Introduction: Turning Your Own Wooden Mallet
Hi, my name is Mike. I LOVE woodworking. I recently got a lathe and started turning in my shop. It dawned on me that there might be other people out there like me who have been doing some woodworking in their shop spaces and want to get into doing some turning. I’ve found it very rewarding to make gifts for friends and family and even make a little extra money making pens, cell phone holders and magic wands for kids!
Another thing you can do with the lathe, is make your own hand tools. First thing I decided to make myself in the tool department was a wooden mallet. Here’s how I did it.
The following steps can be used for both the head and handle. Just adjust your sizes for each.
Table saw and/or Miter saw
Drill press or Hand drill, but the press will make life easier.
Band saw (optional)
Finish (I used wipe on polyurethane for mine)
Step 1: Selecting Your Wood
If this will be used for chisel work, use a harder wood like Oak or Maple. If this will be used on more delicate assembly work, go with a softer wood, I used Poplar for this particular mallet and intend on the more delicate assembly work for this mallet. You could even go trendy and use some up-cycled/reclaimed/recycled/reused/old/rescued pallet wood to make your mallet. You might be surprised in what kinds of woods you could find in a dirty old pallet. Oak, maple, mahogany, you just never know. Plus, pallets are cheap, and since you are going to literally be beating the snot out of this thing over its life, why spend money on good wood?
Step 2: Prepare Your Material
Determine what size of mallet head you want to end up with. For this one, I shot for about 3 1/8” wide head, 6” long and with a 1 3/4” wide handle that's about 12” long. Start with material that's a good inch or so larger than you want in the end, we will trim it off in a later step.
If you’re not sure what size handle you’d like, check your hammer, does it feel too small, too big, or just right? Make adjustments from there, this is YOUR mallet, so customize it to fit your hand.
If you are using large, solid blocks of wood, skip down to step 4. If you are using smaller pieces, keep going through step 3.
Step 3: Laminating Your Pieces
If you are using small pieces of wood or scrap to make your mallet, now is the time to laminate them together. Depending on the size of your desired end mallet size, you’ll want to cut them down to the appropriate lengths. I shot for something in the 6” long range, so be sure and go a little longer than what you’re wanting, we will be trimming it down before we put it on the lathe.
Be sure and use enough glue to “cover” your pieces of wood. Cover, there’s no need to waste so much glue that you have gobs of it spilling out when you apply clamps, some squeeze out is good, dripping all over the place? Not necessary at all. If you find your pieces slipping around too much when you apply your clamps, sprinkle a little table salt on the glue, this will give you some bite and stop/curb the slipping.
Be sure and use plenty of clamps. If you think you have enough clamps, apply some more. We want the strongest possible joints we can make, using plenty of clamps means you’ll be successful with this step. You are shooting for 40lbs of pressure per square inch (PSI) with the clamps. Hand tight as hard as you can and you’ll hit your mark.
Let the blank sit (ideally over night, but 4 to 6 hours should be fine). Remove the clamps and use your miter saw to square off the ends of your mallet head blank. Use your table saw to further square up the blank into a perfect square.
Step 4: Prepare Your Blanks for the Lathe
Use a square or straight edge to find the center of your blank. Draw a line from corner to corner with a pencil or pen. Now you have your center.
Step 5: Attach Your Head Blank to the Lathe
Use your live centers on your lathe and get this thing chucked up and ready to turn! Get your centers as perfect as you can, reset if need be, the more square it is to start, the easier it will be to turn down.
Step 6: Attach the Handle Blank to the Lathe
Same as the head piece, after marking your centers, turn the handle down to a size that feels comfortable for you. Also, be sure and not turn the top of the handle down past the size of the forstner bit you will use later to cut a hole in the head. I used a 1-3/8" bit.
Step 7: Turn It Down
Use whatever method you're comfortable with on the lathe to turn down your head and handle. I'm sure someone will tell me I'm using the wrong tools for the job (remember, I'm new to the lathe?), but I prefer my carbide tools for this job. To me, these are just big pens and I've been using carbide on my pens since I got started. It works for me and I get the results I'm looking for, so thats what I use. You do what works for you, just be smart and stay safe.
Step 8: Turn the Handle
Play with your handle...for the mallet. Add some ridges, curves, finger slots or grooves, or go the quick and easy route like I did and just make it smooth and round. It gets the job done too.
Step 9: Sand Your Parts
You'll do the majority of your sanding on the lathe, and should only need to do any hand sanding if you find something you miss. I take everything down to 220 in this stage. Remember, this is a tool for shop use, not a display piece. You can go as smooth as you like.
Step 10: Ready the Head for Assembly
I made a simple, 90 degree holder to accommodate the size of the head. Then I used a 1 3/8" forstner bit to drill a through hole into the head of the mallet. Make sure you know what size you're going to use before you take the handle off the lathe. Get it as close as possible using some calipers, then you can fine tune the shape with sand paper during assembly.
Step 11: Cut and Shape the Head and Handle
I take the head over to the miter saw and cut off the ends to make sure they are good and square. This will also remove the holes and marks from your live centers on the lathe.
Step 12: Measure for Placement
I cut one end of the head and then measure back to the edge of the handle hole. Transfer that measurement to the other side of the head and that's where you will cut to ensure both sides of the mallet are the same.
Step 13: Clean Up
I like to use my trim router and a 1/8" round over bit to give the head a finished look. Just run the bit around each end of the head. This gives a nice soft finished look to the head of the mallet.
Step 14: Ready the Handle for Assembly
I like to cut a slot in the end of the handle, roughly 1/8 of an inch wide so you can cut a custom wedge to fit into the handle. This will secure the handle to the head with some wood glue and friction. I like to use a contrasting color of wood for this step. I had some small Walnut cut offs from a friend and used some of that.
Once your handle and wedge are attached, cut the excess off as close to the head as you can at the bandsaw. Then use your disc sander (stationary or handheld) to get the top of the head and handle flush.
Step 15: Make a Slot in the Handle
I use my bandsaw and cut a roughly 1/8" wide slot about 2" long at the top of the handle. This will be used to drive a wedge into the handle and press it out against the head of the mallet.
Step 16: Apply Your Finish of Choice
I used some wipe on Polyurethane for my mallet. You could use lacquer, shine juice, polycrylic, or just an oil finish if you wanted. Again, this is shop tool, protect it, like you would any other tool, but it doesn't need to have a show quality finish. You'll likely be needing to reapply some sort of finish as you use it and it wears off, so go with something user friendly (thus my choice for the wipe on).
Step 17: Use It
Now that you have an awesome new mallet, go make something with it! Not only do you have a new tool, but you made it yourself! The best part about these mallets is you can make them in about an hour (not including lamination time if you use smaller pieces to make the head).
Step 18: Video Available Over at the Youtubes!
TwelveFoot made it!