Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Making a Mallet with a Round Tenon Cutter

I've been wanting to make a mallet for ages now, but never got around to it 'til now.  Today I got a new toy (aka, tool) that I was itching to test out, and a mallet seemed like a good fit for the job.  I picked up a round tenon cutter at a local tool supply company.  They cost $20-30, and are available in a variety of sizes.  I went for the 3/4" diameter one, as I have some projects in mind where I think 3/4" tenons will work out just right.  Be advised that these cutters require a drill with a 1/2" chuck, but other than that, they're a snap to use.  I'll provide a couple of tips below.

I started with a seasoned chunk of oak that I was given by the good
folks at a local hardwood supplier.  It was big enough for a couple
 of mallets, really, and in hindsight I wish I had made an extra.
You're going to see lots of cordless tools in this pic- our power was
out on the day I did this project, so I couldn't rely on my bigger
tools as I usually would.  I used a circular saw to rip a 1" x 1"
handle blank from a piece of roughsawn oak.  This isn't the kind
of project that requires fastidiousness at every step, so a
circular-saw-rip was perfectly fine.

The chunk of wood that I used for the head of the mallet had
originally been part of a pallet or shipping skid, so it had a couple
of "fins" that protruded on the edges; I sawed them off with the
circular saw.

A block plane leveled the remains of the fins, creating a
(basically) rectilinear blank.

A simple crosscut gave me a 5" long blank for the head of the mallet.

I used a spade bit to drill a hole in the head.  I usually would've
used a drill press, but with no power... this method worked
just fine.

Here's my big tip for using a round tenon cutter like this- make
sure to ease the leading edges a bit with a block plane, rasp, or
sander.  It'll make it easy for the cutter to get a purchase on
the blank without slipping.
Again, a 1/2" drill is essential.  I found that it worked best for me
on the faster speed setting, and I pulsed the trigger a bit rather
than going all-out.

I didn't measure, but the cutter has about a 3" capacity, which is
pretty impressive.  It cut the tenon in seconds, and it was
really clean and even.

The cutter actually created kind of a burnished finish- I
scuffed it up with some sandpaper afterwards, under the
theory that it might help create a better glue bond.

Its a simple project, but that's part of what makes it so satisfying.

I used a handsaw to cut a groove into the end
of the tenon.  I went down about 1.5".

Here's a pic of the spline, after being pounded into the groove.
Leaving the tenon exposed is just an aesthetic choice, but I do
really like it that way.

I used planes and sandpaper to  create a comfortable profile on the handle, but
other than that, I kept the overall feel of the mallet kind of rough.  I'm not fussy
in my approach to tools, so this one suits me rather nicely.

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