Creaturiste's Laboratory

Techniques, works in progress, and everything that doesn't fit in the portfolio. Comments and questions are encouraged, custom orders are welcome!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wooden mallet

I apologize for the bad picture quality. My expensive photo camera's USB output has died last week. I'm told it's a common problem with digital cameras. It's the evil Planned Obsolescence problem again. Having it fixed (still under warranty) would have me without a camera for a month, which I can't do because I constantly have to photograph my work before I hand it to customers. Until I get a memory card reader, it's going to have to be webcam shots... sorry.

I made myself a round wooden mallet today.
I needed one for wood sculpting when using chisels and gouges.
The one at the specialty store was too perfect-looking.
And from experience, it's much more fun for me to make my own tools.
I learn plenty about it and the materials as I'm doing it.

It must have taken me 4 times as much time it would have taken me if I had had an electrical lathe. Oh well, it gave me an excuse to use my band saw for the first real project, as all my chisels turned out to be too dull, and I didn't feel like installing the new buffing wheel on my grinder to learn how to sharpen them. I just felt like making a mallet!

Safety warning: I'm told it is common knowledge among woodworking pros that it is dangerous to cut round dowels and logs on a band saw. The following shows me taking a bit of a risk, so you have been warned, take the proper precautions, and make sure you are alert and focused whenever operating machinery. Never operate any kind of powertool when you are tired, unless you really want to hurt yourself badly.

Even though the maple table leg I used was round, the large head of it was square, and the whole object was so massive, heavy and long that I had no problem keeping it steady, without kickback, without use of any real force. I went slowly, and only cut thin strips at a time, to be safer. I'd never attempt this with anything totally round and smaller, of course. I would use a proper specialty jig and clamps.

Bad Commercial practices can cause problems:
It was extra difficult to fine-finish it by hand because I did not think to check for wood grain back at the store. I found out only last minute that the turned table leg was in fact made up of 9 small pieces of wood glued together. It would have been fine if the pieces had been laid in the same grain direction, or in a logical succession, but it turned out the manufacturer didn't care for that. So from one inch to the next in the horizontal direction, my wood grain inverted! It made knife carving and sanding very difficult. Extra difficulty, but extra education! Next time I need to make a big tool like this, I'll make sure I check the grain at the store. I finished the job with a big craft knife, files, a Dremel with sanding disk, three grades of sandpaper, and a liquid beeswax finish, which I stained a bit darker with a dab of oil paint.

I signed the head of it with a woodburner.
I love the fact that it looks hand made, and not perfectly smooth. I'd imagine a chisel like that in Gepetto's workshop. From testing it just now on a piece of pine, the mallet has good weight and balance. Even a dull chisel cuts pretty well, with this mallet. It compares well with the ones I've tried before.

Most of the wood chips (not the dust) produced during the process could have gone as mulch to hide a large patch of dirt on the front lawn of my apartment. Hopefully the neighborhood cats would find it uncomfortable enough to avoid relieving themselves there from now on. The smell gets really awful int the summer. It's right under my window!
Sadly, I did a test earlier tonight, and the mulch looks very bad next to the lawn, due to its light color. I'm sure the landlord would demand that I remove it pronto.
Red cedar would have been fine.

I got the wood chip into mulch tip by watching an online video of a bowl turner, who does that in his yard. I can't remember the source, I watched a lot of them, and it was months ago.

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