RE: [MedievalSawdust] Pre 16th Century source for a square faced mallet
- Tons of illustrations.
I cant post now, but youll have to take my word at it...tons of square face mallets being shown...to the point I get frustrated when looking for iron ones!
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Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2011 12:20:01 -0800
Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Pre 16th Century source for a square faced malletOn Mon, February 7, 2011 8:03 am, Chad Hamilton wrote:
> Would anyone happen to know of a source or citation for a square faced
> mallet? I just created a mallet for use in wood carving/chisels and
> thought that since a large SCA event is this weekend I could use the
> chance to show off my new project. I'm looking for a link to any
> paintings with this tool. I don't know if a tool like this is so generic
> that it was everywhere but I would like to cite a source or two with my
> documentation as an SCA project.
> Chad Hamilton
> Ælfwine se Pyttel
Jost Amman's _Book of Trades_ shows a couple of square-heads in contexts
that _might_ be wooden heads, or might be metal. His wheelwright is using
a hub reamer, but has a square-section hammer lying in the right
foreground. Not sure what a wheelwright would need with an iron-headed
sledge that size, or why a blacksmith wouldn't have a more useful pein
opposite the flat face. And wheelwrights _did_ use big wooden mallets to
drive spokes into undersized hub mortises, which called for great force.
So this is a reasonable argument for one from 1568 in Germany.
One page beyond (in my Dover edition, at least) his cooper's shop has two
men in the background hooping a big cask. One is using some kind of
levered hook to stretch a flat part of the hoop into a match for the rim
of the cask, the other guy is pounding the already-seated side of the hoop
down with what looks like a squarish mallet or hammer. Since the hoops
are obviously bentwood rather than metal, a wooden mallet would be far
less likely to damage the edge of the hoops or the ends of the finished
The same book also shows a couple of round mallets (like a modern
sculptor's) in use. One is unquestionably wooden, because you can see how
it's worn down like an old froe club!
If the experience in my own shop is any guide, wooden mallets lead a very
hard life, and the handles often go through several heads in the course of
their careers. My round mallets are often a scrap of tree limb,
preferably one loaded with knots so as to reduce splitting. Since these
knots would ordinarily make the wood unsuitable for other purposes, I
expect that mallet heads were pulled, as needed, out of the firewood pile!
Except the squared ones you're interested in--those were probably made
from offcuts, scraps of timbers cut to length, and already squared by
sawing or riving.
There was a tradition, back when hand tools were themselves handmade, to
customize the heads of hammers and mallets as a curve matching the arc of
the user's swing. This puts all the mass of the head behind the blow
without so much kick back down the handle, it's nice. But it proves
little for your purposes--one can pick out a curved bit of firewood in
the round. Or saw curved tops and bottoms into a rectangular block, as a
wheelwright does cutting felloes.
Hope this is of some use. I'll post other references if I find some.