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A Mallet for Mortice Chisels

Over the years I have used a number of different mallets to pound a mortice chisel. The search may have ended.

Until about a year ago I was using one of Dave Jeske's (Blue Spruce Tools) ...

This is beautiful to look at, beautifully made (as is everything he makes), is a pleasure to use with bench chisels, however at 16 oz it is too light for a mortice chisel into hard woods.

For morticing I preferred either a Thor (about 20 oz) or the Veritas (19 oz). While not significantly heavier, they focus the downforce and this is more efficient.

Here are the Thor and Veritas alongside a long-discarded Marples (only 14 oz).

The Thor is a great mallet. I purchased it for convincing furniture parts to get closer together with each other, however it makes a great mallet for chisel work when wanting to work quietly or reducing vibration. The downside it that it looks like something that a motor mechanic would use .. which is where the Veritas comes in. The Veritas is a good design. My only gripe (easily fixed) is that the handle is a little too slim for my hand. I want this to be longer as well, but that probably reflects the mass/downforce limitation. It would be great to see a 2 lb version of this hammer produced for morticing. Rob, are you listening ...?

What I want in a mallet for morticing is something that has about 32 - 38 oz, is relatively compact for this weight, and will not damage the unhooped wooden handles of a Western mortice chisel. This would not be an issue if I used Japanese mortice chisels as I have a few gennou, including one that is 450 gm (16 oz). Interestingly, this lighter hammer seems to have more downforce, possibly because it is focused on a small area? The problem, however, with steel-headed hammers is that they destroy wooden handles. I'd rather replace the mallet than the chisel handles.

What brought matters to a head this weekend was the recent release by Blue Spruce of a 24 oz Joiner's Mallet in infused acrylic (which should make it indestructible).

It has been given two thumbs up by Chris Schwarz ..

So why didn't I just order one? Well I am still waiting for The Chair to arrive so I may complete my measurements and start building one (hopefully tomorrow!), and I had time on my hands and a plan in my head ...

Put me in front of a bench with spokeshaves, rasps and a few scrapers, and I am as Happy as Larry (translation:

A bit of Karri for the head (heavier and more interlocked than Jarrah) and Curly Marri for the handle (softer, "chewy", I think will absorb vibration well), and bit of brass ... This is what I came up with ...

The faces have leather for cushioning the chisel handles. The mallet handle is oval in cross section, approximately 1 1/2" x 1" and 10" long. The head is approximately 5" long x 3 " high and 2 3/8" wide.

The overall weight of this mallet came in at a little over 38 oz. How did it manage this in a relatively small head? It is down to the 1/4" thick brass plate that was added (peened) to each side ..

In use this mallet is in a different class to the others for morticing. It certainly helps in punching the chisel through hardwoods ...

Today I replaced the thin leather on the mallet heads with pieces off an old horse butt strop. This is about 1/8" thick and firm. It is attached with hide glue, of course 

A bit of fun …

Regards from Perth


November 2013