Introduction: Rawhide Mallet From Dog Bone

About: Unsatisfied discovery. I will always take pride in what I've discovered, but never let that pride hinder me from discovering better, further, deeper. I am a student, a maker, and a future biomedical engineer.

Time and time again I’ve heard stories of my father’s legendary rawhide mallet: a mallet harder and tougher than the human mind could comprehend. Yet, somehow by a canine’s canines, it was destroyed.
As I grew up, we considered together how we could craft a mallet of this caliber, never quite fulfilling our plans.
Far too recently, it all clicked. Somehow I had failed to see the connection between the rawhide of a mallet and the rawhide of a dog treat. This little detail will be the crux of this tutorial.
As you walk through this process with me, look out for “...My bad:
I’ll use this phrase when I want you to know that I made a mistake and I don’t want you to do the same!

Step 1: Materials

As with all of our projects, we want to make the most of what we have.The materials for this project are very simple.

1 wooden block (for the handle)

1 rawhide dog bone (for the mallet)

1 screw (to bring the two together)

For my block, I decided to make use of a rotten, eaten out log. We were forced to cut down a black cherry tree and this particular piece was left on the ground to be eaten by bugs and ruined by water, so naturally I had to salvage what I could.

For the rawhide bone, I chose a bone so large it scares the dog that's supposed to eat it. (Fine Bella. If you won't use it, I will)

The screw will be nothing special, just something I find laying around in the garage.

Step 2: Test Your Rawhide

Take your bone and cut off the endpoints

... My bad: I did this to be able to fit my bone in a pot of water but it cost me a lot of rawhide and I should've just not worried about having the whole bone in the water at once.

Place your bone in a pot and fill it with water. Then place it on a stove on medium heat. I learned that the higher the temperature of the water, the harder but more brittle our rawhide will dry. I tried to keep mine at about 150 degrees fahrenheit.

Once it is soft enough, pull out each piece and flatten it as much as possible to get a sense of how much we have to work with.

Take a small piece that you will not be able to use and cut it into small strips to test in different conditions.

The biggest thing I wanted to know was how fast my hide would dry, so that I would know how fast I would need to work when I pulled it out. The answer: a very very very long time. If it takes you less than 3 days to roll your mallet when that time comes, then you will be plenty fast enough.

My first idea was to soak my hide in hot vegetable oil, but found that this made it snap much too easily. My water test gave me the hardness and flexibility I was looking for.

Step 3: Make Your Handle

If you used a broken down log like me, begin by finding a healthy spot that will give us enough material for the handle.

Use a table saw to cut this spot into a blank.

For my handle design I wanted something very comfortable and quite custom to my hand. Because of this, I looked at many designs for inspiration then made my sketch around my hand holding the block.

Make your rough cut with whatever tools you see fit. I used a hand saw, a dremel, and a wheel grinder.

After matching the shape of your sketch, make your life easier by making about a quarter inch bevel around the edges of your rough cut. This will guide you in the contouring necessary for a comfortable grip.

Use sand paper or a dremel to continue rounding out your edges until you're happy with the radius.

At the top, thin out the area that will go inside your mallet head to something like a square.

Sorry!!! I got excited and impatient. If you want a sneak peak of what your finished handle will look like, take a very lightly damp rag and wipe it down.

... My bad: I made the connector portion of my handle WAY too short. Make yours longer than mine! Hopefully your mallet head will have larger than the 1" diameter for which my handle connector allowed.

Step 4: Roll Your Mallet Head

Pick what rawhide strips you plan to use for your mallet. Keep in mind that your mallet can only be as long as your narrowest strip (sounds so profound, but I promise it's not).

Soak your strips in water on a stove. I decided I wanted mine to dry a little harder than they did the first time, so I kicked the heat up and tried to keep my water at 175 instead of 150 degrees fahrenheit.

When it softens, pull out your rawhide and begin rolling. If your rawhide is still very hot, put down your pride and put on some gloves. No one is impressed by your high heat tolerance.

I began with my largest piece first to provide a nice base for the rest of the rolling. Remember, you have plenty of time, so there's no reason to rush. It can be very slippery and easy to lose grip so do not be afraid to restart if you don't feel you're rolling tight enough. We want the least amount of air possible between layers.

The most difficult part is moving onto the next piece while maintaining the integrity of your roll. Starting your next piece right where your previous piece ended will have the least air, but will be the most difficult to hold on to. I chose to sacrifice the space and start each new piece on the opposite side as the previous strip ended, which was much easier.

When you are satisfied, hold it tight and put zip ties evenly across the part of the roll you plan on keeping. I chose to double up on my end points. I'm not sure if doubling up actually changed anything, but at least it made me feel cool.

VERY IMPORTANT- Stand your roll up on the zip ties and try to decide what animal it looks like. I vote shrimp. Let your roll dry, and continue to tighten the ties as it dries.

... My bad: I broke the oven. I literally broke. The. Oven. Don't do that. ',:~{/

Step 5: Assemble

We need to create the hole into which we will tightly insert our mallet.

Begin by placing your handle peg against your mallet and marking its outline with a pencil. Drill a hole in the mallet with roughly the diameter of the smallest length of your handle peg.

Next, expand your round hole into the not so round shape of your peg. I truly struggled with this part. I felt as though I tried every tool in the world, all for naught. Eventually, an amazing discovery was made. They make tiny jigsaw blades?! Of course. Everyone knew but me. I believe a scroll saw could also work quite well, but I do not own one, so do not take my advice.

When you think your hole is just nearly large enough for your peg STOP. Your rawhide should be flexible enough for you to tightly jam in your handle. Once your handle and mallet head are happily conjoined, you can drill a hole halfway through and insert a small security screw (has anyone written an instructable on alliteration?).

Step 6: Finish

Should you so choose to put any sort of finish on your handle, the mallet is easy enough to disassemble.I would recommend an oil finish (such as tung or linseed), rather than a chemical varnish (such as polyurethane). This is for two reasons: 1. We want a more natural feeling finish so that we don't create a slippery handle; 2. It's beautiful wood, please don't put a plastic-y finish on it, you'll break my heart (please excuse the run on and this improper parenthetical phrase. I wasn't sure how else to describe what I was feeling.)

Using any sort of saw, you may remove excess rawhide from the mallet.

For the future:

Aforementioned, I should have found a way to preserve the end pieces of the dog bone. I believe keeping the bone in tact would have allowed me to roll the mallet with fewer segments, resulting in a tighter mallet.

Relating to what is written immediately above, despite my efforts, the mallet was a tad looser than I hoped it would be.

I hear it is common after the making of the mallet head to soak or coat it in shellac to provide an extra layer of toughness. I have not personally tried it.

Finally, take pride in your work; but never let that pride inhibit you from working better, further, deeper.

I may not have made the mallet of which my father's legend told; but, heck, it whacks. That's all I can really ask.

...My bad: I'm sure I made far mistakes than I mentioned in this piece. If you spot one, please let me know through a PM or in a comment below.

Thank you for following along. ):^{)

Woodworking Contest

Participated in the
Woodworking Contest