From tried-and-true to modern, there are many materials to choose from when selecting a maul. To help make sense of it all, we talked to Jeremiah Watt, a custom saddle maker with over 30 years of experience on what to consider when making your next maul purchase. Below are his suggestions.
In general, what are some factors I should keep in mind when selecting a maul?
“The handle, the head, and finally the balance or weight distribution are all important and to be considered in your purchase.”
What options do I have when it comes to maul heads?
“I love the look of those old mauls made up of compressed layers of rawhide. They last for years with a little careful use, mainly being sure to keep turning the maul to even out the wear pattern. If they have a downfall, it is that they wear out and finding a replacement head is difficult. Today’s modern designs are made up of mostly nylon-faced mauls, lathe-turned, and actually replaceable if sent back to the manufacturer. Some of these nylon heads are smooth, while others have radial grooves running around them to reduce slippage when striking tools. As time passes, I think we will see far fewer of the rawhide-type heads and many more heads made from newer materials. Both types have proven highly functional.”
What about maul handles?
“I guess if we go with the traditional old standard, then the stacked layers of oak bark tanned leather would come first. These are still made today by many of the contemporary maul makers throughout the USA. They are attractive, comfortable to use all day and take on a rich patina from the user’s handling over time. They require little to no maintenance that I’ve heard of. Then, there are the highly-figured and attractive wood handles that many maul makers opt for. I think as much to make their product attractive as anything. Then, there are mauls that have adapted to more modern technology and make use of high density rubber for the handle. I was a skeptic, but bought one to try and the 65-2332 Maul Master is my favorite maul today.”
What weights do I need on my bench?
“I have about five mauls located throughout my shop. At my carving bench, I have three that I use every day including a 1.5 pounder for those basket and geo block stamp jobs of a larger nature. Then, I have a 1 pounder for most borders, smaller baskets, and much of my floral work. I also have a 10 oz. maul made as a custom tool for me by an Aussie bloke. I am thinking of finding a new maul even a little lighter, in the 6-8 oz. range for very small borders and finer floral work. For stamping out parts such as rosette buttons, latigo carriers, etc., you will be happy to own a maul around 5 pounds with a good heavy head…or maybe the 65-3075 Master Tools Hand-Operated Clicker if it’s in the budget.”