Full Chisel Blog

March 27, 2014

Traditional Craftsman’s Lye Soap with Rosin (c. 1804)

Filed under: Alchemy,For Sale or Trade,Historical Material,Of Interest,Spinning Wheel,Trees — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:58 am

Based on an old recipe (c 1804) this is real soap [not a detergent bar] and contains NO modern ingredients, phosphates, or petroleum distillates.  After trying a couple of recipes, the lard and castor oil example was excellent and did not dry out my hands using it over the winter.  After getting my hands on some rosin, I had a batch of soap made to the old recipe and the stuff is great.

Not only does it not dry out your hands, it lathers well and is long lasting.  The rosin gives the soap a delightful fragrance, adds hardness to the soap and it is derived from trees, what could be better?  It lubricates sticky drawer parts and other wooden moving parts [such as the tension block of spinning wheels].

It can also be used to practice carving and you can clean up with the shavings.

Made of lard, castor oil, rosin, distilled water and lye, all from renewable natural resources.

Available in the Full Chisel Store and ready for immediate shipment you can buy it here.

Thanks to Mark Schramm, master blacksmith and soap maker for making this soap for me to use and sell.

Traditional Craftsman’s Lye Soap with Rosin.


March 10, 2014

Liquid Hide Glue – freshness test

A foolproof [if that concept is possible] method of testing the freshness of liquid hide glue, that works every time.

Simply put a bead of liquid hide glue on a piece of porous paper and place the paper in a warm oven [150 to 200 degrees [F]] for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.

When you bend the paper the bead of glue will break if the glue is fresh.  If the liquid hide glue is not fresh it will bend without breaking.

hide glue freshness test

The samples are from left to right liquid Fish Glue, fresh Franklin/Titebond liquid hide glue and finally Franklin/Titebond Liquid Hide Glue that is over 5 years old [two years spent outdoors year round] and the results show the cracking in the two fresh samples and wrinkles and flexibility in the old sample.

An excellent test, the two fresh glues also passed the legging, cottoning, or stringing test, the old glue did not.


February 26, 2014

Drive Belt Dressing

This stuff use to be available when tools and mills were powered by flat leather belts, jack shafts, and flywheels.  It keeps the belt tracking properly [providing the wheels are coplanar] and prevents the belt from slipping.

drive belt dressing

Works great on Foot Powered Treadle Lathes, sewing machine belts and drive bands on Spinning Wheels.  Based on an old formula this stuff is very sticky, it sticks to silicone, teflon and high molecular plastic, etc. etc.

drive belt dressing1

The perforated paper tube keeps it from sticking to your fingers and can be peeled back as the belt dressing is used up.

And it is for sale at The Full Chisel Store.



February 21, 2014

Got Rosin?*

*that should read ‘Do you have rosin?’

According to the 1930 edition of Merck’s Index:


Colophony; Abietic Anhydride; Yellow Rosin; Resina, B.P.-Res. left on distil. volat. oil fr. oleoresin obt. fr. Pinus palustris & o. spec. of Pinus, Pinaceæ. – Occur.:Rosin is chiefly supplied by the U.S. – Sol.: Freely in A., B., E.,  glac.acet. acid, oils, & soluts. of fixed alkali hydroxides.  U.S.P. also in CS2. – Sp. Gr.: 1.07 – 1.09 at 25°C., U.S.P. – Constit.: Chiefly (80%-90%) abietic acid, or its anhydride resene (5%-6%, B.P.C.).; also pinic & sylvic acids –  Uses: Pharm., as ingred. in oints, plasters, cerates, &c. – Techn., manuf. varnishes, varnish & paint driers, printing inks, cements, soap, sealing wax, wood polish, floor coverings, paper, plastics, fireworks, tree wax, sizes; f. waterproofing cardboard, walls, etc., & as source of rosin spirit & rosin oil, & pitch.


It is available by the pound at the Full Chisel Store, here.


October 28, 2013

Hide Glue in America, 1608

“With the sineyews of Deare, and the tops of Deares horns boiled to a jelley, they make a glew that will not dissolve in cold water.”  John Smith Virginia 1608

September 18, 2013

Spirit Torch or Alcohol Lamp

Filed under: Alchemy,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:46 am

I use an alcohol lamp all the time and while I was adding some ethanol to my lamp with a pipette I accidentally sucked some straight grain alcohol into my mouth, twice.  Can’t do that with denatured nor would I dare.

I learned this trick from ‘Conversations on Chemistry’, 1822, an interesting book written by a woman who first apologized for knowing so much and saying her knowledge was just recently acquired.

This is your alcohol lamp on alcohol, and is combusting.


spirit torch1

This is your alcohol lamp on alcohol with platinum wire, and is incandescent.

spirit torch2

This makes it difficult to blow out and the glowing wire reignites the wick.  The wire is also hotter than the open flame, although I had no instrument for measuring that amount of heat.

When I first made the platinum wire ‘spring’ I dropped it on the floor, being platinum and being a spring, it took me 20 minutes on my hands and knees to find it; I now keep it in a small corked glass test tube.


July 14, 2013

Map Glass leather and wood case, with copper tacks

I have wanted one of this type of magnifying glass stand for a long time.  I recently acquired this on a large trade for many other tools, etc.  I had my apprentice cut out the round pine disk with a coping saw then using a rip saw cut it in half leaving two pieces 5/16″ in thickness and 1 7/8″ in diameter.

map glass1

I made a paper pattern for the leather for the case as well as 3 pieces of round leather, the lower pine disk has leather on both sides and the upper disk has leather on the inside and walnut burl veneer on the top surface.  The leather and veneer were glued on with Lee Valley Fish Glue, I really like that stuff.  I put a French polish on the walnut burl, then a thin coat of Moses T’s Gunstocker’s Finish.  I punched my mark in the bottom before assembly.

map glass2

Using a bone folder I put some decorative line work around the leather including the tongue that secures the case shut when pushed through the retaining strap.  The strap also had decoration on the front, it passes through slits in the leather I made with a sharp chisel.  Using a Hudson Bay pattern stitching awl, I punched square shaped holes for the waxed [beeswax and tallow] linen thread, in line so the points of the square holes line up.  This allows the thread to lay flat along the seam.  I also pounded the thread flat into the leather to reduce wear.

map glass3

map glass4

Using #2 copper tacks I affixed the leather to the sides of the disk after having applied fish glue to the leather and edges of the top and bottom pieces.  Tiny little tacks, but just right for this small project.

map glass5

I then cut thin strips of leather to cover the exposed pine edge; I scarfed the ends of the leather to lay flat where the leather flap opening is not attached to the top and bottom.  Using even smaller #1 1/2 copper tacks to attach the exposed pine edges finishing off the case.

It was a fun project and took my mind off a truely challenging project that I will post soon.



May 9, 2013

Scorching Sand

scorching sand

I am in need of some scorching sand for heat shading veneer and for hardening goose writing quills.  I got a couple of cups of sand from a friend, it was left over from an out door cook oven.  It is coarse construction sand and was in need of cleaning.

I first ran it through a coarse sieve [12 wires per inch], the stuff that didn’t make it through went into the garden.  I then ran  the sand through fine brass screen [20 wires per inch].  The stuff that didn’t make it through I separated out and saved it for future use, thinking I would still need to wash it when I was done.

Everything that fell through the fine brass wire screen contained all of the fines and dust, which I assumed I would have to wash it and dry it out.  As I was pouring the sand from one container to another the wind blew some of the fine dust away.  Now I was winnowing the sand and in about 15 minutes it was very clean.  I didn’t have to wash it after all.

The size of the sand really does not matter for scortching wood or hardening quills, but it is nice to have two different sizes of winnowed sand.



May 3, 2013

The Complete Cabinet Maker And Upholsterer’s Guide – J. Stokes 1829


Gary Roberts over at Toolemera has done it again and reproduced a fine tome from the nineteenth century.  The book has many full color plates, hand colored engravings and Mr. Roberts has reproduced the entire book in color, so the pages appear as they would in an original edition.

Mr. Stokes has done an excellent job at assembling material from his peers and predecessors, which I won’t call plagiarism as it was common practice.  Some of the engravings have the long f for the s, indicating an earlier time.

The book is however full of very useful information about lay out, perspective, drawing, design and construction of furniture, with an emphasis on finishing, which I found fascinating.  This is a great hardbound edition of an historical work that is a pleasure to hold in ones hand and read about the past and the ways of old.  Add this one to your bibliotheque.


March 21, 2013

Dyeing Maple with Iron Buff

Iron buff is an interesting dye, the fact that the liquid is clear and can still instill a blue-grey color to hard maple and a green color to soft maple.  So it is also an indicator to determine if the maple [Acer spp.] is hard or soft.

Most folks say to place steel wool into vinegar.  The problem with steel wool is that it is covered with oil from manufacturing so I find it better to use iron filings [I save from saw sharpening] to make the solution known as ‘iron buff’.

I mixed up a small batch to stain the handle of a touch hole prick, also known as a vent pick, used to clean the touch hole of a flintlock rifle or smooth-bore.  A friend who is a blacksmith said he wanted me to make him one as he admired the one I had made several years ago using iron buff to color.  It has some age to it as can be seen in the photograph.

little prick

I will set the piano wire needle in the handle using Cutler’s Cement.  I first etch the end of the wire with garlic and as you can see the end also has some ‘upset’ marks on the shaft to help give the cement a key to improve the grip.  After it has cured for a week or so I will finish with Moses T’s Gunstocker’s Finish.

Everyone needs a little prick.


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