Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wooden Mallet

Last summer we cut down a birch tree that had been planted too close to the house. I was kind of bummed, because I liked the tree, but it wasn't doing well, and had to go. I burned some of the wood, but saved some of the larger chunks to let them age.

I was farting around in the garage yesterday, contemplating a spring cleaning. Instead, I opted to make something. I've never made a mallet before, and this was kind of a "fly by the seat of your pants" project. I didn't draw up any plans, and I didn't really take any measurements. I just went with what felt right.

*Those are my wife's candles. I have nothing to do with them.
Here's the log that I cut the head from. It was too big to make one clean cut with my miter saw, so I had to rotate it. This resulted in pretty uneven cuts.
Here you can see what I'm talking about when I say "uneven cuts".

I used a chisel to try to get some somewhat flat sides. This was a trial and error process to get it small/square enough to finish it on the table saw. As I said, I was doing this in lieu of cleaning, so my benches had a lot of crap on them. I decided it would be easier to do the shaping on the driveway than to clean the bench off. For this stage, I'm using an old chisel that was a little beat up. I didn't want to risk accidentally driving a good chisel into the concrete.

This was probably the most laborious part of the project. It required a lot of trial and error. It was also extremely satisfying. There was a lot of table saw to the disk sander, and back again, to get to this point. Even though the wood sat for a good while, it was still a little green. I suspect that this head will develop some cracks, which I've decided I'm fine with.
Shaping this handle went a lot faster than it did for the head.

Here you can see that the tenon has been cut.
I forgot to take any picture of the mortise being cut. Basically, I rough drilled out the hole, then finished shaping with chisels and files. It was kind of tedious, but as always with mortise and tenon joints, when they finally fit, it is tremendously satisfying.
Testing the fit.
I did some shaping on the handle, and smoothed out most of the edges. I also cut the angle onto the mallet faces. I figured out the angle by holding the mallet in striking position, using my elbow as the pivot point, and drawing a line straight out from there. That sounds awkward. There's tutorials on line that explain it better than that.
I made the wedge out of a piece of trim from the head. Once driven in, it's really solid. Like I wrote earlier, I expect it to develop some small cracks, as the wood wasn't completely dry. But I think it will be okay. It might just give it a nice, aged look.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. It's a nice reminder of the tree that I enjoyed.