While shopping for wooden mallets, you may notice a remarkable change in their shapes. They are round-shaped, resembling an oversized pestle. Is there a reason why most wood carving mallets are conical?
Round wood carving mallets have a bigger striking surface area, excellent weight distribution, and a longer head. They give you better control when carving small details into wood. You can carve at odd angles without stopping to confirm the mallet’s orientation before striking a chisel.
The rest of the article will explore why carvers’ mallets are made of wood, which wood is used to mallet carver’s mallets, wood carving techniques, and the best wood type for carving. So, read on!
Why Are Carvers’ Mallets Made of Wood?
Carvers’ mallets are cone-shaped and usually made from a single piece of hardwood timber turned on a lathe. Two pieces of hardwood can also be joined together and turned to form a wooden mallet.
- A carver’s mallet design gives it excellent weight and balance. It comprises a rounded head that’s bigger than the handle. Since the turning process only removes a small chunk of the wood, the mallet retains a solid feel.
- A carver’s mallet is a lightweight tool that’s easy to use. It also comes with excellent shock absorption capacity, which can reduce fatigue and hand injuries among carvers.
- Typically, mallets provide a better transmission of force because there’s minimal rebound on the struck surface. That reduces the amount of force necessary to drive a gouging tool such as a chisel.
- Due to their lightweight nature, wooden mallets are easy to swing with one hand while the non-dominant hand holds the chisel. Ideal, you should swing a mallet in short, controlled strokes instead of full swings.
- A carver’s mallet’s cylindrical nature allows a carver to hit the chisel from various angles without constantly shifting the mallet or arm position.
- A carver’s mallet delivers consistent strikes to let you focus your effort on the carving process. This comes in handy when working on intricate carvings that require high-level precision.
- Using a wooden mallet to drive a chisel extends your chisels’ lifespan, which saves you a considerable amount of money.
Here’s a handy video about using a carving mallet:
What Wood Makes Carving Mallets?
Typically, carving mallets are crafted from dense hardwoods with tight grains such as beech wood, hornbeam, and maple. These are hardy tree species whose wood can withstand the heavy repetitive blows that carvers used to shape and manipulate wood.
Some mallets are made from softer species such as pine and oak, but they tend to wear out quickly when used to drive a chisel. However, softwood mallets come in handy when you need to apply a force to join without forming dents on the wood project’s surface.
The hardest carver’s mallets are made from Lignum Vitae, the hardest and heaviest wood globally. Lignum Vitae grows in Central and South America, and its wood is often used to make ships and hand plane soles.
The precious wood is water-resistant and self-lubricating because it’s naturally infused with resin. The wax-like resin gives the wood a high sheen when polished.
Wood Carving Techniques
There are four main types of wood carving techniques, each producing different kinds of wood carvings. Understanding each of the methods allows you to pick a niche and build your wood carving skills.
It’s the oldest and probably the easiest form of woodcarving, as it only requires a knife and a chunk of softwood. Whittling produces sharp and pointy items because of the carving technique.
The carvings have many angles and come with a complex angular look. Whittling entails cutting through wood with slow knife strokes, leaving the finished product with sharp, textured cuts.
While any knife with a stout blade will do, you get better results with a whittling knife.
Carving in the Round
Despite what the name suggests, this carving technique doesn’t produce round-shaped objects. This carving style entails creating 3D objects that can be viewed all the way around. The carvings have a lifelike appearance and can be a human burst, an animal, or a bird.
This technique entails carving sculptures on a flat piece of wood. The process involves removing wood pieces from a flat wood panel to create 2D objects that rise above the wood. That allows artisans to produce excellent works such as caricatures, figurines, and faces.
It’s an advanced form of wood carving that uses complex techniques and requires advanced skills and experience to pull off successfully.
This carving style uses a knife or a chisel to remove small chips from a flat wooden piece. It entails making a series of short, shallow cuts to create decorative patterns on a single wood piece. Chip carving produces complex decorative wood ornaments, including ornate desks, doors, drawers, and headboards.
Each technique may require different tools, so knowing which technique to use lets you get the materials and supplies you need for a wood carving project.
What’s the Best Wood for Carving?
Your wood choice determines the wooden style you can use, and by extension, the carving you can make. When starting with woodcarving, it’s advisable to choose softwoods as they’re easier to carve.
Here’s a quick run-through of the best type of wood for wood carving:
- Basswood. Basswood is a light-colored, fine-grained softwood that is easy to curve. Its soft nature makes it easy to carve with only a knife, making basswood a popular choice for a whittling project. Although you can create complex projects with chisels and gouges, basswood isn’t the best choice for chip carving.
- Butternut. Butternut is a light brown softwood with large grains. It’s easy to curve and produces beautiful finished pieces due to its highly visible grains. It’s popular with both beginners and professional carvers.
- White pine. White pine is a cream-colored softwood with a medium grain texture. It’s easy to curve, making it ideal for beginner whittling projects. Professional carvers like white pine because it’s easy to mold and shape, making it the perfect pick when turning round shapes. However, it is not ideal for chip carving due to its soft and grainy nature.
- Sugar maple. Sugar maple is a dense, fine-textured hardwood with a straight grain. It’s difficult to carve but is among the best choices for chip carving. It is commonly used for baseball bats, musical instruments, and specialty wood pieces.
- Mahogany. Mahogany is a beautiful reddish wood type that sits between soft and hardwood but lends itself to all kinds of woodcarving. It’s a popular choice with professional carvers as it produces excellent results.
- Black walnut. Black walnut is a dark brown hardwood with a medium grain. It isn’t easy to curve but delivers excellent results with the right power tools. The wood lends itself to all types of wood carving except whittling.
If possible, avoid carving pieces with knots and growth rings because they’re quite tricky to cut around them. You should keep this in mind if you choose to get your wood from a lumber yard.
Technically, carver’s mallets are conical in shape to allow carvers greater control and a higher degree of comfort and freedom as they work.
A carver’s mallet is made of wood because of its lightweight nature and the ability to absorb shock. That lets the carver transfer maximum impact when carving without using too much force. Wooden carver mallets are easy to manipulate, which is crucial when working on intricate designs.
These mallets are crafted from hardwoods such as maple and hornbeam, which can withstand heavy blows for many years as a carver works.
- Bob Villa: Mallets
- Handsome and Co: The Wooden Mallet
- WoodWorking Toolkit: Wood Carving
- Carving Is Fun: Why are Carving Mallets Round?
- Make from Wood: How Difficult is it to Begin Wood Carving?
- Wood Magazine: What is the World’s Hardest Wood?
- Emberleaf: Knife grips for carving
- NCBI: Woodworking injuries: a comparative study of work-related and hobby-related accidents