Mallets are a necessity for any woodworker and dead blow mallets have their advantages. When striking a surface, it does not rebound like a traditional mallet, but falls flat and heavy. This can be helpful when trying to squeeze together difficult glue joints or whenever you'd like to minimize damage to the working surface.
Not finding any wooden dead blow mallets online (without the use of CNC equipment), I decided this would be an excellent challenge. The weak point of this mallet is where the head and handle meet together. Since not as much force is required to use a dead blow mallet compared to a traditional mallet, I don't think I will see failure with this project. However, being an experiment, it may fail. If it fails, I will be sure to update this instructable.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
These are the materials and tools I used. They aren't necessary as the project can be made with less tools if you don't have access to everything listed here.
- Lead or Lead Shot if you don't want to melt your own
- 5 Gallon Bucket of Water
- Contact Cement
- Spray Lacquer
- Mapp Gas Torch
- Table Saw
- Band Saw
- Belt, Spindle, and Palm Sander
Step 2: Melt Lead
Using a foundry would be the best, but since I do not have a foundry I used a Mapp Gas Torch to melt the lead. Doing this above the water will allow small drops of molten lead to fall and cool into small pellets.
I ended up with almost 32 oz of lead pellets, but I did not need that much.
Step 3: Glue Handle
For the handle, glue together two 3/4 x 1 1/2 x 12 inch boards to form a handle blank measuring 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 by 12 inches. Clamp with even pressure.
Step 4: Assemble Bottom Half of the Mallet Head
While the handle is drying, construct the head of the mallet. The sides of the mallet measure 6 inches long and 3 inches tall. The top and bottom of the mallet head are 6 inches long and 1 1/4 inch wide.
Cut an angle in the bottom of the mallet head. This will be what holds the handle to the head. Using a miter gauge, cut a 3 degree angle from square having the bottom opening 1 1/4 inches wide.
GLUE ONLY THE BOTTOM BOARDS IN PLACE! You will need access to the top of the opening to drive the wedges in place. Use the top board to act as a spacer while gluing the bottom board in place.
Step 5: Cut Tennon
Using a tenoning jig, cut tenons that fit tightly inside the hole at the bottom of the mallet head.
Step 6: Shape Handle
To shape the handle, I drew in 1/4 of an inch in from each side with a straight line from the top and bottom.
I repeated this step on the front and back going in 1/8 of an inch (not shown).
Using a band saw, cut out the profiles and keep your scraps. You will use them as wedges later on.
Use a belt and spindle sander to smooth out the edges of the handle and bring to the final shape.
Step 7: Shape Bottom Half of Mallet
Using the table saw, cut the bottom of the edge profile using a 10 degree angle on the blade. I marked half way up the mallet head and slowly moved the fence closer and closer to the blade until the middle was reached . Remember to use a push stick to keep all your fingers attached.
Step 8: Attach Handle
I used a band saw to cut the slots for the wedges. Do not cut completely to the shoulder or the handle could split. Using the off cuts from shaping the handle, make some longer wedges. When making the wedges, be sure the thinner end is just thicker than the slots in the handle. This will ensure they don't bottom out.
Cover everything in glue in drive the wedges in place. Wipe away any excess glue.
Once the glue is dry, remove the wedges. I used my band saw again but you can just as easily use any other long reaching saw.
Step 9: Glue Top in Place
Glue the top piece in place. Unfortunately I don't have any other pictures of this, but once it's glued in place, sand the top smooth using a belt sander. This will be important for the next step.
Step 10: Shape Top Half of Mallet
Use the same technique as before, cut the top half of the mallet head profile to 10 degrees. Use push sticks to keep the top of the mallet in contact with the table saw and fence.
Step 11: Attach First Face
I used a piece of 3/8 inch wood for the business ends of this mallet. Glue one face in place and let dry.
Step 12: FIll the Mallet Head
If you are looking to have a dead blow mallet, do not fill the head 100% full.
I filled the mallet head about 60% full. Having never made one before, this was just a guess. If anyone knows what percentage is best, be sure to leave a comment!
Glue the other face in place and let dry.
Step 13: Shape Mallet Head and Final Sanding
Using a flush cut saw, remove the excess wood from the faces of the mallet. I usually use a piece of paper or painters tape to keep the kerf of the saw from cutting where it shouldn't. Use a belt or palm sander to smooth out all the other edges of the mallet.
Step 14: Apply Finish
I used some spray lacquer as it gives a nice finish and no hammering will occur on the finish itself. However, from what I've read online, linseed oil is best for mallets.
Step 15: Apply Leather
Using contact cement, glue leather to each face of the mallet (follow the directions on the bottle). Once attached, trim the leather around the mallet.
Now that your mallet is finished, it's time to make use of it on your next project.
Please feel free to share your own mallet designs and ideas in the comments!