Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Small Wooden Hammer

A few years ago I made myself a large mallet from maple and that thing has been great.  The head is laminated from three layers of 1" thick material.  But sometimes I find a need for a smaller wooden hammer, for example, when tapping the wedge of moulding planes (not that I use them much).

So I squared up two pieces of maple and marked out some joinery.
Already looks a little like a hammer
Tenon on end of handle
Mortise on head
I've been trying a mortise-chopping technique that I read about on Dennis Laney's excellent blog "A Woodworker's Musings".  He suggests to line up the board with your eye so you can better tell whether you are chopping vertically.  The following photo shows the alignment.
Length of mortise aligned with the chopper's eye
I do find that this helps me with chopping vertically, but I have a tougher time holding the chisel comfortably and seeing my end lines.  Anyway, after chopping from top and bottom, meeting in the middle, the mortise was made.
Nice and square with clean walls
This mortise is square now, but later I angled the mortise end walls for wedging the tenon.  Pencil lines in the picture above show the extent of the tenon shoulders and those lines are 1/8" from the ends of the mortise.  Later I made the mortise wider by 1/8" (1/16" on each side) on the top.

Then to the handle.  After sawing the tenon cheeks ...
Cheeks sawn, ready to saw the ends
... I did a dry fit and all looked good.
You can see the extra space for the wedges
Before gluing anything together  I wanted to do the shaping of the handle and the bottom of the head.
I used a small ball peen hammer as a model for the handle shape, made cardboard templates and transferred the shape to the wood.
Shape for the thinner aspect of the handle marked out
And for the thicker aspect
I cut some relief cuts with a crosscut saw, then used chisel and spokeshave to get roughly to the lines.
Handle shape roughed out
Then spoke shaved the corners and scraped and sanded for a smooth feel.
I also did a little shaping on the underside of the head.  With that done it was time to glue up and wedge the joint.  I had some oak wedges from a prior project that worked fine.  I fine tuned the width of the wedges by swiping the wedge's edge across the sole of a #4 plane held upside down.
Cooking ...
The next day I cleaned up the joint.  I didn't need to make it look so nice (because of the subsequent shaping), but I just love to look at the joint cleaned up.
All cleaned up
Then it was on to shaping the top of the head.  It was a challenge clamping it in the vise and having enough room to plane the edges from square to round.  But round it got.  Then I chamfered around the business ends.
Head rounded and ends chamfered
The finished and shaped joint
Finally I gave it a couple coats of oil and let it dry.
The completed hammer, with hanging hole
And here it is in it's new home under the bench, hanging out next to it's big brother, Bruno.
Hanging out in the dark
Fun little project.  And I hope it proves useful next time I need to hammer something made of wood without damaging it.


  1. I take it your bigger laminated hammer is holding up? I had all of the laminated ones I've made fall apart on me eventually.
    I like the smaller one and I do have some maple somewhere in the shop.....

    1. The big mallet is fine so far. I recall your comments about laminated mallets in a previous blog, but so far, so good for me. For the small one, I might find after a while that I should've shaped it differently - time will tell.

  2. Nice little project, good use of left over. So if the big one os called Bruno, whats the little guy name? :-)

    Bob and Rudy

    1. Ha! That's a good question, Bob. Maybe something like Sheldon or Drexel or some name I don't identify as being very big or strong (apologies to anyone named Sheldon or Drexel).

  3. Nice one! Could work as plane adjustment hammer.
    Maybe I can borrow your idea.


    1. Exactly what I was thinking about this hammer. It's too light for chisel work, but it might be good for adjusting plane irons.