Full Chisel Blog

December 29, 2009

Am I the only Woodworker…

Filed under: Finishing,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:18 pm


that likes to finish my work?  And I don’t mean complete it, I mean put on a finish, like linseed oil, shellac or paint.  I for one, enjoy the process because it is the culmination of the project.  Everything up to that point, all of the woodworking has been directed towards producing a smooth surface on the wood to receive a finish. 

Yet this phase of woodworking is the one dreaded by most woodworkers.  They will spend countless hours learning how to use hand tools, money on expensive materials and days if not weeks making a project then use a quick, one step, easy to use wipe on plastic finish that looks like crap.  This I just don’t understand.

Even a few coats of linseed oil thinned with a bit of turpentine, rubbed on once a day will produce a far superior finish.  And shellac, what could be easier, if you don’t like how it looks, take some alcohol and wipe it off.  And paint, consider painting your woodwork, it follows a long tradition.  However don’t use Milk Paint; because there is no such thing historically, it is a modern construct.  In the nineteenth century and earlier if it was made of milk, then it was whitewash, which is great to paint houses with, but never furniture.  Of course if you are making wainscoting, wall panels or interior moldings, etc. then whitewash would be a good choice.

I on a regular basis finish pieces for people because they just don’t like finishing.  I gladly do so as I enjoy the process enough that I would consider doing just finishing.  There is nothing greater than to get the grain of the wood to glow from within or to pull off a French polish or grain pine in a convincing enough manner to fool woodworkers into thinking it was crotch mahogany.

I consider finishing the reward for doing the woodworking.  I like finishing so much, I mix up my own shellac from seedlac, I make my own paint, stains, dyes, I make most of my own varnish and I have even kettle boiled raw linseed oil [be careful if you try this at home].

I bring this up because of comments I have been reading around on various forums, finishing seems to be the bane of most woodworkers.  And I am wondering if there are people out there that actually like to finish their woodwork?


December 26, 2009

An altogether unusual abrasive

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 6:21 pm

I thought scouring rushes and shagreen were unusual abrasives, that is what I get for thinking.

I stumbled across this in some research I have been doing for an upcoming publication.  The nineteenth century publication on decorative painting mentioned that to smooth the cut edges of a pasteboard stencil one could use cuttle fish bone.  Those little white ovoid shaped pieces of chalky looking stuff hanging in birds cage, used for pecking, calcium and sharpening their beaks.  The cuttlefish is a relative of the squid and octopus and is considered a delicacy by certain people.

So not wanting to write about anything I have not personally experienced I gave this stuff a try.

The one on the upper right is one I tried some experiments with and the score marks are from cutting them from their packaging and the stuff in frangible, some powder is visible.  The one by the gnomon is a side view and all are the same shape, some are bigger and others are about this size.  At about a dollar apiece, not a bad price for a period abrasive.

I tried some on some hardwood, made it nice and smooth and it polishes soft metal and also works for its stated purpose of smoothing the cut edges of pasteboard for stencils.  I will have to do some more experimenting with its abrasive properties, I have also heard of its being used for a one off mold for casting pewter and other metals.

When I return home, I will continue to experiment with this abrasive but at first blush it looks promising.  Who knew?  This goes in the category of who was the first to figure this out?

December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Publications,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 6:30 am

Well, indeed, it was a Happy Christmas and will get Merry* later on.  Got together with the family yesterday in Reno, sister and two nieces came up from California and spent the afternoon.  One niece had to return yesterday but my sister and other niece are spending a couple of days here.

For the gift exchange, I got my nephews name and wrapped up some holiday spirits, it was the proper choice.  Last month my sister asked me what I wanted and I told her exactly what I wanted, how much it cost and where she could make the purchase.  After all of the details were noted, she asked what is an alternative?  I said that the alternative was that I wouldn’t speak to her again.  She came through.

Of course my family thinks that this is one strange Christmas present and my grand niece and grand nephew just couldn’t understand.  Well I wasn’t much company after I opened my present as I had my head in this book reading away.  After a while my sister realized that it was the perfect present, I couldn’t be happier.

Happy Christmas one and all.

* in the nineteenth century to be Merry was to have actually gotten into the holiday spirits and imbibed.


December 19, 2009

Happy (fill in the blank)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:59 am

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010 , but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.


December 15, 2009

Making Varnish

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 12:33 am

As my favorite commercially made marine spar varnish [McCloskey’s Man of War] has gone up in price, I will probably be making most of my own varnish.  I have made varnish before, but as of late I have been doing research on varnish for an upcoming work.  I made up a batch from an old recipe and it works great, but I forgot to take any pictures.  Well I have rectified that and here is how it is done.

I took a couple of tablespoons of copal resin and carefully cleaned out any darker pieces and placed it in a crucible and put it over the alcohol lamp to heat it up.

I then used a small wooden stick to mix it around to insure that all of the resin was heated to the point that it started melting. It begins to ‘string’ as it is cooked or fused, many resins don’t solve with oil or turpentine or alcohol until they have been melted.

The upper pile is raw copal resin and the lower pile has been run or cooked.  There is a remarkable difference between the two at this point, the raw is hard and doesn’t crush easily, the resin that has been fused is very friable.

I then put it between paper and crushed it, first with the flat of a mallet face, then I used a round carvers mallet to roll and crush it even finer.

The other ingredients are sun thickened linseed oil on the left, I carefully poured out a couple ounces and heated it up in the glass jar.  The bottle on the right is straight linseed oil and turpentine [50/50] which I will add after the thick oil after the resin and thick oil has mixed.

This is how it looks as it is heating and incorporating in the mixture.

And this is how it looks after removing from the heat.

There is a bit of undissolved resin in the bottom, most will incorporate over the next few days.  I will add more linseed oil and turpentine as needed, but will wait and see how it ages.  I of course will not wait the recommended two weeks to give it a try but it is best after that period of time.  I will decant and strain the mixture before I use it on any serious projects.


December 14, 2009

Spinning Wheel – finished

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Restoration,Spinning Wheel,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 2:48 pm

Spent a couple of hours this morning cleaning the mandrel and bobbin, making a small leather washer for the flyer and added leather hinges to the treadle and attached the pitman.  I had to make a couple of chestnut pegs to hold the wheel in the uprights and a length of hemp cord around the wheel twice, once around the bobbin and once around the flyer pulley with a proper knot and it spins just fine.

I then spent a couple of hours and made up some copal oil varnish, it will need to age properly and I will post about it on the morrow.


December 11, 2009

Woodworking Magazine

Filed under: Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:59 am

The current issue of Woodworking Magazine, winter 2009 is out, I now have a subscription and overall it is a good magazine and I actually read the entire thing, unusual for me as many magazines talk of stuff of which I have no interest.

On page 4 in the Shortcut section is my little contribution on Variable Grit Abrasive.

Happy reading.


December 10, 2009

Pagoda to Pine Tree

Filed under: Carving,Finishing,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 2:17 pm

I was given this box full of tea from someone who knew I liked to drink tea.  Having a number of boxes, not surprising me being a box builder, I gave this to a friend of mines daughter without the tea.  She looked at it and said it’s a pine tree, I corrected her by telling her it was an oriental temple.  She looked at it again and said it looks like a pine tree.  Then she held her thumbs over parts of the bottom and it did look like a pine tree.  She then asked me if I could carve it into a pine tree. 

 I got the box back and took after it this morning with a chip carving knife.  I have no idea what kind of wood it is but it is very hard and somewhat brittle.  To prevent any splitting I went around the areas I wanted to remove with the knife blade then made a series of cuts across the grain of the extra wood.  This caused the wood to chip in a controlled manner as there was severe grain slope to the wood.  I removed everything on the lower part that didn’t look like a pine tree and scraped the background somewhat smooth.  Next took a piece of saw blade that happened to be the proper shape and replaced the background stamping.  A bit of linseed oil and the temple is now a pine tree, I stand corrected. 

Fun little project, took about an hour.


December 7, 2009

Spinning Wheel Flyer

Well I finally finished the repair on the flyer of the spinning wheel I have been restoring.  It is the final repair work that needs to be done and it is time to put it all together.

Three hooks were missing and I replaced them with appropriate size piano wire from my endless supply.  The wire is hard yet it can be bent into a proper shape with some effort but it stays in whatever shape it is bent.  I also used Fish Glue to repair the crack on one arm of the flyer and added glue to the other side to set any loose wire hooks.

After the glue had dried, I clean off a couple of drips and then served the arms with hemp cord.  This will not only help hold everything together but smooths out the surfaces, the bottom of the hooks protrude on the other side and could snag the fibers as they are being worked.  I then scorched any loose fibers on the hemp cord to smooth it prior to varnish.

I then put on a coat of thin varnish, only one arm, the dark upper one has varnish in order to show the contrast.  I then varnished the other side and it is drying.  Hopefully I can get the wheel together and get it delivered this week.  It was a fun project and I have another one in the queue, but I will have to get to that one after I get some other repair work completed.


December 5, 2009

Lintseed Oil

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 9:54 am

The word ‘lintseed’ appears in the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster and gets the name from the fact that the process of making linen textiles, lint is produced.  Well I thought it was interesting.  Linseed oil as we call it today is one of the oldest finishes for furniture and other woodwork.

It is a drying oil that polymerizes on exposure to air, when properly applied to wood it will usually dry in 24 hours.  However if you put it on an expensive linen duster it can take a little longer.

I purchased this duster a couple of years ago and spent about $130.00 and had no intention of making it a slicker.  Then I got a great deal on a cotton/linen duster that looks the same but didn’t have pocket flaps.  So after much consideration I decided to make my linen duster into a linen slicker.

I weighed the duster before the process and it weighed 2 pounds.  I then put the duster in a bag and poured in a half a quart of linseed oil/ turpentine 50/50% with about a tablespoon of glycerin.  The glycerin keeps everything flexible.  I manipulated the bag until I got oil on all parts of the coat.  I took it out of the bag, re-rolled it put it back in the bag and stomped on it.  I kept this up for about an hour until all the fabric had got oil.  I weighed the slicker and it had gained a pound.

I then hung it up to dry in an airy place.  I was a bit worried that the coat might spontaneously combust and catch on fire.  If I had let it sit wadded up it certainly would have burned, but it was hanging properly and I kept an eye on things.  The first day the fumes were strong as it was the second, third…

Well it has been two weeks and I can still smell the mixture but the coat is almost dry.  It stiffened up but the glycerin keeps things flexible, so it didn’t harden up real hard.  I will give it a few more days before I wear it, but I am happy with the results.  The slicker is a bit darker than before the oil.

I also started using larger pieces of linen to apply oil to various projects.  When I am done I ‘dispose of oily rags properly’ by spreading it out flat to dry.  But instead of throwing it away I now have oil cloth, which I can use to wrap up food stuffs for reenactments, etc.

Making oil cloth has been around for centuries and used for painted floor coverings and even in lieu of window glass, oil cloth was placed in windows, kept out the cold but let in some light.  There are many other recipes for making cloth waterproof, but this is the easiest, just don’t oil anything you want to wear in the next month.

Now if I wanted something more heavy duty I would ‘tar’ up some ‘poplin’ and make tarred-poplin  or tarpaulin.


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