In honor of naming our blog, we wanted to post about The Beetle. No, we’re not talking insects. We’re talking about the giant wooden hammer that appears at every raising.
We have several beetle mallets around the shop all weighing in between 20 to 30 pounds, sized around 12″ x 12″ x 6″. This is one serious hammer (or mallet, whatever you prefer). A vital tool, beetles are used to help seat joinery together, shift posts or beams, and on occasion drive in pegs. The beetle has various names throughout the timber frame industry, most commonly the “persuader” or the “commander”.
(At my very first raising I was asked to pass the persuader over. Once I knew what ‘the persuader’ was, I reached for the handle with confidence and pulled. I was astonished when it barely moved. It was an oak beetle, weighing about 35 pounds, which is reasonable…if you’re expecting the weight of it. I was saved from a second effort by a nearby timber framer who hefted it up easily and handed it over.)
Master timber framer Mike Gullace makes handling the beetle look easy from the ground or on a timber. Notice the angle on the end of the beetle head? Part of crafting a custom beetle is in the details and some feel the angle cut helps achieve better weight distribution when swinging the hammer.
It takes a good bit of muscle to swing the beetle as Will demonstrates during a west coast raising. This view also shows the how the handle is driven through the head of the mallet for a friction fit, much like a pickaxe.