Although similar to a hammer in terms of general size, shape, and applying force, the mallet has a different function. In addition, there are several types of mallets used for a wide variety of applications.
In this article, I’ll explain what a mallet is, its primary purpose, different types of mallets and their uses to help you choose the right one for the job at hand.
What is a Mallet Used For?
A mallet is designed to apply force to various surfaces in a controlled manner, without leaving marring, dents, or causing damage to the workpiece. Mallets are generally used for shaping, setting, and installation.
While the two-sided hammer is the most common shape of mallets, they can also have rounded faces as well. What makes mallets different is the types of materials used to make the head which include rubber, wood, rawhide, metal, and plastic.
Types of Mallets
Some of the most common types of mallets are,
- Rubber mallet
- Wooden mallet
- Soft metal mallets (Brass, Copper, Lead etc.)
- Rawhide mallets
- Dead blow mallet
- Meat mallet
- Plastic mallets (Nylon)
Mallets may have split heads with removable faces so that different tasks can be performed with the same tool. While others have metal shot or loose sand inside to deliver a dead blow which applies eve more force.
What follows are the different uses of mallets that are commonly available.
Rubber Mallet Uses
A rubber mallet is a mallet that has a layer of rubber surrounding a wooden or metal head. The rubber mallet is one of the most popular types of mallets and may be the most recognizable.
Here are the general uses of a rubber mallet.
1. Sheet Metal Working
One of the most common uses of a rubber mallet is to shape sheet metal.
Since sheet metal is flexible enough to bend into certain shapes, the rubber mallet is used to shape the metal to the desired form. Because the rubber layer does not cause any damage to the surface, it can shape the metal without causing any damage, scratches, or dings to the surface.
2. Tapping Wood Joints
Wooden joints are often set so tight that they do not require fasteners or adhesives.
The rubber mallet is used to tap the joints together without causing any damage to the surface of wood, furniture etc.
3. Tile Setting
Although tile is strong, it is also fragile, making it difficult to set in place without damage. The rubber mallet is used to tap the tile in place.
While adhesive is applied to the surface to bond the tile, the rubber mallet helps in tapping the tile securely into place, ensuring a strong bond and level alignment without damaging the tile itself.
4. Carpet Installation
When installing carpet, the material will need to be set in place along the walls. The rubber mallet is used to tap down the carpet while not damaging the walls or molding that may be next to the floor.
5. Installing Pavers in Garden and Driveways
Pavers are a popular type of decoration used for gardens and driveways. While made of concrete and quite hard, the surface can easily chip off or crack if you use a steel hammer.
The rubber or dead blow mallet taps the pavers in place while not damaging the surface.
6. Tent Setup
Although standard hammers can be used to drive tent stakes, the rubber mallet is arguably better because it will not damage the stake, even under repeated use.
The result is tent stakes that last for many years because the surface is not damaged, which might subject them to rust or oxidation.
7. Mechanical Work
The rubber mallet has a general use in mechanical work where it can break apart stuck objects, assemble the parts together, or be used to shape materials all without causing damage to the surface.
I frequently use the rubber mallet to set the workpiece on manual and CNC milling machines in my machine shop.
Other uses for the rubber mallet include driving nails, removing stuck objects, straightening parts, general carpentry and woodworking, and tensioning components. So versatile and useful is the rubber mallet that it is often carried in the toolbox for a wide variety of uses.
Wooden Mallet Uses
The wooden mallet is arguably the oldest type of mallet. The overall purpose of the mallet is to strike surfaces while not causing any damage.
The softer wood also absorbs some of the force delivered which makes it the ideal tool for the following types of jobs.
In most woodworking areas, the wooden mallet is used to drive a chisel, which shapes the wood itself. The wooden mallet is superior to a standard metal hammer because it does not mark or damage the chisel, and it strikes with less force so that it provides greater control over the chisel.
For creating dovetail connections along with mortise and tenon joints, the wooden mallet, when combined with a chisel is ideal, providing the proper striking force without damaging the chisel and minimizing mistakes that might be made when using a metal hammer.
A wooden mallet is often the tool of choice in carving, especially wood carving. Its softer material allows for greater control and prevents damage to chisels, offering excellent tactile feedback that helps artisans understand how much force they’re applying.
Additionally, the ergonomic design of many wooden mallets minimizes hand and arm fatigue during long carving sessions, making them versatile and user-friendly for both detailed and broad work.
For general carpentry, the wooden mallet is versatile. One of the most popular uses is to assemble furniture. Tapping dowel pins along with other pieces makes the wooden mallet an ideal tool for such tasks. Providing sufficient force to drive dowel pins, bring together different pieces into joints, and the like.
Metal Mallet Uses
Although harder than rubber and wood, metal mallets are still used in different applications, most notably metalworking, metal machining, and the construction industry.
However, metal mallets use softer metals than steel such as copper, brass, and lead. Such softer metals add weight and force but do not damage surfaces made of harder metals such as steel.
Typical metalworking involves the shaping of materials too hard for a wooden or rubber mallet. To perform the task, a metal mallet is used. Because copper, brass, and lead are softer, they will not damage a steel surface. Plus, if excessive force is used, the tendency is for the mallet itself and not the object to be damaged.
I frequently use brass mallet when setting the workpiece on lathe machine when tuning steel and cast-iron workpieces.
Lead or leaden mallets are not used as often because of the harm they cause when lead particles are consumed. However, leaden mallets may have a lead center that provides considerable weight while being surrounded by a protective layer of metal or rubber, which prevents accidental inhalation or consumption of lead particles.
Copper is one of the oldest metals that men used for making tools. Ancient Egyptians used copper mallets and tools to build the pyramids.
Metal mallets are common in automotive work to break apart stuck parts, loosen bolts and screws, and shape body parts. The metal provides enough weight and heft to do the job better than rubber or wooden mallets while not damaging the parts or steel surfaces.
Copper and brass hammers are quite popular in automotive work because these hammers do not produce sparks, which is important when working with flammable substances such as oil. These metals are also soft and can be reshaped rather easily.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, providing for a harder metal than copper but still softer compared to steel.
Rawhide Mallet Uses
Rawhide mallets are basically steel mallets that have a covering of rawhide or leather. Because rawhide is a strong, organic material, it is often used for delicate work that rubber or wooden mallets cannot perform.
Using a rawhide mallet to strike steel tools ensures that the leather being worked on is not damaged. This makes rawhide mallets ideal for shaping leather and for striking tools that are used to mark or imprint the leather surface.
Rawhide offers greater control compared to steel, and if it should slip and strike the leather surface, it will not cause any damage.
Shaping precious metals such as gold and silver, setting stones, and other delicate work associated with jewelry making is perfect for rawhide mallets.
Other Uses of Mallets
In addition to the uses described above, mallets have a wide range of applications in different fields. Some of the most common include the following.
Sometimes called meat mallets, they are generally made of metal or wood and have two different surfaces. One surface tends to be flat while the other has protrusions which are quite pronounced.
The user will often use both sides of the mallet while tenderizing meat.
The mallet is a general-use tool for construction. Often employed to set parts together or break them apart without damaging the surface. You’ll find mallets used in the construction of residences and commercial buildings.
Stone and Masonry Work
Mallets are commonly used in stone and masonry work to drive chisels and set pieces in place. You’ll often see mallets used to set bricks into mortar as walls are being built.
This also includes stone tiles and concrete pavers, which are set against other pieces using mallets that do not scratch or damage the surface.
The list of home improvement projects that can be performed with mallets are considerable. From driving nails to securing wooden joints together, many home improvement projects are augmented by the use of rubber or wooden mallets.
Metal mallets may be used on pipes or other metal objects when more force is needed, but rubber and wooden mallets are the most common.
Delicate crafts in particular, benefit from the use of wooden or rubber mallets. While most of the work may be to drive chisels, they can also tap together or break apart delicate pieces without causing any damage. For the most part, rubber, wooden, or rawhide mallets are used for craft work that mostly focuses on building small, delicate objects.
Back to Contents
- What is a Mallet Used For?
- Rubber Mallet Uses
- Wooden Mallet Uses
- Metal Mallet Uses
- Rawhide Mallet Uses
- Other Uses of Mallets