White Oak that was ⅞” thick. You want the handle to have a taper. Mine was 15” long the top was 1 ½” wide and the bottom was ¾” so it tapers a total of ¾” from end to end. This will wedge it in the mallet head so that it can not fly off. I made the cut with a rip filed panel saw in the bench vice.

Step 5: Layout the Handle on the Mallet

I use a marking knife to find the center of the handle and the center of the mallet head. Then lay the mallet head on top of the handle so the center lines match up and there is about 1 ½” - 2” of the handle sticking above the head. Next, make a small nick on the other side of the handle at the bottom of the mallet and the top. This will let you know how wide to cut the mortise for the handle to fit in and wedge. Next, with a square carry those lines from the nicks across the top and bottom of the head.then set the mallet on across the head to mark out the second dimension of the mortice.

Step 6: Cut the Mortice

I like to start the cut with a Brace and bit. I chose a bit that is about 1/16” thinner than the mortise and bore out the center of the mortise with that. (this is the boring part) next use a chisel to remove the waste. After taking some out I check the handle to make sure it fits. Then remove more until the handle fits nicely from end to end. You should be left with 1 ½” of the handle sticking up above the head. It should be difficult to drive it in and it should fit very tightly. After a year or so of use it will slide another ½” or so

Step 7: Shape the Head

I like the top of my mallet to look like it is rounded, but you can do whatever you feel like. This is quickly done with a #4 hand plane or spokeshave. For the two ends I use Bevel Up Low angle Jack Plane as it pushes a bit easier. Then just the #4 to smooth the other sides. I also like to put a very heavy chamfer on all edges. This is easily done with a block plane or spokeshave.

Step 8: Shape the Handle

This is a very personal step so everyone has a preferred grip. It is meant to be held up close to the head unlike a hammer. But I just put a chamfer on the 4 corners where my hand connects with it. Then chamfer the edges of the bottom and top.

Step 9: Finish and Assembly

My preferred finish for hand tools is Boiled Linseed Oil and paste wax. One or two coats of BLO then apply a light coat of Paste Wax let it set for 20 mins or so then buff off the excess. I have a whole video on the process here.