In wood carving, a mallet is a very necessary tool for most relief carvings and other more complex projects. So what is a carver’s mallet used for?
A mallet is a tool used for transmission of force onto wood when cutting wood. This is usually done by striking the mallet on a chisel for a more controlled and cleaner cut through the wood. Using a mallet also provides a wider range of force that you can use on the wood.
When carving wood you don’t always have to use a mallet, when working with softer wood and less complex projects most times the force you can produce with your hand is enough.
Woodcarvers also like to use a mallet even on more simple projects as it is easier to control the force you exert. If you want a stronger hit you would hold the mallet closer to the handle and produce hits from further away, and when a lighter hit is required, the mallet is held closer to the head and the hits are lighter and perhaps more frequent.
Few stronger hits are better than many light ones as the chisel moves around with every hit resulting in small splinters. Fewer strikes mean a cleaner and better cut if done right.TIP
When working on more complex projects especially that involve hardwood, a mallet is crucial as it is the only way a woodcarver can produce enough force to cut through the wood while applying the required technique needed to shape the carving.
How To Use a Carver’s Mallet
When relief carving, working with a hard wood, or creating other types of projects that require a mallet, you need to know how to use properly for best results.
Place the chisel in the area that you want to chip off or cut through. When using a chisel in a conjunction with a mallet be sure to ignore the handle and hold the chisel closer to the edge for a more precise placement.
When using a mallet, pay attention to the side that you hit with. It can be either of the two faces, however, you should never use the part in between them as it will both break your mallet overtime and split the wood.
As previously mentioned, you can control the force of the mallet by holding it in different ways. The closer your hand is to the top of the mallet the less strong every strike will be. For stronger strikes hold the mallet closer to the end of the handle.
Most of the time you will use the mallet together with a chisel, here are a few things to keep in mind that will bring you better results:
- Hold the mallet with your dominant hand and the chisel with your non-dominant
- Have space to place the mallet down when you want to help position the chisel with your second hand. Make sure the surface does not have a slope and that you can pick up the mallet without much effort
- Keep your chisel sharp at all time, there are a hundred reasons why this is important and not a single one that suggests otherwise
You never want to use your mallet to hit anything that is harder than the material it is made of, therefore nails and such items require a hammer and not a mallet.
Overall, this everything there is to using a mallet in a nutshell. Hit it on the chisel to force it through the wood, be careful when using it, and you are going to get the hang of it very quickly
Can You Use A Hammer Instead Of A Mallet
The short answer is no, this is a bad idea. If you use a hammer instead of a mallet you will deform your tools which will lead to a very bad quality of work in the future followed by an unnecessary expense of time and money.
Most hammers have a square face, which is much worse when compared to a mallet. The curved sides distribute the force more evenly along the handle of the chisel while a square hammer will end up punching through the wood.
With that said some chisels that have a steel button on the handle are more prone to stay in shape even with a hit of a hammer.
If you do not like the round shape of a mallet you can always get a traditional carver’s mallet from Amazon that is made out of wood but has that “hammer” look which some woodworkers may find a little more simple and practical to use.
Alternatives To A Carver’s Mallet
If you don’t know what is the best tool to use when you don’t have a mallet nearby then be sure to use something like a hammer, canned food, or a very heavy novel. It will get you through the works for one day, however, in the long run, you will need a mallet for wood carving.
Using other types of mallets such as a kitchen mallet or the rubber mallet will only work as well as a canned food can. It is acceptable for one time, but it will not do much good using them continuously for your tools or works.
What is The Best Mallet (set) To Buy for Wood Carving
Something like this Mallet is perfect to get if you don’t already have a collection of your favorite carving mallets. This Beech Wood mallet will be great for all of your projects. Click on the picture to see more details about it.
If you are not really the kind of person that buys things online, you can probably find a good mallet somewhere in a local DIY or wood store. It will most likely be a little more pricy than ordering from Amazon.
When Should You NOT Use a Mallet
A fair disclaimer that has to be mentioned is that you should not use a mallet on paring chisels.
This tool is never struck with a mallet as the handles are tang and the edge is sharpened to 13-15º. In other words, you will break the wood and the tool if you do hit a mallet over it.
Almost all other chisels are manufactured to be used in conjunction with the mallet. Higher quality tools will also last longer and take longer to deform when you use a mallet on them.
Making Your Own Carver’s Mallet
As a fun wood working project, you could try to create your own mallet. You can take a look at a short video that describes the process in a short 2 minutes
A couple of key points for you to remember from this video:
- Use a Hardwood. Butternut or basswood will not do the trick
- Finish with wax or oil for more durability
- Be careful and take all safety measurements when working
A fairly important of a project such as a mallet for wood carving is, of course, the finish. While it is not necessarily a good finish is the difference between good and great. If you would like to know more about a wax finish click here. Or check out all the 5 different ways to finish a wood carving.
Good Luck Carving
This was a complete guide on all the functions of a carver’s mallet. We hope you learned everything you need for your upcoming projects. Enjoy carving and have a great day!