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What is a Mallet?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A mallet is a type of hammer with a large, soft head which is intended to strike a surface without causing any damage to it. Mallets typically have short handles, making them easier to control. There are a wide range of mallet styles on the market which are designed for a range of applications. Many hardware stores stock basic mallets, and it is also possible to find specialty mallets designed for particular professional trades. Some craftspeople also make their own mallets for specific tasks.

The materials used to make mallets vary. Some common choices are: wood, soft metals, rubber, plastic, and rawhide. As a general rule, mallets are designed so that the materials they are made from will deform before the mallet damages the object it hits. Many mallets are also made from resilient materials which will spring back after they are used; this allows people to use them again and again for projects, as the mallet deforms only temporarily.

Carpenters use mallets as driving tools, to hit other tools like chisels. The broad head of a mallet makes it easy to use when hitting a chisel, requiring less precision on the part of a user. A mallet may also be used to knock pieces of wood into place, or to hammer pegs into furniture and flooring. If a mallet strikes the project being worked on, the soft material simply bounces off, rather than creating a gouge as a hammer might.

Mallets are also used in metalworking and jewelry to flatten metal and drive various tools. In metalworking, mallets are often made from metals which are softer than the metal being worked. These metals can withstand the heat sometimes involved in metalworking without causing damage. Plastic mallets are also sometimes used by jewelers, and various metal mallets are sometimes utilized in machining and electronics as well.

Mallets also pop up in the kitchen. A meat tenderizer is simply a form of mallet, and some people skip the customized tool and stick with a mallet from the toolbox instead. Mallets can also be used in leatherworking, to drive the tools used to tool leather and sometimes to add texture to a leather surface as well.

Because mallets can deform, it is a good idea to hang them up so that they do not come into contact with other tools; even a small amount of pressure can create a distinctive imprint in a mallet. Many mallets have loops on their handles for the purpose of hanging, and a mallet can also be suspended from its head.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By SarahSon — On May 06, 2012

Has anybody else ever tried using a mallet in place of a hammer and find that it didn't work?

I like to keep a hammer in a special drawer in the house to use for simple household repairs or to pound a nail in the wall to hang a picture.

When my hammer gets misplaced I have to rummage through my husbands toolbox, and more than once I grabbed a mallet thinking that would do the trick.

The head is always too soft for what I want and I find myself getting frustrated. They are shaped so much alike that I just thought they would serve the same purpose.

I am sure there are many instances when you want a soft head like that so you won't do any damage, but most of the time I have just been looking for a plain, old hammer.

By myharley — On May 06, 2012

My son is a percussion player and he uses a percussion mallet for several different instruments.

One of his favorite toys when he was growing up was the xylophone. He would drag that bright, colorful instrument all around the house with him.

Sometimes when he would pound the xylophone with the mallet, it would drive me crazy, but I think that was the beginning of his love for percussion.

Now when he uses a mallet to play, it has a much nicer sound. He will use a percussion mallet on the tympani, the snare drum and the xylophone when he is playing today.

By Perdido — On May 05, 2012

I make and sell a variety of wire earrings, and I use a special jewelry mallet to keep from damaging the materials. It has two heads, with one side being plastic and the other being metal.

I use the plastic side for the more delicate pieces of wire. It will never scratch or bend them beyond repair.

I use the metal side for the thicker wire that is harder to bend. I had been using pliers to pull the wire down on the back of the earring and secure the piece, but the pliers were scratching the paint off of the wire and exposing the silver color underneath. The metal mallet does not scratch the paint, and it is strong enough to hammer the wire down.

By StarJo — On May 04, 2012

My brother works on a demolition crew, and they frequently use mallets. They spend all their time tearing apart houses and buildings, and they need mallets to apply pressure in the right areas.

I have visited him on a worksite before, and I saw him sticking a chisel underneath some old floor boards. He then used a big mallet to drive the chisel further under the board in order to rip it up.

In construction, I would think that hammers would be used more often than mallets. In demolition work, mallets are very useful.

By seag47 — On May 04, 2012

@OeKc05 – My husband has a rubber mallet, and I can tell you that my meat tenderizer looks almost nothing like it. The only resemblance is that it has a handle and a head.

His rubber mallet has a rounded wooden handle and a big black piece of rubber on the end. My meat tenderizer is made of silvery metal, and it is heavier than his tool.

Also, the head is texturized so that it can work into the meat. It has rows of diamond patterns running across it, and the raised areas feel a little bit sharp.

I would much rather get hit with a rubber mallet than a meat mallet. Mine is intended to change the actual texture of things, while his is just designed to push them into place.

By OeKc05 — On May 03, 2012

I can't believe that some people will use a mallet out of a toolbox to tenderize their meat! That seems a bit unsanitary.

For one thing, a toolbox is not a clean place. It's a place where dirt and sawdust hang out.

People probably wash their mallets before using them on meat, but still, it just seems unnatural. Also, how can you be sure that you are getting all the raw meat off of your mallet when you wash it and put it back in the toolbox? It sounds like a good way to transfer bacteria to your other tools.

Personally, I've never had to tenderize meat before. I know that there are mallets made especially for this, but I don't know what they look like. Do meat tenderizing mallets look much different than the other kinds?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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