It’s no secret that I love hammers and mallets. In fact, it has been suggested that I have a hammer problem. This may be due to the fact that I have four drawers in my tool chest, each dedicated to a different type of hammer or mallet.
To the average person, a hammer is a tool to drive a nail. But a craftsman knows that hammers are used for much more. And having the right hammer ensures the task at hand is done with speed, precision, and without damage to other tools.
When we think of a hammer or a mallet, similar tools come to mind. However, the common factor between a hammer and a mallet is that we use both tools to strike a blow.
The main difference between a hammer and a mallet is that the head of a hammer is metallic and that of a mallet is usually non-metallic. As a woodworker, you will find that you need to use both these types of tools regularly.
What is Mallet?
Mallet is a hammer with a typically barrel-shaped head, such as a tool with a large head for driving another tool or for striking a surface without marring it. It has a long-handled wooden implement used for striking a ball (as in polo or croquet).
A mallet is a kind of hammer, often made of rubber or sometimes wood, that is smaller than a maul or beetle, and usually has a relatively large head. The term is descriptive of the overall size and proportions of the tool, and not the materials it may be made of, though most mallets have striking faces that are softer than steel.
Mallets are used in various industries, such as upholstery work, and a variety of other general purposes. It is a tool of preference for woodworkers using chisels with plastic, metal, or wooden handles, as they give a softened strike with a positive drive.
Types of Mallets
Mallets of various types are some of the oldest forms of tools and have been found in Stone Age gravesites.
1. Wooden Mallet
Wooden mallets are used in woodworking and carpentry to drive wooden pieces together, such as when assembling dovetail joints, or when hammering dowels or chisels.
Metal hammer faces can damage wood surfaces or the ends of chisels, and a wooden mallet will not mar either wood surfaces or tools.
A wooden mallet also makes it easier to control a chisel, since it strikes with less force than a metal hammer. A rubber mallet striking the chisel would not be appropriate because it produces too much of a bounce.
Prices for wooden mallets range from $10 to well over $30. But there’s little reason to buy expensive types, especially for ordinary do-it-yourself use. Skilled woodworkers, though, may well own several wooden mallets in a variety of sizes for use in fine joinery and carving.
Wooden mallets are usually made of beechwood, a medium-density wood that won’t damage workpieces.
2. Rubber Mallet
A rubber mallet is a lightweight hammer-like tool with a head made of molded rubber or hard plastic and a wooden or fiberglass handle. Rubber mallets, sometimes called soft mallets, are used when you need a softer blow than even a wooden mallet might make.
Rubber mallets bounce back after you deliver a blow to the item. So, be mindful of this and always wear safety glasses when using a mallet. Dead-blow mallets help reduce bounce-back. Also, the heavier the mallet (whether conventional or dead-blow), the less bounce-back you will experience.
The heads of rubber mallets may shred over time, especially if you use them for pounding sharp items like carpet tack strips. So, it’s good to replace your mallet if the head has become shredded or pitted.
Types of Rubber Mallets
Rubber mallets come in two styles: those with solid rubber heads attached to a handle, and those to which rubber pads are attached to the faces of a metalhead. These latter types often have rubber pads of two different densities on the opposite faces, and some even have interchangeable pads.
If you have a predominant type of use for the rubber mallet, you can purchase either a black rubber head or a white rubber head. For example, if you plan to use the rubber mallet mostly for assembling furniture or other interior uses, you may want to buy a white rubber mallet since it will not leave black marks.
Uses Of Rubber Mallet
- Form sheet metal since they are not likely to cause dents
- Shift panels of drywall into place
- Tapping bricks or pavers into the sand
- Gently tap ceramic or stone tiles into place
- Tighten up joints in luxury vinyl tile or in laminate flooring
- Tap carpeting onto tack strips
- Close paint can lid without damaging the can or lid
- Tap walls, flooring, or ceiling, using the rubber mallet as a sounding device
- Snug up joints in PVC pipe
- Vibrate concrete forms when making concrete countertops, tables, or vanity tops
3. Bench Mallet
The first is the Large Bench Mallet. Probably the most iconic woodworking tool behind the saw and hand plane, It is made from hornbeam and is perfect for driving a mortise chisel or any other task that requires some serious persuasion.
The angle of the mallet faces is perfect when working at the bench, striking the end of a chisel standing high above the benchtop. Turning the mallet sideways gives a more traditional flat face that is perfect for lower work or to persuade joinery together if you’re not concerned about a possible pressure mark or two.
The bench mallet is also the perfect tool for setting and releasing holdfasts and should always be close at hand in case Frodo gets chased into the shop by a giant spider.
4. Carver’s Mallets
The Carver’s Mallet is another iconic tool that many woodworkers have not embraced. The defining characteristic of the carver’s mallet is its round shape. This tool is specifically designed for driving gouges and also works wonderfully for finessing a bench chisel where the name of the game is precision.
As with any tool, the size of the mallet is paired with the amount of material being removed or the space available. The Large Carvers Mallet is wonderful for removing large amounts of stock without being so heavy as to cause fatigue.
The Small Carvers Mallet offers precision when using smaller tools and when precision is of the utmost. It can also get in and out of some pretty tight spots.
The Brass Carvers Mallet, one of my favorites, offers substantial heft close at hand and is the perfect choice when working with non-wooden handle tools or through-shank tools. The brass head is also perfect in tight quarters.
The heavy brass head and short handle provide plenty of force in tight quarters without sacrificing control. The small brass mallet is one that I find myself reaching for over and over. For me, it is the Goldilocks of carver’s mallets.
5. Dead blow mallet
While the previous tools are all designed to drive other tools, the dead blow is designed to aid in project assembly. The Dead blow has two soft, plastic faces that will not cause damage to workpieces while driving them together.
The beauty of the dead blow is that it doesn’t bounce. The head is filled with metal pellets that are free to move about inside the hammer and absorb the rebound energy. This ensures a solid strike, sending all of the force into the workpiece without wasting any energy.
Having the correct mallets and knowing when to use them helps projects go together more smoothly and with greater precision. Don’t take my word for it pick up a few new mallets and see what a difference they can make in your work.
Uses of Mallet
Mallets used as drumsticks are often used to strike a marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, metallophone, or vibraphone collectively referred to as mallet percussion. The sticks usually have shafts made of rattan, birch, or fiberglass.
Rattan shafts are more flexible than the other materials. Heads vary in size, shape, and material; they may be made of metal, plastic, rubber, or wood, and some are wrapped with felt, cord, or yarn. Heavier heads produce louder sounds, while harder heads produce sharper and louder sounds, with more overtones.
Mallets are commonly used as children’s toys. Lightweight wooden mallets are used for peg toys. Toy mallets are also used in games such as Whac-A-Mole. Another type of toy mallet is a plastic mallet made of soft, hollow vinyl, with bellows and a built-in whistle, so that when the mallet is struck, it produces a sharp, chirping sound.