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Thread: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

  1. #1
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    Default Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    I've decided I'd like to try my hand at making one. The Youtube Channel The Art of Boatbuilding shows how he built one. I will have no trouble replicating what he did and adapting to the materials I have on hand etc.

    My question is more what design changes can be made to these tools? How do these changes affect performance, ease of (long periods of) use etc.? Does a shorter head make caulking certain types of seams easier? How do they ergonomics of the mallet work so I can make sure not to lose designed-in efficiencies. Is there a ratio of handle to head length? Some other key proportion to correctly build one?

    Lastly, I'm over thinking this aren't I?

    Thanks for any input you might have folks.

    Cheers,
    Daniel
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    They have evolved over centuries.
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    They are pretty well all the same size and proportion, shorter ones are just wearing out.
    The British ones tend to be riveted, the American ones are held together with hoops.
    Now read on: http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...aulking-Mallet
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Shush! Don’t be so curious! The evolved design was handed down from the Heavens and it’s perfect.
    Last edited by JimConlin; 10-18-2022 at 08:04 AM.

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    they been caulkin leaky boats for thousands of years with them things
    no improvement needed

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Mine - definitely British, came from Davey & Co. in 1984 - has hoops, lignum vitae head, ash handle. One important detail is that the handle slides onto the head and is swelled to hold it in place so you can easily dis-assemble this awkward tool and chuck the two bits back in your toolbox/tool bag/whatever.
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    If it’s of any interest Daniel here’s a thread of some that I did a few years ago. Aside from my own attempts there is some good information from others here that you may find useful:

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...light=caulking
    Larks

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    That’s an excellent thread.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Quote Originally Posted by Larks View Post
    If it’s of any interest Daniel here’s a thread of some that I did a few years ago. Aside from my own attempts there is some good information from others here that you may find useful:

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...light=caulking
    It's been fun looking at mallets today, thanks to all for posting words and links.

    Collection of Drew catalog information, may be useful to OP:

    http://www.numismalink.com/drew.ency.34.81.html

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Thanks for the steers guys. Much appreciated. I'm not so much thinking I can improve upon it as not wanting to inadvertently make the handle too short and ruin it's performance. Or the head. Or the diameter. I saw a museum display showing caulking tools mounted on a board and there were two sizes of head. That tells me there are different scenarios where one is more desirable than the other. So knowing that much and no more, what is the larger one for, and what's the smaller one for? Not different sized boats. So just a matter of tight spaces with the smaller one? or is there more to this. Found a length of pipe at the hardware store about 6" long. 2 1/4 or so ID. That'll become rings by the handle. Got a length of rusty old 1 5/8" pipe that will ring the heads. I think I'm ready to start now. Thanks again for the help. I'll try to remember to post pics here once it's done. Maybe some progress pics if I can angle them so as not to show how trustworthy I am.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Sorry but I think the caulking mallet is the clumsiest looking tool I have ever seen. Never used one and don't want to either.

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Every normal hammer is a compromise between weight, cost, available materials, and most importantly, versatility within the range of it's intended use. The caulking mallet is not, it is strictly designed to deliver 8,000,000,000 identical, controlled taps with minimal effort, even when crouching down below a boat, head between your knees, squinting up
    It's very good at that, it's rediculously bad at everything else you'd expect from a hammer.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    I don't think the "rings" are straight sided, like a section of pipe. but top and bottom (diameters) change size so that they "clamp" as they are driven home
    Last edited by the_gr8t_waldo; 10-26-2022 at 03:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldad View Post
    Sorry but I think the caulking mallet is the clumsiest looking tool I have ever seen. Never used one and don't want to either.
    Funny, I am looking forward to learning to use one in the next few years.

    Certainly is an interesting tool that has maintained a very consistent form for a long time. Looking at it in use I can see where that long head keeps your "swinging" hand away from the iron and the symmetry maintains the tool's balance, the long handle is a counterbalance to that big head leaving the wrist as a pivot point. At least that's what it looks like to me. They pop up at the local marine consignment shop every so often, I'm waiting for one that is in decent shape and size to show up.
    Steve

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldad View Post
    Sorry but I think the caulking mallet is the clumsiest looking tool I have ever seen. Never used one and don't want to either.
    Acrually quite the opposite once you get the hang of it. The longer head keeps running in a straighter line and tips sideways less easier than a short head.

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Article about Med Chandler making caulking irons, in case you need one to go with your new mallet...

    https://www.woodenboat.com/blacksmithing-primer

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Sailor, any progress on the mallet build?

    I ended up knocking something together from some bits I had at home. I did go and buy an auto exhaust coupler at the size I wanted to split in half for the rings on the ends. A co-worker split the coupler on a metal lathe so as not to induce the burrs I get with the chop saw. He also drilled the handle hole since my home drill press and vice are lacking. It was not intentional, but it did come out about the size of the current Davey mallet head (10.5"/32cm). Jury is still out/work is incomplete on the inner rings. My blank is glued up in an off-center fashion so it would make sense to do something.

    I need to finish de-burring the inner rings and will need to turn the one end of the mallet down a hair to allow that side's inner ring to be tapped into place. I almost turned the whole thing too small for the inner rings as I was not careful with the measurements between the metal ID and wood OD of the inner mallet head. It would have helped to have de-burred the inner rings first and to only use one caliper for measuring instead of alternating between two.

    spot_wb_mallet1.jpgspot_wb_mallet2.jpg

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor View Post
    Thanks for the steers guys. Much appreciated. I'm not so much thinking I can improve upon it as not wanting to inadvertently make the handle too short and ruin it's performance. Or the head. Or the diameter. I saw a museum display showing caulking tools mounted on a board and there were two sizes of head. That tells me there are different scenarios where one is more desirable than the other. So knowing that much and no more, what is the larger one for, and what's the smaller one for? Not different sized boats. So just a matter of tight spaces with the smaller one? or is there more to this. Found a length of pipe at the hardware store about 6" long. 2 1/4 or so ID. That'll become rings by the handle. Got a length of rusty old 1 5/8" pipe that will ring the heads. I think I'm ready to start now. Thanks again for the help. I'll try to remember to post pics here once it's done. Maybe some progress pics if I can angle them so as not to show how trustworthy I am.
    There were two sizes, one for horsing the garboard seam, which was like beetle or maul, and the more slender one that we use now for the rest of the hull.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Quote Originally Posted by the_gr8t_waldo View Post
    I don't think the "rings" are straight sided, like a section of pipe. but top and bottom (diameters) change size so that they "clamp" as they are driven home
    True, and they are hardened.
    So they do not burr if you whack say a caulking iron.
    They should always be free to slide a bit further onto the head

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Yes, and no. I have been working at tapering the rings. One started so far, on a mandrel built by yours truly that is giving less than satisfactory results. The ring is an old piece of presumably black pipe. Can't get it as shiny as I want. due to not getting it entered on my drill press mounted contraption. Lathe crapped out on me too which has paused all those little lathe projects. Updates when I have something to show. Always free to slide a bit further on..... Hmmm not sure how to achieve that from straight pipe. Outer taper I can manage, slowly for now, but a corresponding inner taper?
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    My experience from copying a new Drew mallet in a museum collection, was the OD is not tapered, but the ID definitely was. Enough to have to be driven on compressing the mallet a bit and gradually slide in towards the center and remain tight as the working end shortened.
    Black pipe can be a challenge to harden, a "case harden" is the best you can do.
    * note there is no shoulder on the head of the mallet, the rings must be able to slide inboard as the mallet wears (they are a "hammer tight" fit") they are hardened to not create a razor sharp burr from repeatedly tagging the iron which burr will injure the deck if it is laid down and injure the worker if it is picked up.
    From Drew catalog:

    D790152A-8547-4685-BE43-A8B7310FA899.jpg
    Last edited by Canoeyawl; 11-07-2022 at 07:49 PM.

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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    I had success in cutting out a strip of the old 2.25" muffler pipe and constricting it back to a smaller ID/OD with hose clamps and a 3-jaw lathe chuck. If the slit was tapered a bit, pulling it together and welding it would make it a cone of sorts. The current end pipes on the mallet above were my 'backup plan' and since they were bought and cut and shiny I went with that.

    Canoeyawl, I am not sure how I would harden them. Is heating and quenching mild steel enough? Hard-facing welding rod on the striking ends?

    Old 1940 tool catalog pages found on the 'wayback machine'

    spot_wb_mallet3.jpg tyzack_irons_1940.jpg

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Quote Originally Posted by Spot View Post
    Canoeyawl, I am not sure how I would harden them. Is heating and quenching mild steel enough? Hard-facing welding rod on the striking ends?
    You can probably get away without any hardening, it is not as if the rings are the striking face. However, if you want to, you may be able to find case-hardening powder. https://www.ekpsupplies.com/case-har...owder-1kg.html
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    Thanks Nick.

    I cleaned up the rusty inner rings finishing with a wire wheel (which I should have done first instead of last to avoid one of my earlier turning mistakes) and re-turned where they seat on the mallet. Then I made some tick marks with the tape and pencil and used the metal back of the vice and a rubber mallet to the caulking mallet's face to set them. The head portion is weighing in at 553g or 1 pound 3 & 1/2 oz.

    spot_wb_mallet4.jpgspot_wb_mallet5.jpg

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Arriving at an ideal design for a Caulking Mallet

    I get that caulking mallet designs are supposed to be extraordinarily good at delivering exactly the same strike zillions of times, but then so are the mallets and hammers designed for stone masons squaring and facing blocks to build (or rebuild) stone buildings. They look incredibly different.

    I'm sure a caulking mallet works well to concentrate all that mass onto a small-ish striking face, in a controllable, repeatable motion. I'm just also sure that as other trades have developed their own tools to do objectively very similar tasks (which also do them well), that there's more than one way to skin a cat.
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