ManMade Essential Toolbox: A Hammer Is Not Enough – A Guide to Other Must-Have Mallets and Striking Tools
Each week in 2015, ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We’ve selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day.
While it’s great when pieces fit nice and tight, sometimes you need a bit more . . . persuasion. Enter the mallet. A mallet is generally larger than a traditional framing hammer, and adds a bit of heft right where it’s needed. Plus a mallet’s striking surface usually isn’t metal, which allows you to knock-together pieces or strike wooden-handled chisels without damaging them. Remember, the rule is: metal strikes metal, wood strikes wood. (Or plastic and rubber). 1. Dead Blow Hammer (pictured on left): The head of this wooden or plastic mallet has a hollow space, filled partially with loose weight (sand, lead pellets, metal pieces). This allows for the momentum of the material inside to be transferred to the head with less swinging force. The way it works, is that the weight moves to the far side of the head on the down stroke, then on impact it pushes forward thanks to momentum. Visualize a double tap, with the first being the head striking the surface, and then the weight of the material inside of the head catching up for a second strong tap.
- Graintex 2lb Dead Blow Rubber Mallet $15
- Woodriver Dead Blow Mallet, 14 oz. $20
- ATD 3 Piece Dead Blow Hammer Set $25
2. Rubber Mallet – For surfaces that you don’t want to damage with a metal head, the rubber mallet is the perfect alternative. Usually a strong and large head, this non-marking hammer is gentle but forceful when the workpiece can’t be damaged while forcing a joint home. I reach for this mallet on my wood projects if a dry fit joint gets stuck or I need just a bit more power to fully seat a stubborn fit.
3. Wooden Mallet – This mallet is made from hardwood, and is used for working with chisels or carving tools. There are hundreds of designs, including bowed or round heads to put the hitting force exactly where it’s needed. Using a wooden mallet with a chisel helps to extend the life of the chisels and cuts down on the chance of slivers of metal flying into your eyes from the bottom tang. While not as durable or forceful as a metal head, if you have to use more than the power of a wooden mallet with chisels it’s about time to get them sharpened up. Here’s a link to make your own from scraps you probably have in your shop already.
4. Drilling Hammer (Small Sledge) – I’ve had a few trusty drilling hammers in my shop for a while now, and they’re pulled out for a very dedicated purpose – destruction. I love how well even my 3lbs hammer can pound something into a pile of dust; or help loosen a stuck bolt. This brute force tool is exactly what you’ll reach for when you need something to move and you don’t particularly care about the condition of it afterwards.
Here are a few complimentary tools I use with my striking tools
- Nail Set $15 – It’s great for reaching into some tight spots for a precision blow.
- Chisel Set – See our article on a simple chisel set here.
Lastly, here are a few tips when working with Mallets and Hammers:
- When pounding on things, always wear safety glasses. It’s amazing how much force a splinter, nail, or shard of something will carry when it is sent flying from a hammer blow.
- Use a sacrificial scrap when working with pieces that just can’t be damaged like the threads on a bolt or a finished piece of wood. Pounding on the scrap gives an added layer of protection.
- Always know where your other hand is. Hitting a finger (or wrist) with a hammer is one of the worst pains you’ll experience (short of losing a digit) in the shop (we’ve all seen the cartoons), and a bruised fingernail lasts for six months, minimum. Keep your hands as far as possible from the head of that hammer, and use clamps or pliers as supports when possible.
Now go ahead and get yourself some burly persuasion tools for those projects where a bit more heft is just what you need.
See also: The 3 Hammers Every Man Should Own