There are a ton of videos out there on making shop mallets and an equal number on processing and using recycled HDPE plastic material. In this video, Spanish maker, Lluís, of Woodworking Barcelona, shows you how he made this really beautiful Damascus-style plastic mallet using HDPE plastic. As he points out in the notes, it’s a painstaking process to cut up all of those bottles and jugs into little pellets for melting down, but he says the effort is well worth it. The results sure are handsome.
Instead of using a furnace or stove to melt his plastic, he uses nothing more than a tin can and a heat gun. He melts the plastic in layers and then presses them into the can. When the can is full of the layers of plastic, he does a final clamping. From there, he turns the resulting cylinder on a lathe and also turns a wooden handle for it. During the turning process, he damages an edge of the mallet head and shows how he melting and spackled on a repair before continuing the turn.
In the video’s comments, a reader offers some great tips and comments:
A few tips for you though, based on my experience working with HDPE. (I made a roller trailer for my boat with 28 rollers all made out of recycled milk jugs.)
1. A toaster oven set at 340 degrees F will be a lot less work than layering & waiting for the heat gun to melt the plastic together. Using the heat gun, make sure you don’t overheat the plastic or are outside – HDPE starts off-gassing toxic fumes at about 400 degrees F.
2. If you apply epoxy inside the female end of a mortise/tenon joint, more adhesive will stay in the joint. Applying it to the male end and then shoving it in has the effect of the edges of the female side scraping off epoxy which might be useful down inside.
3. When turning something that’s heavier on one end than the other on your lathe, you’ll get less vibration if you put the heavy end nearest the headstock.