Hammers vs. mallets – which one to use?? Well, the answer is obvious… use them both! So the better question then, is which one to choose, and why. They are shaped similar to each other, and both of them are used in a similar fashion, but they produce very different results.
Mallets come in a variety of materials – plastic, nylon, rubber, wood, and my favorite… rawhide. They all have one major characteristic in common – they are made of a softer material than whatever they are striking. Hammers though, are made of steel, or some other material that is harder than what they are striking.
Whether you use a mallet, or use a hammer, both of these will work harden your item. Because it is softer than the material being hit, the mallet will absorb the force, and won’t affect the surface or altering the material. Since a hammer is harder than the material you are working with, it will cause the material to expand and flatten, as long as you are on a steel block or anvil.
I cut a few rings to show the results of hitting with a mallet, vs. hitting with a hammer – you can see how the mallet moved the metal just a little (see how the ring opened just a tiny bit), but the wire is still round, whereas the hammered ring has flattened out and expanded.
I love the look of hammered wire, but there are times when my design looks better without the flattening or texture, so it’s useful to know how to use each tool.