While you’re out on your bushcrafting adventures, it’s easy enough to grab a log to use as a mallet for batoning or processing plant fibres for cordage making. However, if you have a permanent camp or are staying and working in the same place for a while, creating such a useful tool is satisfying and at the very least shouldn’t get mistaken for firewood.
- You will need a saw, a knife or axe suitable for batoning with, a pencil and a log for using as a mallet while you make your mallet!
2. Choose an appropriate piece of wood – think about what diameter you want.It needs to be straight and relatively knot-free especially if you’re batoning with a knife. Leave your chosen piece extra long as it’ll make it easier to work with. Im using a piece of green willow here and it’s a branch which is about a metre long. Willow is pretty soft, but once my mallet wears out, I can just make another one.
3. I’m using a saw horse to hold my wood still. This is why I’ve kept the wood long. If I’d already cut it to mallet-length, it would just fall off the saw horse. I’m right handed so the wood is overhanging the right side of the saw horse. If you didn’t lug a saw horse into the woods, place the wood on a stump and put your foot on it to keep it still.
4. Make two marks using a pencil or your saw. One mark indicates the overall length that you want your mallet to be, the other mark shows where the handle meets the head of the mallet. This is where you’ll put in a stop-cut. Ensure that you make the handle plenty long enough for your hand and a hanging cord if you want one.
5. The first cut that you make with your saw will be the stop-cut between the handle and the head.
6. Begin to saw your stop-cut. Your hand is protected from the saw horse. This cut should extend all the way around the wood, to a depth of a couple of centimetres (depending on the diameter of your wood). DON’T GET CARRIED AWAY AND SAW RIGHT THROUGH THE WOOD; It’s easily done! Stop and check the depth of your saw cut regularly. Aim to get it roughly the same depth all the way round. You can use the end of your saw blade to help esitimate this.
7. The tricky bit it getting the two ends of your saw cut to join up. If you manage to do this first time, reward yourself with a little dance (put the saw down first….
8. Now begin to saw through the other mark that you made. This time you care cutting at the way through the wood to remove your mallet from the length of wood.
9. As your saw is almost through the piece of wood, the sound it makes will change. At this point, move your holding hand over the top of the saw and grip the end of the wood. This will stop the end of the piece of wood from falling off and ripping the bark off along the mallet. Finish sawing. It doesn’t actually matter if the bark comes off; it will not affect the mallet’s performance, but it just looks better.
10. Decide which end of your mallet is the handle (chose the piece with the least number of knots to make it easier to baton)., and draw a circle in the middle. The circle indicates the diameter of your handle – the smaller your hand, the smaller the diameter you’ll want. Remember, you can always remove extra wood, but you can’t put it back on, so go easy at this stage.
11. Now baton off small pieces. I’m holding the knife in my non-dominant hand and holding the hitty log (technical term…) in my dominant hand. I’m using the part of the blade nearest to the knife handle so that the end of the blade is sticking out and I have something to knock down on. The wood will split down to your stop cut and then fall off.
12. Continuing to baton, removing more and more wood and getting closer to the circle that you drew. The batoned wood should just fall off. If any pieces don’t fall off, your stop cut wasn’t quite deep enough. Simply remove the knife and holding the mallet still and horizontal with your foot, increase the depth of your stop cut slightly with your saw.
13. Your handle should be about the right size by now, but will have uncomfortable angular edges. To remove these, place your hand on top of your mallet with your fingers well out of the ay, and starting about two thirds of the way up the handle, cut down towards the head. Once you’ve been all the way round, turn the mallet over and work the other end of the handle.
14. Note that I’m shaving the other end of the handle right on the side of my chopping block, with my knife hand over the edge. This is so that I avoid whacking my knuckles on the block. Stop once you think you’ve cut off all the angular edges and see how the mallet feels in your hand. If it’s smooth, you can stop. If not, take a little more off.
15. I like to chamfer the end of the handle to make it more comfortable. To do this, hold the mallet handle in your non-dominant hand, and the knife in your dominant hand at a 45° angle to the wood. Use the thumb of the hand that’s holding the mallet to push on the back of the mallet handle. Cut and turn, cut and turn until you’ve been all the way around.
16. Your mallet is now complete and you’re ready to hit thngs with it!
17. Optional extra – drill a hole near the end and put some cord through so that you can hang it up.