I love new tools… Except a new rawhide mallet. Sometimes a beat up old tool is better than a new one. A new mallet has a really hard surface and will mar your metal as you hammer. To get a workable surface, you have to whack the mallet against a hard surface until the varnish breaks off and the rawhide starts to soften up. It takes forever and my arms get really tired. Since I work in a metals shop at an educational facility, I have to condition a lot of mallets. To speed up the process, I go outside and whack the pavers- anything with a corner works pretty well, but if you try it, wear your safety glasses. Little shards of the pavement sometimes break off and fly. Another thing to keep in mind is that everyone who sees you hammering away at the sidewalk or parking lot will think you are nuts, stare at you and ask you questions.
So a fellow alumni suggested using a pneumatic hammer with a chisel tip to soften up the mallet. Here’s what we did:
1. Clamp the mallet in a vise
2. Hold the pneumatic hammer firmly with the chisel tip on the mallet face
3. Turn on the hammer and work slowly around the mallet. Note: If you have never used a pneumatic hammer, practice first! They are difficult to control if you are not used to it.
4. Flip the mallet over and do the same thing to the other face.
This was my first time using a pneumatic hammer and it took some practice to keep the chisel tip on the mallet. It really wanted to bounce right off!
As you can see, it’s mostly broken in… Some areas more than others. At first the air pressure was a little high so the chisel left some marks in the surface.
We turned down the pressure to a more manageable level, and the pneumatic hammer became easier to control.
The second side of the mallet turned out better. However I think this side could use a little more work too.
Overall, the pneumatic hammer is a good way to quickly condition a rawhide mallet. We only spent about ten minutes working on it, and it only needs a little more hammering to finish it up. This method saved quite a bit of time. If you have a pneumatic hammer laying around, it’s a great way to get your mallet broken in!