Don’t worry, I haven’t hit myself in the nuts or cut off a finger… but to some of you I’m sure this might seem far worse!
For the past 4 or so years I’ve been using this hefty lump hammer as the sole ’mallet’ in my workshop. I always used a wooden mallet prior and my last one lasted long enough to become completely disfigured by missing chunks. One day I was pounding through a job trying to meet a tight deadline and ’crack’ I was left there with just the handle in my hand and a somewhat delayed thud as the head smashed in to something at the back of the workshop. I stopped and brewed a cup of tea whilst I scratched my head and spotted ’Lumpy’ as I know fondly call him sitting at the forge. Since I was in a rush it seemed like a good idea to grab him and get back to work but as I held the huge weight above my chisel it felt completely wrong – this wasn’t fine woodworking! I had to dare myself to make that first hit; it was as though I was building myself up to clout my own finger, but once the first hit was made the barrier was broken and a new bond was made between man and tool!
Since that day I’ve never gone back to a wooden mallet, perhaps I’ve just struck gold with some mysterious, ancient iron or something but ’Lumpy’ now never leaves my hand. He has a lovely broad and slightly domed face which seems to make him perfect for everything from knocking together stubborn joints, hammering in pegs, mortising, nailing, the list goes on… I can even do fine work with him and for some reason it never marks the wood.
Now I’m not trying to recommend that anyone copies my mace wielding and it certainly isn’t the best way to look after you’re lovely tools (though surprisingly I’ve broken several chisel handles with a wooden mallet and yet to break one with Lumpy). It could be a good pointer though for anyone who thinks there’s a ‘one size fits all’ solution to woodworking; in theory lump hammers have no place here yet in practise it works so well for me I may never go back!
HaHa I think I Thor is missing his hammer. Do you find you have more control when using a heavy hammer Richard. Thanks for this one buddy, I love than hammer 🙂
Not even with The Avengers can Thor have his hammer back 😉
Yes I think the metal gives a much sharper hit, though if I’m after more control I like to use a shorter chisel rather than a smaller mallet.
john gainey says
have look at you tube entitled hands cavan three brothers making furniture
Thanks John, I’ll take a look at that…
I remember I got scolded by an instructor during a practical exam in my apprenticeship for using a hammer and not a mallet. I just told him we didn’t have any mallets in our shop.
I would be a bit scared though to use a metal hammer with chisels that don’t have that metal band at the top… don’t they end up splitting?
JH, that’s precisely why I would never have used or recommend a metal hammer on unbanded chisels but Lumpy works with them just fine! I’ve yet to split any chisel with him – you’ll see the chisel in the photo without a band and this has had years of use.
Since I’ve never heard of a “lump” hammer, I had to Google it. I see they are also called a “club” hammer. What is the weight of your lump hammer?
Thanks for the great idea,
Hi Dean, ermm…I haven’t got a clue on the weight, at a guess I would say about 2 1/2 – 3 pound. Thanks, Richard
john oliver says
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I can see that lumpy is a real cutie.Once you have bonded you are done for.Do you feel the same as I do that us old woodies are getting more like train spotters all the time?
Hi, Yes you may have a point there! I think it’s the same with many things that we are enthusiastic about – to anyone else it can seem a bit sad!
Chris Buckingham says
I think it is all to do with “energy”, with the lighter wooden mallet,you have to strike the chisel with more speed to get the same energy that is delivered with the club hammer at low speed,it is sometimes easier(the low speed approach) when carrying out an accurate cut,you can concerntrate more on the position of the chisel,than swinging the mallet at high speed!
Hi Chris, That certainly sounds like a very intelligent way of looking at it and I think you’re spot on!
mike murray says
Richard, Sorry for another dumb question but, are those Ashley Isles butt chisels that you are using in your videos? Are the chisels you have vintage? Are sets like you have there still being made do you know?
I have promised myself that I would find a nice set of butt chisels and those look promising. Yours look like they have bubinga handles?
When it comes to chisels, I have a dog from every town so-to-speak. They are mostly ones that I found at junk stores and fixed back up. I would like a nice matching set. I have a small set of freud bevel edge bench chisels and don’t like using them all that much. The wood handles split (misuse on my part). Would you mind sharing some information on those that you use please.
Hi Mike, well spotted – they are Ashley Isles butt chisels that I use. I treat myself to a set of six, which isn’t like me but I found them that reasonably priced for hand made tools. I’ve had them a good number of years now and they’ve stood up extremely well to constant use, which is saying something because I do abuse my tools! So all in all, highly recommended!
mike murray says
Thanks for the information. Sorry, I misspelled Iles.
I’m going to keep an eye peeled for at least a 4-pc set.
mike murray says
I won’t know how to act! I found some Ashley Iles butt chisels! I’m no spring chicken and this will be my first nice set of chisels I have ever owned. I’m kind of excited, can ya’ tell?. I will have to get busy now and make a chisel holder/organizer for the tool cabinet.
Wonderful news Mike, I hope you’ll love them as much as I do mine. I just find that the short length makes them so usable.
nice : ) i use to work in green oak framing and the best tool for chopping out mortices was a good lump hammer and a hefty chisel ! more direct weight .
Michael L Wasson says
Because I am a retired mechanic, I have a couple of deadblow hammers that I use instead of a mallet. They are more forgiving than a metal hammer and are much easier on your tools.
Ted Friesen says
Just goes to prove the rule: “Don’t force it…use a bigger hammer”.
Allan Solomon says
Do you find you have one arm bigger than the other?
David Nighswander says
Within reason the “lump” hammer is acceptable. I’m sure you have a respect and understanding of the use of a chisel.
Newbies and apprentices are more apt to stick the chisel by driving a 3/4″ firmer into a beam with both hands on the hammer handle while trying to make a through mortise in a 4″ beam.
I’d say make them learn with a mallet and when they reach your skill level they can use whatever they want. Just don’t loan them your chisel.
Of the flea market chisels that make up my kit, on most of them I have filed out hammer marks from the sides of the blade, where a hammer was used to beat them from side to side in an attempt to free them.