Wonderful mallets for joinery and chisel work.
A steel hammer (claw hammer, framing hammer) is an essential tool for the work site and a useful tool to have around the workshop – for brads, nails, spikes and the like. But for joinery and chisel work it’s not the tool of choice. What you do need is a mallet.
Many woodworkers opt for a self-made wooden mallet. I’ve used them for years – a large heavy one for chopping mortises and disassembling tight fitting joints, and a couple of smaller, lighter ones for paring work, chopping dovetail waste and other joinery tasks. You do have to be careful using a wooden mallet because you can inadvertently dent wood – especially when working with softwoods such as pine, fir, cedar and redwood. And those larger joiner-type wooden mallets do require a hefty swing when doing strenuous chopping.
MODEL: 40mm Carpenter’s Mallet Bonus Box Set (3117s001)
SOURCE: Retail: qualitytoolsonline.ca
Canadian Distributor: Hardlines Distribution email or 905-510-6555
As an alternative to a wooden mallet I’ve been using a Halder SIMPLEX soft-face mallet (aka mechanic-style mallet or rubber hammer) over the past month and I’ve found it to be surprisingly useful. Made in Germany, Halder mallets are used in a wide variety of sectors – including automotive, engineering, metal fabrication, construction, landscaping and woodworking – to prevent surface damage and for precise positioning and aligning parts.
SIMPLEX mallets are unique in that all the parts are replaceable and customizable. There are 2 types of handles (hardwood and fiberglass), 3 types of housings (aluminum, cast iron and reinforced cast iron), and 8 types of inserts (TPE soft, TPE medium, rubber, superplastic, plastic, nylon, soft metal and copper) in 4 diameters (30, 40, 50 and 60mm). Which means you can purchase SIMPLEX mallets in a bewildering range of handle/housing/insert combinations.
The kit I’ve been using is the 40mm Carpenter’s Mallet Bonus Box Set (#3117s001). It has an aluminum housing, hardwood handle, and comes with four 1-1/2″/40mm inserts (two TPE soft, one TPE medium and one superplastic). You also get a Pica Pocket pencil holder and pencil.
The blue TPE (Thermoplastic elastomer) insert is the softest of the inserts. It provides a very high level of impact cushioning and won’t mar surfaces, even on relatively soft woods. I’ve used it primarily for assembling and dissembling project parts where I don’t need to exert a lot of force.
The white superplastic insert is made of an ultra-dense polymer with high impact resistance and delivers a much greater impact force than the blue insert. I’ve been using it for all manner of chisel work from chopping out large mortises to removing the tail waste on dovetails. I think it makes a great mallet for prolonged use when there’s lots of pounding to do. I wouldn’t use it on softwoods – for that use the blue or gray insert.
The gray TPE insert is medium hard and like the blue insert won’t mar surfaces. I’ve used the gray insert for setting dowels and splines and for a variety of joinery work. I like it somewhat more than the blue insert as it doesn’t seem to require as much energy on my part to deliver the same striking force and it has better bounce resistance.
The only job I’ve found that these inserts aren’t particularly suited for is setting plane blades – for that I still use a small brass hammer.
A nice feature of the Simplex mallet is that it weighs only 3/4 of a pound making it super light in the hand. The weight is very evenly distributed along the full length of the mallet – thanks in part to the aluminum housing. Even so, it packs a punch and gives good feedback. And, because of it’s shape it doesn’t roll around on the workbench.
I’ve also tried the SIMPLEX model 3013.03 ($42.90 CAD), which has 30mm inserts, and at 11-1/2 ounces is a bit lighter than the carpenter’s mallet. It has a cast iron housing that makes it feel somewhat top heavy, much like a conventional claw hammer. I particularly like the smaller insert size for chisel work where I often want to deliver a more gentle touch, for example paring the sides of mortises. The smaller housing size makes it more comfortable to choke up on the mallet so I can deliver more controlled strikes on the chisel and get better feedback.
If you’re looking for a well-made, versatile, multi-purpose mallet for shop or job site use, then you won’t go wrong with a Halder SIMPLEX. It’s a great replacement for a traditional wooden mallet and much more suitable for woodworking and cabinetry than a claw hammer.