Why You Need a Mallet and Which Type to Buy

Man using rubber mallet for pavement

 

Bogdanhoda / Getty Images

A standard metal-faced hammer isn't appropriate for all uses. A metal-faced hammer is meant only for pounding nails but it often gets called into action for gentler uses. When this happens, a scrap piece of two-by-four is inserted between the hammer and the item to soften the blow.

Why not make everything easier—and protect your item better—simply by purchasing a rubber or wooden mallet?

A mallet is one of those specialty tools that often doesn't get bought unless you have an extreme need—prompting a late-night run down to the local home center. Having a rubber or wooden mallet on hand means that you'll find a wide variety of uses for them.

Rubber Mallet

A rubber mallet is a lightweight hammer-like tool with a head made of molded rubber or hard plastic and a wooden or fiberglass handle. Rubber mallets, sometimes called soft mallets, are used when you need a softer blow than even a wooden mallet might make.

Safety Considerations

Rubber mallets bounce back after you deliver a blow to the item. So, be mindful of this and always wear safety glasses when using a mallet. Dead-blow mallets help reduce bounce-back. Also, the heavier the mallet (whether conventional or dead-blow), the less bounce-back you will experience.

The heads of rubber mallets may shred over time, especially if you use them for pounding sharp items like carpet tack strips. So, it's good to replace your mallet if the head has become shredded or pitted.

Rubber Mallet Uses

  • Form sheet metal since they are not likely to cause dents
  • Shift panels of drywall into place
  • Tapping bricks or pavers into the sand
  • Gently tap ceramic or stone tiles into place
  • Tighten up joints in luxury vinyl tile or in laminate flooring
  • Tap carpeting onto tack strips
  • Close paint can lid without damaging the can or lid
  • Tap walls, flooring, or ceiling, using the rubber mallet as a sounding device
  • Snug up joints in PVC pipe
  • Vibrate concrete forms when making concrete countertops, tables, or vanity tops

Types of Rubber Mallets

Rubber mallets come in two styles: those with solid rubber heads attached to a handle, and those to which rubber pads are attached to the faces of a metal head. These latter types often have rubber pads of two different densities on the opposite faces, and some even have interchangeable pads. 

If you have a predominant type of use for the rubber mallet, you can purchase either a black rubber head or a white rubber head. For example, if you plan to use the rubber mallet mostly for assembling furniture or other interior uses, you may want to buy a white rubber mallet since it will not leave black marks.

Rubber Mallet Buying Tips

  • Pay attention to the weight ratings. Rubber mallets range from 8 ounces to 32 ounces.
  • For general use, purchase a 12 ounce or 16 ounce rubber mallet.
  • Another kind of mallet is a dead-blow mallet. Its head is filled with lead or steel shot. This helps to deaden the blow and reduce bounce-back.
  • If you only want to buy one mallet for two types of usage, you can buy a double-faced mallet. One side is softer rubber and the other side is a harder acetate face.
Pros
  • Gentle method of tapping items into

  • Wide variety of uses

  • Choice of different weights and styles

Cons
  • Bounce-back when making hard blows

  • Rubber head may shred or become pitted

  • Some mallets may leave marks

Wooden Mallet

Wooden mallets are used in woodworking and carpentry to drive wooden pieces together, such as when assembling dovetail joints, or when hammering dowels or chisels.

Metal hammer faces can damage wood surfaces or the ends of chisels, and a wooden mallet will not mar either wood surfaces or tools.

A wooden mallet also makes it easier to control a chisel, since it strikes with less force than a metal hammer. A rubber mallet striking the chisel would not be appropriate because it produces too much of a bounce.

Prices for wooden mallets range from $10 to well over $30. But there's little reason to buy expensive types, especially for ordinary do-it-yourself use. Skilled woodworkers, though, may well own several wooden mallets in a variety of sizes for use in fine joinery and carving.

Wooden mallets are usually made of beechwood, a medium-density wood that won't damage workpieces.

Pros
  • Delivers sharper blow than rubber mallet

  • Does not leave marks

Cons
  • Limited uses

  • May become damaged

wooden mallet
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