I don’t know if it’s a real memory or something my adolescent brain concocted after the fact, but I remember a day when my grandpa swore that something or someone was “Dumb as a bag of hammers.” Being a kid that took an inordinate amount of joy from the tools grandpa let him use, in the memory I told him I didn’t understand why that would be dumb. I couldn’t think of anything better than a Whole Bag of Hammers!
I’m mostly suspicious of the memory because it makes me sound rather more precocious and clever than I suspect that I really was. It’s one of the oddments of life that you can’t always trust your own memories, but there you go.
Be that as it may, I still get an inordinate amount of joy out of my tools. And now that I actually have enough hammers to fill a bag, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that this apocryphal memory holds a kernal of truth: There really aren’t many things cooler than a Whole Bag of Hammers.
I suppose that some of you are, quite correctly, pointing out that there’s also a half dozen mallets in that bag. All the same, there are enough hammers to make the bag rather heavier than I’d like to tote around.
For the record, this isn’t an example of excess. Each of those hammers (and mallets) has a specific purpose to which it is best suited. It is enormously frustrating to me to watch someone use the wrong hammer for their task. Or, worse yet, to use something else like a wrench in place of a hammer.
My wife thinks I need to seek professional help.
Believe it or not, there is a distinct difference between a claw hammer, a rip hammer, and a ball peen hammer. The face of each hammer is shaped to best suit the task for which it was intended, and the temper of the metal as well. Try to form metal with a claw hammer and you’ll get a good idea why you shouldn’t, no matter what Jamie from Mythbusters might wish you to believe. Will a hammer explode on you if you’re using it wrong? No, that’s a bit silly. But you will expend more energy than you would if you went to the toolbox and got the correct tool.
These mallets serve various purposes. Top is a felloe mallet. These were originally used and made by wheelwrights, who would cut them from old sections of wheel. These sections are properly called “felloes”. Pop a handle on it and sell it to your fellow craftsmen and you’ve got a lucrative sideline. Like most woodworkers, I use mine for carving and whacking chisels.
Next one down is a rawhide mallet. That head is made from rolled rawhide leather that has been varnished into a nice, hard, mallet head. The resultant head is hard enough to drive a chisel if you’ve a mind to, but not hard enough to knock a dent into wood. I bought it to use on leather tools, but since I rarely tool my leathergoods, it’s mostly used in cabinetmaking.
The two gavel-looking mallets are also for cabinetmaking. They’re used to knock together mortise and tenon joinery and also to set the blades in wood-body planes. I’ll discuss those a lot more when we’re in the joinery section of the project.