Fair Woodworking

June 27, 2018

Don’t do the Mongo Mash

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Favorite tools,Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 1:36 pm

One of my favorite terms in blogging is “Ham Fisted Woodworker”. To me it has many meanings, but for today it refers to how we all can just turn off our brains in hopes of achieving fine woodwork by way of brute force.

Using a mallet of any kind paired with a chisel is a complex algorithm of weight/force/mass/and powdered unicorn dust. I won’t pretend to understand it, and I’m also not going to allow any “It’s simple physics” talk either.

What I can simplify it down to is this. When you hit something, it will either collapse and absorb the energy, or it will resist collapsing and transfer the energy into forward motion.

I’m not a Physics Major so relax! I’m close enough to get through this post.

Chisel handles dent or split when more force is applied to the handle than the wood the handle is made of can transfer into forward motion.

A couple of weeks ago I finally fired up a 1/2″ mortise chisel I bought nearly 10 years ago, and went to work with it and my 3lb sedge hammer. I was surprised to notice that the chisel handle quickly started showing dents. Why was this happening? While wondering that I had a flash back to the time I watched a friend mushroom a chisel handle in front of me. He wailed on that poor chisel like he’d found it in bed with his mother.

And that’s when it occurred to me. Mallets don’t ruin chisel handles, Ham Fists do.

The design of a chisel is for it to cut. It will resist cutting if it is too dull, or if you try to take too big of a bite. Your chisel handle will dent when the tip of the chisel is saying “I can’t cut through that”, while your ham fist is saying “THE HELL YOU CAN’T”.

Don’t be a Ham Fist.

And use whatever kind of mallet you want.


1 Comment

  1. I have a number of chisels with a full Tang and a metal cap on the back….so you can bang away and not trash the handle.

    Still keep them razor sharp though, no sense in making it hard on yourself.

    Comment by Mischa — June 28, 2018 @ 7:03 am

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