The Persuader, aka: Beetle, Mallet, Hammer

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.

Beetle wooden malletWe 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 with beetle

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.

Swinging wooden beetle mallet

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.

timber framing home build mallet

Each beetle is handcrafted in our shop, often customized to the individual’s preference with various chamfering, angled cuts, handle shapes and lengths, etc.

 

Often the head of the beetle is crafted from kiln dried Douglas fir while the handles are always hardwood. About 80% of our frames are Douglas fir. Using a beetle with the same density wood helps prevent damage/denting of any of the timber posts or beams. On occasion hardwood beetles are required to “encourage” joinery on hardwood frames, where pine species just aren’t enough (think reclaimed oak).

jake persuades a timber joint together with a beetle

Jake takes a swing with the beetle during the raising of a reclaimed Chestnut frame in New York.

The head of the mallet is typically free of heart for longer durability of the beetle. Checking and cracking are just a part of life for these heavy mallets. Most beetle heads are replaced yearly.

beetle mallet at timber frame raising jobsite

The beetle is always needed at some point during a raising, so it is never too far from reach. Notice it hanging out on the deck at this Lake Erie raising.

short handle beetle

Beetles handles can vary in length. The shorter handle is often most valuable in tight space or for intricate joinery angles where the long handle would just be in the way – or simply wouldn’t fit.

The beetle is an essential timber framing tool, a piece that is revered, used and abused, but keeps on giving.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, that is Iain silhouetted in the top header image of this blog, wielding a beetle during a west coast raising. Clients are just as fascinated as we are when these big mallets come into play – we have to thank the spectators of the raising for this, and many other images.

beetle on timbers

The beetle takes a break.

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