Handmade Mallet Story
We love our handmade mallets and, although we have come under quite a lot of pressure to substitute them for something else over the years, we have clung onto them with a passion. I remember the feeling of elation I got after making my first one from scratch during my Forest School training. I’ve still got it! There is something about the evident short connection from living tree to useful tool that is innately satisfying. They smell and feel wonderful too.
Initially Jo and I used to make them all by hand with an axe. We would coppice Alder from our small wood, cut off all the brash, drag the logs up the hill, and then transport them to Jo’s husband’s workshop where he, very kindly, cut them into mallet lengths. We then would take them back to our houses and fashion the handles with an axe. Brian (Jo’s husband) was brilliant at sharpening the axes! And then they all had to be sanded to get rid of any rough edges. Eventually we bought a Makita sander- I got my t-shirt trapped in it once. It was terrifying.
On occasions we sourced other local wood. Poplar was amazing as it has a pithy outer core that was easy to axe away. The poplar mallets were very light when dry too which made them less expensive to post.
However, as orders increased we just couldn’t make enough and Jo got ‘mallet elbow’! Really painful. Just at this time, incredibly, we found Jake. Jake is a musician and bass guitarist in the up and coming Bishop’s Castle band Nuclear Weasels. He also has turned out to be a mallet making genius. He uses his earnings to buy equipment for his music business and the band. We source ash from local woodland and Jake turns the handles on a lathe. He just phones us up every now and again saying “I’m bringing round another 563”… we love him!
Once shaped, the mallets have to be put in a kiln and left for several weeks to dry. In the early days if we were desperate (meaning run out) we would put them in the microwave (usually at midnight)….it worked but wrecked the microwave!
So now all our den kits have a beautiful, Shropshire ash handmade mallet in them. I hope you will love yours as much as we do!