In recent months Damian Goodburn has introduced us to working with a Holly Mallet which is made from the natural branch growth of a holly tree.
When making a Holly mallet the tree is chosen because of the way it grows. The thing to look for is where side branches appear in several places at the same point around the trunk. The turmoil caused from several branches growing from the same point creates a great deal of strength at that point.
Holly is a wonderful wood to work when fresh cut. It seasons to a very tough material and has often been used for rowing thole pins, a tradition often seen at Mersea Island.
Cutting the trunk just above and below this knot region, retaining one side branch as a handle, produces a mallet. One tree will produce a whole set, of varying weights. David Pryer, a volunteer at the Sutton Hoo Ship’s company has just made a set of five Holly Hammers of varying sizes and weights. These will be used when splitting the oak needed for the many planks required.
The particular tree selected comes from an ancient nuttery which is shown on old maps, and could well date from the late 14th Century when hazel trees were grown to make the wattle and daub infill in our timber-framed house.
David has also made a nailing dolly out of another (seasoned) piece of holly, which will be used when we come to nailing and riveting.