Sunday, January 28, 2018

Making a Traditional Joiner's Mallet

The next step of my hand tool journey was to make a traditional joiner's mallet.  The joiner's mallet is obviously used for hitting things, but mainly for striking the handle of a chisel when chopping mortises.

The typical style for this mallet is a rectangular head with a handle through the middle.  The Woodwright's Shop has a good episode (Season 37, Episode 6) on making this type of mallet.  Paul Seller's also has a great series of videos on making these, and that's generally the process I followed.

I used some plans that were created by Chris Schwarz based on a mallet made for him by Roy Underhill.  It's based on traditional joiner's mallets that have been used for centuries.

I made the mallet head from a live oak log given to me by a friend.  It spent a few years drying in my garage before I started working on it.  The handle is made from ash that I cut from a tree in my yard.  The live oak is really difficult to work with due to its density and the interwoven grain, but it looks beautiful and is very durable.  The ash was a dream to work with by contrast.

I learned alot of new techniques with this project:

  • Working with difficult grain
  • Working with very hard wood
  • Splitting logs with a wedge and sledge
  • Turning logs into lumber
  • Cutting deep tapered mortises
I'm very happy with the end result.  I've been using the mallet almost every day for weeks and it's been a joy to use.  I'd highly recommend this as a beginning project for new woodworkers.  Not only do you learn alot in the process, but you get a new tool with a centuries-old lineage.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Homemade Christmas Ornament

My wife and I give each other Christmas ornaments every year.  This year I decided to make the ornament.  This was my version of a design from Paul Sellers.  Paul's is much better than mine, but it went pretty well and was alot of fun to make.  

It's quick to make, you can use wood scraps you probably already have on hand, and it exercises several different hand tool skills.

Oh, and my wife really liked it.  Thanks Paul!

Tuning up a Hand Plane

I tuned up a seldom-used hand plane recently to give to a friend.  This was a plane that I had been sitting on a shelf for a number of years, and I hadn't used it mainly because I'm too picky.  It's a decent plane but it has plastic handles, and I prefer wood.

Then a friend started asking me questions about flattening rough lumber; the sorts of questions that make me talk for a long time.  He politely listened to what I had to say and as a reward I decided that this plane would find a better home with him.

So before I sent it to its new home I tuned the plane up to the best condition I could make it.  The video above walks through everything I did.  There are lots of different ways to rune up a plane, and this is just the steps that work for me.  Your mileage my vary.