What tool should you use to knock uneven wooden workpieces into place or remove dents from thin sheet metalA correctly configured hydraulic press would work if you have the budget of a small city, but for the average Joe, a rubber mallet just makes much more sense.
Rubber mallets are very simple tools that serve a mighty purpose – to gently bash objects into place without leaving craters in their wake. A condensed piece of rubber sits atop a long, sturdy wooden handle that gives enough leverage to deliver powerful blows with each short-ranged swing.
Rubber mallets are generally extremely lightweight and require several well-aimed whacks to gently nudge objects in place. Their large, blunt faces make it easy to aim but also quite poor for precision work. Furthermore, it’s important that you exercise caution when using a rubber mallet as swinging the tool too hard could result in the mallet bouncing off the target and hitting you square in the face.
Wood Mallet vs. Rubber Mallet – What’s the Difference?
While shopping for a mallet, you’ll most likely run into two mallet types – wood and rubber.
Wood mallets are extremely versatile but in the woodworking context. Uses of wood mallets include driving dowels, assembling dovetail joints, and chiseling. The wood used to make the mallet head typically made of beechwood, so marring or creating dimples in wood pieces is hardly an issue.
Rubber mallets are a lot more flexible in construction and usage. The soft mallet head delivers an even softer blow than wood mallets – a definite plus when working with more delicate pieces like softwood, ceramic tiles, plastic, and sheet metal. Additionally, rubber mallets often find their way in woodworking shops for the same purposes as wood mallets.
If you’re undecided between choosing wood or rubber, the latter is the much safer, more versatile option to get.
Do I need a Rubber Mallet?
The rubber mallet is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you could own. This tool is commonly used in woodworking, metalworking, and home repair projects.
In woodworking, rubber mallets are used in both constructing and deconstructing furniture. A metal claw hammer can be used in its place, but you’ll run the risk of marring the surface regardless of how many layers of cushioning you use. Also, when cutting intricate details into the wood, a rubber mallet can be used to gently drive the chisel without damaging the workpiece in any way.
Rubber mallets are also in metalworking projects where sheets of metal need to be pounded flat or to a specific shape. However, due to the shape of the rubber mallet’s head, it’s usage in metalworking is undoubtedly limited, especially when working with thicker pieces like beams, bars, and tubes.
And finally, in home-repair jobs, a rubber mallet can prove to be an indispensable tool for a wide array of projects. From sliding and leveling tiles to installing carpeting, a rubber mallet can be the most gentle, accurate tool for doing so.
Top 5 Best Rubber Mallets
Shopping for a rubber mallet may sound like a no-brainer (it’s a piece of rubber attached to a wooden handle, right?), and for the most part, you’d be right. However, the numerous rubber mallets on the market can make settling on one particular model or design a bit of a challenge. But worry not, dear reader, as we give you our picks of the top 5 rubber mallets.
Great Neck Saw RM8 Rubber Mallet
Perhaps the most rubber-mallet-looking item on our list is the RM8 from Great Neck. The RM8 consists of a simple, 8-ounce, double-sided rubber head attached to a thin, wooden handle. There’s nothing too complicated about the RM8. However, with great simplicity comes great complication.
This rubber mallet, head, and handle, weighs roughly 8 ounces. The lightweight design makes the RM8 far too delicate for demanding jobs like leveling tiles, driving chisels, and flattening sheet metal. However, for light-duty jobs like assembling furniture or wire shelving units, this rubber mallet is exactly what you’ll need. We’ve also noticed that the rubber chips off rather easily with each bump of the mallet head.
The thin handle, which sounds like a good idea initially, can be a bit too thin for our liking. If you have small hands, then the RM8’s handle won’t be an issue, but for those with larger-than-life palms and digits, you may need to wrap the handle in several layers of tape to give it a comfortable grip.
Another thing we noticed was that the RM8 swells AWFUL straight out of the packaging. And we’re sad to report that the smell doesn’t fade, even weeks after purchase. It’s not so bad that it’ll turn your stomach, but it’s still surprisingly foul.
Alltrade 648336 16Oz White Rubber Mallet
The 648336 (catchy name) is one of the most durable, well-balanced rubber mallets on our list. It outshines the previous mallet which should be used sparingly. As for the 648336, this mallet can be used all day and night without the slightest hint of wear.
Firstly, you’ll notice the rubber mallet’s white color. This isn’t just for aesthetics – though it is pleasing to the eye – it also prevents discoloration on your workpiece when bashing it into place. You may want to refrain from using this on greasy surfaces since there’s virtually no way to remove stains from the mallet head.
The weight of the entire tool is a hefty 16 ounces, which is bulky enough for more demanding jobs like flattening laying paver stones, driving chisels, and assembling furniture. This is a must-have feature for those hunting for a mallet for everyday use.
The 648336 also has a long, steel handle for added leverage. The handle is covered in a durable rubber padding that, combined with the lightweight build of the mallet, should allow you to swing accurately for hours.
What else can we say about the 648336It’s an absolute beast in woodworking, mechanic, and home touch-up jobs. It may be a bit too large for precision work – e.g. driving chisels – but for everything else, this rubber mallet is a great choice.
TEKTON 30603 Fiberglass Handle Rubber Mallet, 16-Ounce
The 30603 (what’s with the numbered model names of rubber mallets?) from TEKTON is another force to be reckoned. For medium- to heavy-duty hammering needs, this rubber mallet is the one to go with.
The rubber head and handle together weigh 16 ounces for more challenging hammering jobs. The soft, rubber mallet head delivers a sensitive blow to your workpiece that won’t leave craters or marring. Of course, you shouldn’t swing the mallet with all of your might, but if you were to be so reckless, the soft head absorbs most of the shock from misses so it won’t jump back at you.
Not only that, but the lightweight fiberglass core inside of the poly-jacketed handle dampens vibrations by a lot. No longer will misses create localized tremors up your arm and shoulder with every missed strike.
However, the 30603 does have one rather significant issue: the mallet head. Firstly, the head isn’t that securely fixed onto the handle, meaning that it has the potential to go flying if not retightened every so often. Also, the rubber will start to chip the second the mallet is in use. Thankfully, the chipping problem isn’t so bad so you can continue using the 30603 for many years after purchase.
Coleman Rubber Mallet with Tent Peg Remover
The Coleman Rubber Mallet is another wooden-handle-and-rubber-head tool. Simplicity is key with the Coleman, but it does have one added feature that most don’t: a tent peg remover.
But first, the basics. The Coleman Rubber Mallet is a simple 16-ounce mallet with a durable rubber head and not-so-shock-absorbent wooden handle. Ironically, this tool was specifically designed for outdoorsman for driving pegs or stakes into the ground, but the lack of a shockproof handle and grip means extreme risk of self-injury when driving pegs into compacted earth.
The tent peg remover is located on the butt of the handle. Before using the peg-removing tool, you may need to loosen the tent peg a bit since there’s a very real risk of it becoming detached from the rubber mallet entirely.
There have been some complaints regarding the durability of this rubber mallet. The rubber head tends to chip rather easily, and using it to force stakes into hard soil is not going to do the tool any favors. Another concern is the odor that comes from the rubber when taken out of its seal. Whether Coleman is using an inferior-grade rubber or just has a stinky production facility is as good of a guess as anybody’s. And just like the Great Neck RM8, the foul smell won’t disappear until you dispose of the tool.
TopBuilt 16 Ounce Black and White Rubber Mallet with Fiberglass Handle 25056
The TopBuilt 25056 arguably one of the best rubber mallets available. The weight distribution of this tool gives it balance for precise work. For a mallet belonging to the 16-ounce weight class, you probably won’t find one that works as beautifully as the 25056.
The most unique feature of the TopBuilt 25056 is its dual-color rubber head. With both colors at your disposal, you won’t have to worry about gunking up the white end when striking greasy objects or leaving streak marks when striking brightly colored tiles. The 25056 offers the best of both worlds in a single mallet.
This rubber mallet features a soft head that’s perfect for light- to medium-duty whacking. The softness of the head practically eliminates the risk of marring your work when missing the target. However, there is a downside to this. Namely, the rubber material won’t last very long as it chips a lot quicker than normal.
The 25056’s handle has a fiberglass core encased within a composite fiberglass and epoxy resin body and rubberized gripping pad. The handle is tougher than any wooden handle could ever hope to be, so the lifespan of this tool is limited to how long the rubber head lasts.
Rubber Mallet Buying Guide
Rubber mallets may seem like straightforward tools that don’t require much thought before purchasing, but that’s simply not the case at all. Without knowing what to look for in a rubber mallet, you might end up getting some cheap model that won’t last you two weeks.
To help you find the right rubber mallet, we’ve created a quick of the specs and features that matter most.
How can we find out whether a rubber mallet’s head will last for yearsWell, it all comes down to the flexibility of the rubber. Dense, inflexible rubber is great for driving stakes through the ground, but it will wear down much more quickly than a slightly bendable mallet head which is incapable of doing more demanding hammering tasks. If you need a harder rubber mallet, you may want to opt for a cheaper one since they need to be replaced more frequently.
A rubber mallet typically falls into one of three weight categories – 8 ounces, 16 ounces, and 32 ounces. The heavier the mallet is, the more effective it is at driving or moving thick, heavy materials.
But heavier mallets are also harder to lift and control, so you’ll have to take into consideration how much you can lift and how hard you can swing the mallet. Generally speaking, a 16-ounce mallet will cover most of what you would ever need it to do.
Although we didn’t mention this when talking about the best rubber mallets, it’s still something worth considering. The size of the mallet’s flat-side plays a role in determining how precise it is.
Narrower mallet heads are great for fine-tuning adjustments, whereas a wider mallet is mainly for driving stakes, pegs, or disassembly. All of the models above are at least 2-1/2 inches in diameter.
Crazy vibrations are common when swinging a mallet, especially when you aim wrong and hit next to your target. But the materials used to construct the mallet’s handle can help in cushioning the blow.
Rubber mallets with wooden handles are inexpensive, but they don’t absorb shocks as well as handles with a fiberglass center. Furthermore, fiberglass handles are tons more durable than wooden handles, so if you’re thinking of investing in a mallet that’ll last for years, then fiberglass is the way to go.
The size of the handle is also an important consideration to make when shopping for a rubber mallet. Longer handles provide greater leverage to drive an object harder and deeper. Any handle that’s longer than 12 inches should provide you with both gentle tapping and hardcore destruction abilities.
White or Black Mallet Head
Mallets live in a black and white world. The color of the rubber can either stain your work piece or become stained by it. When working under the hood of your car, in a woodworking shop, or out in the wilderness where staining the rubber mallet is a possibility, then a black rubber mallet would be the better option since it conceals stains quite easily. When laying ceramic tiles, the white-colored mallet won’t leave a visible streak.
What about Metal Hammers with Rubber Caps?
You may come across a metal hammer with detachable rubber caps. These are technically rubber mallets, but the hidden metal can create such a force that it leaves dimples in wood, cracks in the plastic, and shattered tiles. Plus, these are considerably more expensive than the common rubber mallet because it’s made up of a mix of metal, rubber, and composite materials.
As you can see, rubber mallets are identical in shape, but we can’t deny that some models are simply better than others. There’s no real way to avoid cracking or chipping the rubber head, especially as it grows older and wiser with time, so the one true way of determining whether it’s of a higher quality is by looking at the handle.
In our picks of the five top rubber mallets, we’ve selected cheap, replaceable models and others that cost more but last much longer, so there’s something for everybody!