Introduction: Mallet in Under 1 Hour
A friend of mine, Adam Mackey challenged me to make a woodworking mallet in under one hour as part of his One Hour Builds Challenge. Before I get into the project I want to stipulate what the rules are of Adam's One Hour Builds Challenge. First, safety is the number one priority. Regardless of the time limit everything must be done in a safe way. Second, time spent waiting for glue to dry does not count towards the hour. Third, time spent pulling out a tool (say from under the workbench) doesn't count, but time spent setting the tool does count (i.e. adjusting the fence on your table saw).
Knowing these rules I set out to make a wooden mallet from some scrap walnut, cherry and maple I had laying around my garage. Throughout the pictures (and video) you will see a countdown clock running in the background. This helped me stay on time and helps you follow along. In this post I will show you how I did it so you can use up some of those scraps to build something useful, even if you have limited time available in the workshop.
Don't forget to check out the video above and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
- Scrap wood - I used some cherry, walnut and maple, but any hardwood will work.
- Finish (I used Watco Teak Oil, but any good finish will work)
Note: The links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
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Step 1: Cutting the Maple Outside Pieces
I went through my scrap bin and found some suitable boards. I knew I wanted to have some contrasting colours, so I first grabbed some hard maple which has a nice white colour to it.
First I cut it to length at 7" using my table saw miter gague. Then I set my fence to 3" and cut two pieces to width.
Step 2: Cutting the Walnut Inside Pieces
As I said earlier, I wanted some contrast in the wood, and what contrasts well with maple? Walnut of course. So I grabbed a small bit of walnut I had and cut it to 3" wide on the table saw.
I then set up my angle marking protrator to 2 degrees and marked two lines on the wood with the longer part measuring at 3" and the shorter part approximate 2 7/8". I went over to the bandsaw and set the miter gauge at 2 degrees and followed the lines. This 2 degree cut will allow wedges to be installed into the handle to hold the handle in snugly.
Step 3: Cutting the Cherry Handle Piece
For a handle I wanted a bit of scrap that was between 15" and 18" long. I happened across some cherry that was 17" and grabbed it. I then threw it on the planer and planed it down to the exact same thickness as the walnut from step 2. In the end it ended up being approximately 15/16" but anything from 3/4" to 1 1/4" would work as long as you make it the same as the inside pieces from step 2.
I then cut it to the width on the table saw, with my fence set at 1 1/2".
Step 4: Drilling Cavities
Too add some weight to the mallet I drilled out cavities with the intention of adding steel BBs.
I grabbed my 1 1/2" forstner bit and chucked it up into my drill press. I love using forstner bits as they make some beautiful shavings. I drilled in the center of two walnut pieces.
If you don't want to add weight, this step can be skipped.
Safety tip: When using large forstner bits make sure you have a firm grip on the work piece. If you are unsure if you can hold it, then you should probably clamp it to the drill press table.
Step 5: Glue 1/2 of the Head Together
In order to fill the cavities with BBs I needed to have the inner pieces glued to one side of the outer piece. So I took out my trust wood glue and spread it all over the walnut pieces. I then clamped everything together and let it cure (for about an hour)
Note, when I clamped it together I put both outer pieces in the clamps. This was to help ensure alignment of the walnut inner pieces.
Step 6: Adding Epoxy and BBs
There are two options here, you can either add the BBs and then glue everything together and you would have a deadblow mallet, or you can do what I did and epoxy the BBs in place.
I first unclamped the work piece and then took it over to my workbench. I grabbed an old sour cream container to mix the epoxy. I mixed up way more than I thought I needed (which of course, ended up not being enough). I poured some epoxy into the cavities, then steel BBs, then more epoxy, then more BBs, and continued like that until the cavities were full.
I left it to cure overnight.
I ended up overfilling the cavities a bit, but that was easily fixed by taking my belt sander to the surface until it was flush.
Step 7: Gluing the Other Half of the Head
I spread some wood glue on the mallet head and clamped it together. It was just that simple.
If you are making a dead blow mallet, it might be a bit more tricky to ensure that the BBs don't fall out when you are trying to clamp it together. Since I didn't do that, I have no tips for you!
Step 8: Trimming the Mallet Head
After every glue up in my life there has been at least one board that miraculously moved even though it was clamped tight. To fix that I went to the table saw and squared everything up. First I set the fence to just a bit smaller than 3" and ran the head through.
Then I set me miter gauge to 2 degree as I also decided that the ends should have a bit of an angle to them.
I ran both sides through taking off the bare minimum amount of material.
Note: be very careful with this procedure as there is a lot of blade exposed and it is very easy to get cut and loose a finger or worse.If your saw came with a riving knife or a blade guard, you should make sure to have those things installed.
Step 9: Adding and Chamfer and Sanding
I put a 45 degree chamfer bit in my router table. I then added a small chamfer to all sides of the mallet head.
I sanded the head using my random orbit sander from 80 to 180 grit.
Step 10: Cutting the Tennon in the Handle
The smaller hole in the mallet head should be 1" if everything went according to plan, but because I live in the real world I measured it first. I got lucky this time and it was exactly 1".
I marked a line around the handle at 3 1/2" from the top.
I then set up a fence on my bandsaw to make the tennon. I set the fence 1 1/4" away from the blade and that allowed me to cut 1/4" off each side. I only cut as far as the line.
Then I took the fence away and cut the remainder of the waste by following the line.
Step 11: Prepare Handle for Wedges
In order to add wedges to the handle there needs to be somewhere for the wedges to go. I first marked 2 spots at the 1/3 of the way across and 1/4" from the tennon line. Then I drilled 1/8" holes on the marks. These holes will act as reliefs for the handle to help it to not crack when the wedges are hammered in.
I lined up my fence so that the blade would be at the lined up with the drill holes. I first cut one side, then flipped the handle over and cut the other side. I made sure to stop once I had reached the relief holes.
Step 12: Shaping and Sanding the Handle
In order to make the handle feel better in my hand, it needed some shaping. I first tried to just add a round-over on the router table, but that was not enough. So I took out my belt sander, flipped it over and clamped it to my workbench. I used my belt sander to remove material from the handle. As I removed material I kept checking to see how it was feeling. I didn't have a real good idea of what I wanted, I just knew that it needed to be thinner so that it fit better in my hands. If you have larger hands, it might work without thinning, and if you have smaller hands you might need to shape it even more!
After all the shaping, I sanded the handle from 80 grit to 180
Step 13: Cutting Wedges
I grabbed some of the leftover maple from step 1 and cut some simple triangle wedges using my bandsaw.
Tip: make sure you orient the wood so that grain of the wood runs the same direction as the length of the wedges. (which is not what I did here) That makes them less likely to break when you install them in the end of the mallet handle.
Step 14: Attaching the Handle
Attaching the handle was a simple, just add lots of glue, then slide it into place. Don't forget to get glue in the spots where the wedges are going to go!
Step 15: Adding Wedges
When adding the wedges, I first spread some glue on them and then pushed them into place. The ironic part about building a mallet is that you need a mallet (or at least a hammer) to ensure the wedges are seated correctly. I just had to tap away until they won't move anymore.
I let the glue cure and then cut off the protruding bits of handle and wedge using my bandsaw.
Step 16: Finish Sanding
The spot where the handle and wedges had been cut off needed more work than the rest of the mallet, so I started at 120 grit. Then I went over the mallet again with 180 grit sandpaper on my random orbit sander. If I wasn't under a time limit I would have gone to a higher grit (like 240) but I was afraid I didn't have enough time.
For parts of the handle I had to hand sand as my sander couldn't reach everywhere.
Step 17: Adding Finish
My go to finish is Watco Teak Oil. Mainly because it is easy to use but also because I bought it one time for an outdoor project and I had lots leftover.
As with any good finish the first thing to do is smash it with your newly finished mallet. That gets the juices really flowing. Then I opened it up and wiped on the finish. After about 15 minutes, I wiped off any excess. Normally I would repeat this step, but as I mentioned before, I was under a time crunch and didn't want to go over the time limit. It ended up that I had 4 minutes to spare, but I wasn't willing to risk it!
Step 18: Enjoy Your Mallet!
The best part of every project, pretending to be Thor, God of Thunder! But in reality, you now have a wooden mallet that you can be proud of and it only took you less than an hour to build it. You will find many uses for the mallet and if you want to see this mallet in action you can check out on of my latest YouTube videos where I made a beer caddy. I used the mallet to hammer in some wooden dowels. Click here
If you watch the video at the top of the page you will see that I tried to throw and spin the mallet in the air and then catch it. I say tried, because I was eventually not successful and I dropped my brand new mallet on the hard concrete floor, dinging it up pretty bad. I suggest you don't do this unless you are a professional juggler.
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If you make one, I'd love to see pictures and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.