I Made a Mallet


Kelly and I have done a lot of crazy how-to projects, mostly just for the sake of doing crazy how-to projects but, occasionally, in the service of this blog or our books. Lately, I’ve been thinking of paring down our disparate activities to only the most useful. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the skill I need most would be carpentry/woodworking.

We live in a small, nearly 100 year old house that needs constant work and I’m the incompetent building supervisor. Any tradesperson who knows what they are doing will not take small jobs at our house so I often have to do things myself. Why it didn’t occur to me sooner is a mystery, but I’ve realized my carpentry powerlessness and the need to seek out a higher power that can only be found in the form of a shop class.

So I build a mallet in the course of an entertaining three week class at Community Woodshop. Even their safety orientation was full of useful information and hands-on learning. The mallet class was a great way to pick up skills involving measurement, sharpening, the use of hand tools and elementary joinery (mortise and tenon). Because it was just a mallet I didn’t feel attached to the outcome. In fact, the more mistakes I made in the presence of the instructor, the more I think I learned. I’m kind of glad I broke tenon just so I could learn how it could be fixed and the mistake hidden. I also learned that much of woodwork is paradoxically about metal work: the use and maintenance of metal tools.

I’ve done a lot of carpentry over the years such as building sheds, chicken coops, laying floors, repairing joists and hanging molding. I’ve done this all with hand held power tools. But I have very limited experience with chisels and planes as well as shop machines such as table saws and bandsaws. And I’ve never paid enough attention to the details.

Kelly is thrilled with my attempt to, ever so slightly, raise the quality of work around the casa. What I learned about sharpening and hand plane use already paid off in an unexpected application: fixing a broken window.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area there are three places to take woodworking classes that I know of: Allied Woodshop, Community Woodshop and Ceritos Community College. I hear that the folks at Allied Woodshop are soon to open a business selling wood from locally felled urban trees. There are a lot of exotic trees in LA, so it will be interesting to see what people do with results of LA’s poor tree maintenance.

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  1. That is very pretty! I like the beauty in the utilitarian. Will it split? What kind of wood is it? When a mallet is needed, I have to just pick up a short length of 2×4. I do have a felt and a rubber mallet, but they don’t work for some things.

    • The business end is made out of three glued layers of maple and the handle is maple too. The funny thing is that you need a mallet to make a mallet so, no doubt, the first mallet was a rock.

    • I want to thank you for your encouraging words about a reel lawn mower in a previous post. I bought one, a new one – much lighter than the old style – and it works like a dream. I love hearing the little ‘snip-snip-snip’ as I walk along and that the little frogs and voles have time to get out of my way. Thank you again!

  2. Super Jealous that they don’t offer these types of class locally here in The Mitten. Good Job!

  3. Just… be careful with the home made mallet. My grand-father almost killed his dad with a heavy, home made, mallet, back in the ’30. While using it, the head of the mallet detached itself, flown away and fell on his father’s head. My great grand-dad survived the accident, but was never the same after, neither was my grand-pa, who was striken by guilt for all of his life.


  4. There is a Forces of Nature II exhibit happening in December 2017 at the LA County Arboretum. Five years ago was the first Forces of Nature exhibit. Harvesting lumber from trees is an craft in and of itself.

  5. Your mallet is truly a thing of beauty. Well done!

    Regarding repairs, it would seem that this is a neglected part of American education, both formal and informal. However, there clearly is a real need for people to learn how to perform basic repairs correctly and safely. I heard a story on Vermont Public Radio recently about a series of home repair courses for women, taught by a woman, in Rutland, classes that have a healthy waiting list. Yes, I’m thinking about it even though I’m married to a guy with decades of experience in construction and who can fix darn near everything. I still think I ought to be able to handle the basics by myself. And, since I am automatically pressed into service as Number One Helper, knowing what the heck he’s doing will help make that whole experience smoother.


    • Thanks for the link. On that note, I’ve been thinking about how some of the sexism I’ve seen in shop and technical instruction really needs to stop. These skills are important for everyone men and women alike.

  6. Pingback: How to Fix a Termite Damaged Hardwood Floor | Root Simple

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