Monday, January 14, 2013

Fun With Lap Joints - Slideshow

"My brief love affair with Japanese saws is now over."
          -Ben St. John after using my BadAxe dovetail saw, 2011.

I wasn't at all sure this project was going to turn out, so I didn't post about it until now, when it is done.  This is another project that can be built with only the tools in my Beginner's Tool Kit.  If you don't want to read my old blog posts, I think beginners can focus on just buying a few good tools and do some work with them.  They include only a jack plane, a ryoba saw, two chisels (3/8" and 3/4"), a couple of marking tools and something with which to keep everything sharp.

I was amazed at how smooth this project went.  There were plenty of things that could go wrong, but thankfully none did.

This mallet is my own design.  At least, I have never seen one constructed like it before.  Normally a laminated mallet uses three laminations.  The center one is the same thickness as the handle, so it is easily sawn out and glued up.

A traditional mallet is made of a single block of wood with a mortise in the middle for the handle.  Since the tools I have chosen would make that extremely difficult, I chose to build a laminated mallet.

I have been practicing lap joints, and I thought it would be fun to build a mallet with only two laminations.  The lap joints taper, so the handle can not slip out (indeed, there is no glue holding it in).  And for good measure, I thought one side of the lap should be dovetailed, to hold everything together even if the glue holding the lamination fails.

I chose a hunk of walnut that was rolling around in my shop, and a bit of Honduran mahogany I got a while ago for the handle.

The sliding dovetail was not as steep of an angle as I had originally envisioned.  I was looking for something that would let me mark out a consistent angle that might be available to anyone, and settled on the same square that is 2 1/2 degrees off square that I made for the taper.  It turns out that this was a good choice.  It made things a bit easier, and it is plenty strong to hold these mallet halves together.

In the video you see me making one of the sliding dovetail cuts with a backsaw.  I wouldn't have done this, except that I had loaned out my Ryoba saw to someone for a few days.  I did get the saw back and used it for the other half.  The BadAxe worked WAYYY better.  I had a lot less paring to do to clean up this cut with the BadAxe.  However, the Ryoba worked surprisingly well when crosscutting the mallet faces.  I had very little planing to do to smooth the faces of the mallet.

One thing I perhaps should have put a bit more thought into was the size of this mallet.  I really needed to replace my small mallet.  This one is huge, and should answer nicely on a 1/2" mortising chisel.  I guess I'll just have to build another.

Music:  Beguine (Paniks) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

I wanted to give this mallet a manly name, so I discussed it with my wife.  While I was trying to think of something manly like Thor, Mongo, or King Kong, she said, "How about Trevor?"

I figure it is kind of like trying to change a dog's name.  Once he answers to Fifi, you can never really call him Butch.

Trevor the Mallet, it is.

See my other Beginner's Tool Kit Projects.


  1. Now that's a Mallet. May all miss alined pegs run in fear.

  2. Great - BIG mallet! Reminds me of Speaker Boehner's great - BIG banger thingie he uses to call the senate to order and stuff (can't remember the name of the thing)!

    Is that your hand in the picture, Brian? Looks like you have a little arthritis in those hands. Do you?

    I like your mallet named Trevor. Better than the other names.

    1. Gavel.

      Maybe I could name the next one Gavin the Gavel.

  3. P. S. - couldn't get the slide show to play. My computer doesn't know how.

  4. thanks! I enjoyed that! WW videos without actual commentary are sometime the most useful.

    1. I thought it was perhaps a bit long, but I decided perhaps someone would enjoy seeing how I did it all with my limited tool kit.

  5. Echoing everyone else, nice mallet - like you said, that thing will be a dream to use in chopping out mortises. I'm almost inspired to build one myself... but one of your older blogs on a home-built Krenovian Hand Plane has imspired me more, so that's next on my queue

    1. Awesome! Let me know how it goes. I recommend the DVD and book from David Finck.