Saturday, January 14, 2017

How to Condition your Rawhide Mallet

"Hey, my rawhide mallet is making marks on my metal. I thought it was not supposed to do that?"

Yup, that's right, your trusty rawhide mallet isn't perfect. Especially when it's brand new. Even though leather is softer than your metal, an unconditioned rawhide mallet can imprint some texture on softer non-ferrous metals, like alloys of silver and gold.

Did you know you can condition your mallet? Now you do. It involves water, but luckily no shampoos. Basically your mallet is glued and sealed in the factory, leaving it hardened from the process of making it. The sealant and hardened leather imprint your metal. How can you tell if your mallet is still new? Well, a new mallet will clearly show the spiral of the leather wrapped up to make the head.

A conditioned mallet blurs the mallet face. The layers are no longer visible, and this softened and frayed leather is less likely to mar your surface. Check out this 25 year old mallet from near the start of my career.

One way to condition a mallet is to use it. A lot. Over time, the face will naturally smash and fray into a lovely soft surface. But this can take time to develop, like months or years. There's a faster way.

The faster way to condition your leather mallet is to soak it and smash it. Soak just the leather head in a bowl of water for 2 hours. This dissolves the sealant and starts to swell the leather.

After soaking, dry it off. It's smashing time! Hammering the mallet against a hard surface will accelerate the blurring of the edges and soften the leather. Good candidates include sidewalk, cement blocks and bricks. Pour yourself a drink, cue up your favorite raucous music, and get clobbering. Swing and wield the mallet as usual, hitting the cement for about 10 minutes per face. Hitting on the sharp edge of the cement or curb will work the leather faster.

It's done when the leather looks satisfactorily softened and compliant. Or the music stops. Or you run out of liquor. In any case, you're done. Job well done! If only work was so easy and cathartic. Be sure to remove any bits of rock or cement that may have embedded in the leather or they will definitely imprint your metal.

Enjoy your conditioned and obedient mallet. For more helpful tips, check out the other articles on our blog. We also post free videos about jewelry making at


Dharlee said...

Thank you. I just want to say that I really enjoy your videos and blog. I wish with all my heart I lived close to someone like you so I could take advantage of the classes you offer. Thank you for sharing all that you share with us.

Hwol said...

Thank you Joe! I love your directions and humor!

Unknown said...

Thank you! You're the best teacher!

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Palmer said...

I came for the info, I stayed for the inane humor. Thanks!!