Full Chisel Blog

January 18, 2010

More on Linseed Oil

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:03 am

or flaxseed oil, which is what I am currently playing with.  Here is what the flax plant [Linum usitatissimum] from where all of this fine oil comes from.

Here are a couple types of flax seeds.  The ones on the bottom are golden flax and the ones on the top are the common brown flax seed.  I crushed some and let them sit for 24 hours on the paper which absorbed some of the oil.  The brown seeds contain more oil which also appears a little darker.

I then took some pure raw unfiltered flaxseed oil and placed in a glass container and illuminated it to show the suspended flax seed particles.

I then allowed it to sit for several hours and it settled out, all of the heavy particles settled to the bottom.  I will decant the top clear oil off and have other thing in store for this bit of oil.  I will post that when the time comes.

Not that it matters but here is a recipe for one of the finest confections I have ever tasted:

one part flax seeds

one part sesame seeds

one part honey

Mix and eat.

Remember dispose of oily rags properly.


January 17, 2010

Ripping with an ax

I could have ripped this short board with a rip saw with little or no difficulty.  But I decided to remove the excess entirely with a belt ax.  It is a Ft. Meigs pattern belt ax and has a convex blade sharpened knife edge with a bevel on both sides.

I first marked the width of the finished piece of pine that I needed with a slitting or cutting gauge that scored deep into the grain of the wood, I did this on both sides.  This particular scrap had punk wood on one edge the result of animals eating some wood as is their want.

I then did a test split to ascertain the grain of the wood.  I kept back of the line in case there were wild splits that could ruin the piece.  The selection proved good as the grain was straight, so I split off a bit more.

I then held the piece up and used the ax to score the waste wood down close to the scored line then split off those parts in-between.

The convex edge of the ax worked to smooth the edge down quite close to the marks made by the slitting gauge.

A few passes with the smoothing plane, I had the piece of wood I needed for the base of a test tube rack I am building.

And why did I do this, well I more often carry an ax than a saw and sometimes it is easier to shoot a hole in a piece of wood with a pistol when you don’t have a drill.  Just expanding my skill set and getting a different experience.


January 14, 2010


Spent some time in the shop yesterday and got work done on a few projects.  The first is the next spinning wheel (Ft. Ticonderoga) was to clean up the ‘repaired’ fracture on the whorl.  I spent about an hour cleaning off the modern glue (have I mentioned that I don’t like modern glues?) and have yet to decide on how best to repair this one.

And as with most spinning wheel repairs, the pulley and bobbin both require ‘Dutchmen’ repairs of end grain white birch.  I have repaired dozens and dozens of these fragile items.

The replacement pieces are held in by dovetails, cut with a fine blade brass backed Gent’s saw and secured with liquid hide glue.  It was cold in the shop so I had to warm the glue in a hot water bath.

I will shape them with a sharp flat chisel then they will require staining them to match the original.

I also took the time to cut the splines for the bamboo side chair that is having its caned seat replaced.  I may have to trim them once the seat is installed.  I will have to soak the factory woven cane in water and glycerin in order to soften it an allow it to be installed.  The hardest part of this job was removing the old glue, not old enough it was modern white glue.  Have I mentioned that I do not like modern glue?

I did some more work on the mahogany side chairs that I am restoring.  The joints were all loose and some of the dowels were broken and there were over a dozen nail repairs that did noting but damage the chair.

Here is one method of removing any loose broken off ends of dowels.  I used a scratch awl to make a hole then screwed in a pointed screw and extracted the loose stub of a dowel.

Some broken off dowels that were not loose required that I bore them out.  I use a smaller diameter drill bit and drill down the center of the dowel, then break off the excess.  I will run a proper size bit down the hole once it is mostly clean to prepare it for re-gluing.  These chairs were originally glued with hide glue, so the repairs are easier, but there are some repairs with modern glue, did I mention…

Here are all the parts ready to be assembled in a dry fit to make sure all of the replacement dowels are the right fit before I glue it together.

This also gets the necessary clamps together and set at the proper position for ease of assembly when the glue goes on.

I took the opportunity to repair a bamboo cane I found in the trash.  As it were a 3/8″ diameter dowel fit exactly down the hollow center of the bamboo.  As you can see by the handle, heat was used to bend the handle.  This is a cheap cane but a repair challenge I can’t pass up. 

I used thread served around the bamboo to hold it in place.  I used fish glue to repair the bamboo.  I will need to put a coat of shellac or two on the cane and it will be ready to use.  Another day in the shop.


January 10, 2010

Using Linseed Oil

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 11:29 am


The only wood finish older than linseed oil is probably animal grease rubbed on wooden objects.  This stuff, linseed oil has been around for centuries and a ubiquitous wood finish in the nineteenth century.  It could be easily purchased even on the frontier and it was also easy to grow, although tough on the soil and produces stalks for making flax or linen yarn and cloth and with little equipment the seeds crushed and pressed to produce the oil.

In the raw form it takes months to dry and it has been known for many centuries that it could be made to dry faster by adding certain mineral substances or heating to a boil would improve its drying characteristics and allow the ‘boiled’ linseed oil to dry in about 24 hours.

The boiled linseed oil we get today is chemically boiled as opposed to ‘kettle boiled’ but the results are the same, it dries much faster than raw linseed oil.  Raw linseed oil can be exposed to sunlight and it will thicken and begin to polymerize (dry).  The same can be done with boiled linseed oil and it produces what is called stand or sun thickened oil.  Added to regular boiled linseed oil these cause the oil to flow better and dry faster.

I rarely use linseed oil straight unless I want a real fat oil, I generally thin it 50% with spirits of turpentine to make it a lean oil, to help in penetration and to add the subtle characteristics that it contributes to the final finish structure as well as to cause it to dry faster.  I do not use other thinners like mineral spirits because it is a twentieth century invention, is dangerous, stinks, etc.

The trick in achieving a decent oil finish is to follow a few simple instructions.  Put on an adequate coat of linseed oil to all surfaces, applying more oil where it absorbs in and rubbing it with your hand or a cloth in a way to cause friction, hence heat which will help drive in the oil and helps in drying.  Then wait 10 minutes or so and wipe off all excess.  This is very important that all excess is removed from all surfaces.  The surface may be uneven, but don’t worry, this is just the first coat.  Just make sure the surface doesn’t have a large amount of oil, as it will skin over and remain sticky.

Then depending upon the temperature and humidity, it will dry in 24 hours, longer at lower temperatures and higher humidity.  An increase of 10° (F) in temperature will half the drying time and air circulation also helps in the setting or drying.  After the surface is completely dry the surface can be scraped or sanded smooth, the dust removed and a second coat is added following the above directions.  The second coat is usually a fatter oil (60% or more oil and 40% or less turpentine) which will adhere better following the old adage fat over lean.

Here is another traditional idiom:

One coat a day for a week, one coat a week for a month and one coat of month for a year.

Linseed oil as it dries forms a linoxyn film and with repeated application can produce a ‘film’ finish.  A linoxyn film has no known solvents and must mechanically wear off.  A few coats of linseed oil will produce a satin finish; repeated applications will improve the sheen with every properly applied finish.

It is a good idea to scrape or sand the dry finish between all coats except the final.  If there is any roughness on the final finish then wiping off with a coarse linen cloth (there fibers are sharp) will produce a tacitly smooth finish.

To renew a worn oil finish, the surface should be washed with soap (not detergent) and dried completely, then the surface is lightly sanded, the dust removed and additional coat(s) applied as needed, again following the above directions.

It is an easy to use traditional finish that is made from natural renewable materials, you can grow and make your own oil if you want, or you can buy a gallon and start finishing with this excellent and proven finish.  Linseed oil can also be a medium for stains and a solvent for some dyes; mixing the oil with dry powdered pigments or artists oil colors or with alkanet root for a fine wood dye.

Linseed oil is an excellent first coating that enhances the look of the wood by ‘popping’ the grain and can be over-coated with shellac or varnish and is also a main ingredient in oil varnishes.  It can also be used as an isolating coat between coats of shellac.

And as always dispose of oily rags properly.  They should be spread out flat in a dry airy place, preferably outdoors, stored in an air tight container, burned immediately or placed in water to prevent them from catching on fire and burning down your shop and house.  A wad of oily rags will catch on fire by spontaneous combustion, so be careful.


January 8, 2010

In some good company…

Filed under: Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:11 am

I didn’t know this until someone sent me an e-mail and I checked out the site.  Sure enough the Full Chisel Blog was included in the top 10 Most Popular Woodworking & Carpentry Blogs at blogs.com.

I am in some good company.


January 2, 2010

What did I buy?

Filed under: Drilling,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:47 pm

I saw both of these items when I was here in Reno in November for the workshop.  They were at an antique mall and I had seen them, didn’t buy the gimlet because the lady wouldn’t drop the price and didn’t know if the pistol would be compatible with the one I own.  I wanted it for other parts and a spare cylinder, another 5 shots can be of advantage here in the wild west.

The lower partial pistol is the model 1848 Colt pocket pistol (replica I already own), I didn’t bring the rest of the pistol for security reasons, yet another way to get thrown off the train in the middle of Nevada.  I brought it along to make sure that it would work on my pistol’s frame.  Well it did and I bought it, I did beat them up on the price and got it for way less than I could get all the spare parts.  I was after the extra cylinder.  I had already checked to see if the Baby Dragoon cylinder fit and it did.  I think the ‘relic’ I bought is a model 1849 as the notch in the outside of the cylinder is different as is the trigger guard.  Some of the other parts are not interchangeable.  I am not sure what I bought.

Now I know what this tool is, a spike gimlet also called a speck gimblet and many other spellings.  For holes in wood for spikes and pegs,  3/8″ diameter.

It is made by Thomas Ibbotson & Co. Cast Steel, made in Sheffield in the early nineteenth century, marked No. 6 on the boxwood handle and the logo is stamped on the inside of the flute.

It is in good condition and it looks like some of the original factory finish on the metal and shows some use, no abuse and might be handy to use in softwoods as the threads are coarse.


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