Ding-free Dead-blow Mallets

Orange mallet on side of box
These handy helpers offer powerful persuasion with a gentle touch.

If you've ever tried to "nudge" a tight joint together with a hammer only to end up denting the wood, you learned the value of a dead-blow mallet. This indispensable striking tool features a one-piece, molded polyurethane plastic head and handle. Metal shot or sand fills most of the hollow cavity inside the head. As the mallet head strikes a surface, the filler material "sloshes" forward inside the head, providing a punch without rebound.

Pick your power

Mallets come in a variety of sizes and weights, photo right, so you can pick the power of persuasion that fits the job. They also come in various colors. The bright-orange model in our shop is easy to find on a cluttered bench.

3 black mallets
This set of three matching mallets comes in weights from 1 to 3 pounds to provide fine-handed finesse or brute force.

Use it, don't abuse it

Besides seating dovetail joints, a dead-blow mallet can help align carcase pieces once you have clamps in position, photo right. They also help you break apart a glued joint, such as a tenoned chair-leg spindle.

However, avoid using the soft, non-marring surfaces for driving nails or punches. And although they work for driving chisels, the small striking surface requires a careful aim; that concentration would be better directed at the chisel's cutting end. A wooden mallet, photo below right, makes more sense when it comes to chisels.

Orange hammer hitting top of box
With wet glue acting as a lubricant, a few taps from a dead-blow mallet help bring clamped-up carcase pieces into alignment.

White mallet hitting chisel
A wood mallet with a large head requires less precision when striking a chisel, so you can concentrate on making the cut.

Other no-mar options

Some tools similar to deadblow mallets include mallets with soft rubber heads, left in the photo right, that provide soft blows, but lack the impact of dead-blow mallets. The non-marring rubber won't damage wood, but can pick up grit and dirt that can leave marks. Reach for this tool and a scrap of wood to close cans of finish or move stubborn shop fixtures or tool fittings.

Mechanic-style mallets, with plastic and rubber striking surfaces on the same tool, at center, work well with punches and other metal tools. The tips can be replaced if they become damaged or dirty.

A third option uses a tightly rolled piece of dried rawhide for the head, right. Often used by jewelers, they provide a delicate touch, such as when assembling small box joinery.

3 mallets, head are gray, yellow/red, brown

Orange mallet on side of box
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