Introduction: Luxury Wood Carvers Mallet
Making something useful from trash is not only economically responsible but also keeps waste out of our landfills. This luxury wood carvers mallet is made from recycled HDPE (plastic number 2), leather, and scrap walnut. It has a spine of 3/8 in. threaded rod to hold the mallet together.
Carvers mallets are useful to have in the shop because unlike regular woodworking mallets or dead blow mallets, you will not need to pay attention to the orientation when using it. You can focus solely on the work piece.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- HDPE (Plastic Number 2) Containers (select the containers based on the color scheme you'd like)
- Large Can (I used a can that previously held pumpkin used for some delicious Christmas pies)
- 3 Hose Clamps (Used to keep the can from splitting apart under pressure)
- 1/2 in. Thick Plywood Circles
- Vegetable Tan Leather
- 3/8 in. Threaded Rod
- 3/8 in. Fender Washers
- 3/8 in. Nuts
- 3/8 in. Thick Walnut
- Contact Cement
- 2 part epoxy
- Brad Point Drill Bits
- Toaster Oven
- Nova Chuck
Step 2: Cut Apart HDPE Containers
I used a bandsaw, but feel free to use any tool you feel most comfortable with to cut apart the HDPE. Once I had the HDPE in strips as shown above, I used Fiskars cutters similar to this to do the final cutting. Cut enough pieces to fill the container (can) 5 times. This will be a little more than necessary, but it's better to have more than to run out.
Step 3: Melt HDPE
The slow process of melting the HDPE will take 2-3 hours to ensure that the plastic is heated throughout. First, fill the can full of plastic and set in the toaster oven on high (400 F is the max temp of my oven and it worked great). After about 30 minutes, remove the can and compress the plastic with a round piece of plywood in a vise. Use additional pieces of wood to press the plastic further than the throw of the vise. Add more plastic to the can and repeat until there is no longer space to add more plastic.
Once full, leave the can compressed in the vise to cool. Remove the plastic either by shaking the can or cutting it out if necessary. Cut off any additional flashing.
Step 4: Cut Leather for Handle
I cut 45 circles of leather that measured 1 1/2 in. in diameter with a bandsaw. These could have probably been cut into squares, but I didn't know how well they would turn on the lathe. Feel free to cut out squares instead.
I oped to use a 23/64 in. drill bit (one size smaller than 3/8 in.) to drill the holes in all materials (vs using a 3/8 in. leather punch). This allowed me to thread the materials onto the threaded rod holding everything together securely.
A trick that worked nicely for clean holes in leather is to run the brad point drill bit in reverse to score the leather then run it forward to drill through half. Flip the leather and repeat.
Step 5: Glue the Leather Together
Apply a heavy amount of contact cement to one face of the leather and force onto the threaded rod. Use washers and nuts to apply a clamping force to the leather.
Step 6: Turn Handle
Hold the threaded rod on the lathe with a Nova chuck and turn as you would any species of wood. I was surprised at how easy the leather turned with the carbide tools I made.
I applied a beeswax finish here, but I would suggest holding off till it is assembled to the mallet as I ended up making changes in the shape once it was assembled.
I used a threaded live center to hold the threaded rod on the tailstock. The wood cup is reused from my Perfect Wooden Sphere Instructable with a 3/8 in hole drilled in the center.
Carefully remove the threaded rod from the handle with a drill so you can use the bare rod for the following steps. I didn't experience any trouble removing the leather from the threaded rod using a drill to unscrew it from the leather.
Step 7: Rough Turn Head
Start by turning the mallet head round between centers. If you have a large enough chuck to hold it that would work as well. Because I didn't, I turned a tenon while between centers that I could later hold it in the chuck.
Drill a hole through the center undersized as before and thread onto the threaded rod.
Step 8: Glue Walnut
Thread two pieces of 3/8 in. thick walnut to the top and bottom of the mallet and attach using two part epoxy and let cure. I liked the look of a taper to the diameter of the fender washer (on the walnut) so that is the look that I gave it. You can shape this piece however you like. Because the mallet head is threaded, you can retract the threaded rod into the mallet head to turn the top and bottom flat.
Step 9: Embed Nut
Trace the exterior of a nut on the top of the mallet head and remove with a chisel. I marked the line using my marking knife that I made previously from a file.
Step 10: Assemble
Assemble the mallet by threading the handle onto the rod and glue another 3/8 in, thick piece of walnut to the base of the handle. Turn round and taper as desired.
Feel free to adjust the handle profile as you like and give the final taper to the mallet head. During this step I removed the mallet from the lathe numerous times to get the feel of it and make any changes to the grip or profile of the head.
Once happy with the shape, sand the HDPE, leather, and walnut with grits from 180-400. I reversed the orientation of the mallet on the lathe several times so it would spin in the opposite direction. This was mainly an attempt to remove the "fuzz" from the leather handle. Once happy with the finish, apply a beeswax coat by rubbing the entire mallet with a stick of beeswax while turning on the lathe. Then very carefully rub the mallet with a rag while the lathe is on to heat the beeswax and melt it into the mallet. Be sure that there are no loose sections of rag that can wrap around the spinning mallet. The beeswax is a durable finish for both the walnut and the leather.
Step 11: Finish Ends
Using a hacksaw (or metal band saw if you have one), remove the remaining all thread from the top and bottom of the mallet. I cut through the nut on top and once finished, dented the interface between the threaded rod and the nut to prevent anything from moving.
The ends were sanded flat using a disk sander and then sanded up to 400 grit as before using a palm sander. A finishing polish was applied using my lathe buffing system.
Step 12: Get to Work
Now that you have the most luxurious wood carving mallet, time to get started on your next hand tool project!