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RE: [MedievalSawdust] Pre 16th Century source for a square faced mallet

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  • D. Young
    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
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 7, 2011
      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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      To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
      From: conradh@...
      Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2011 12:20:01 -0800
      Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Pre 16th Century source for a square faced mallet

      On 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.


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