Full Chisel Blog

June 22, 2010

Raw Linseed Oil

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:18 pm

Apparently it doesn’t take much to make me happy and finding this locally sure did.  Boiled Linseed Oil [BLO] is easy to find and is ‘chemically boiled’ with the addition of metallic dryers to make the raw linseed oil, boiled linseed oil.  I don’t know what the chemicals are and they won’t tell me.  There use to be a law on the books that stated that in order to be called ‘boiled linseed oil’ it had to be heated to 225 degrees [F].  ‘Section 1 of Chapter 412 of the law relating to linseed- or flaxseed-oil prohibits the manufacture or sale as boiled linseed-oil of oil which has not been heated to 225° F’.  Although there was no way to tell if it was truly ‘kettle boiled’ [actually heated to that temperature and allowed to cool] or ‘bung hole oil’ which is raw linseed oil with chemical/metallic driers added.

Now I have the raw ingredients and can now try the many different methods I have ran across in my research for my up coming book on nineteenth century Woodworking Finishes [tentatively titled Shellac, Linseed Oil & Paint].  I have one recipe for making boiled linseed oil by adding the juice of garlic.  There is also a method of making ‘blown oil’ a process I find interesting.  I have some food grade flax seed oil [same thing as raw linseed oil in an edible version] that I have done some experimentation with and am happy with the results, but I wanted to try using readily available raw linseed oil.  Let me tell you that it is not easy to find but my local Ace Hardware carries the stuff, they also sell Franklin/Titebond Liquid Hide Glue!  I am also going to try their Ace Spar Varnish, a non urethane varnish that is half the price of McCloskey’s Marine Spar Varnish.

There are no warnings on this can except for the spontaneous combustion hazard and not to take internally but there are no poison warnings, so I am happy to use this stuff.  It says it takes from 2 to 4 days to dry, I will have to give that a test but for many applications including varnish a slower drying time is desired.  I know that that flies in the face of modern convention but in the nineteenth century a slower drying varnish is desired.  It flows out better and according to sources produces a much finer varnish finish. 

This should be fun and I will begin playing with this stuff when I return from Las Vegas.


June 21, 2010

Hot Hide Glue, Liquid Hide Glue & Fish Glue Workshop

Filed under: Hide Glue,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized,Veneer — Stephen Shepherd @ 12:18 pm

The workshop in Las Vegas for the Piano Technicians Guild is coming up and I will be heading south on Wednesday.  So I spent this morning getting the glue, glue pots, glue brushes, glue spoon, toothing planes and scraper, glue comb and all things glue related for the workshop.

Not only will I be going on and on and on about Hide Glue, but everyone will get a chance to hammer veneer some nice chestnut veneer courtesy of Mike Moore at Mike Moore’s Custom Mills here in Salt Lake City.  It took him less than 3 minutes to cut fifty [50] sheets 5 by 11 inches with his guillotine veneer slicer.

I am also taking another case of Hide Glue books down to re-supply Jurgen Goering of Piano Forte Supply from Canada.  I will also take copies of Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker and the Universal Receipt Book as well.

I am giving two workshops and will have time and a free pass to take any of the other classes or workshops expanding my horizons.  There are a couple of museums in the area that I would like to visit, and the obligatory visit to the Strip. I am also taking along $20.00 cash money as my gaming lucre, and not a penny more.


June 18, 2010

Cooking Amber Resin

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Techniques,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:05 am


Amber (Succinite C40H64O4) is called a fossil resin but it has not been replaced with minerals it has just survived for tens of thousands to millions of years.  The sap from a variety of pine trees [Pinus spp.] that has oxygenated and hardened as all of its volatiles have since left, it is used for ornamentation, jewelry and smoking pipe stems, cigar and cigarette holders and other decorative items.  Called Electrum by the ancients it can take on an electrical charge by rubbing on cotton, silk or wool, a good test for real amber.  There is synthetic and imitation amber, real amber floats in sea water but has a higher specific gravity of 1.05 to 1.06,

Rubbing an amber bead on a silk handkerchief creates a static charge.

Small pieces of thin rice paper are attracted to the charged amber bead, this is a test for real amber.

It is also an ingredient the finest varnishes.  Vernice Martin is a mixture of copal and amber with linseed oil and spirits of turpentine, and amber is included in many recipes for musical instrument and furniture varnishes.  Generally amber needs to be cooked or melted at temperatures reportedly over 500 degrees F in order for it to be dissolved in linseed oil.  Some amber melts at just over 300 degrees and some will dissolve in alcohol or turpentine after just being ground fine.  It does not behave like other conifer resins.

I have noticed that when amber is dissolved in alcohol, not all of the resin goes into solution and what is left over [un-dissolved] and I dry this out then mix it with turpentine which dissolves most of the rest of the resin, some ‘foots’ remains.

You can see the conchoidal fracture on the half bead on the right.  The amber resin on the left has been cooked to 360 degrees [F] and ground before placing in alcohol.

Amber resin is commercially available from suppliers of traditional resins, incense, etc.  I have not yet tried any of these; I have made my own from some Amber that I have purchased including broken amber jewelry.   The example in the photographs are of amber beads that were on a stick pin that I got for a very reasonable price, therefore I decided to break one in half and cook up and grind it and it is now having a nice long soak in alcohol.  I will cook up the other half and mix it with turpentine.  I am also going to cook up a batch to dissolve in linseed oil.

These are just test batches so I can document the work in my next book.  I have discovered that some of the information that is currently available is incorrect, for instance the melting temperature of Burgundy Pitch is much lower than listed from most sources.  I also found out that a lot of information about various gums and resins is also lacking melting temperatures and solvents as well as other data.


June 15, 2010

Does all Woodworking in America take place East of the Mississippi?

Filed under: Of Interest,The Trade,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:51 am

Apparently all of the ‘movers and shakers’ of the modern woodworking movement are from the East.  Why is this so?  There are no Woodworking shows or events held out West!  A few woodworker and tool makers from the West are sometimes featured in those effete gatherings in the flat-lands.

I for one am tired of the West being neglected, overlooked and dismissed.  There are many great craftsmen from this side of the big muddy and it isn’t the old wild West full of hay seeds that just fell off the cabbage wagon.  I am sure many woodworkers, both hobbyists and professionals from the left coast would attend a Western gathering.

So what is up?


June 13, 2010

Recreating the Past


Or what it is like to ‘get into the moment’.  Over the course of my interest in history I have had moments [some lasting a while] that have left me with the feeling that I have had an historic experience.   I could not tell in which century I was actually in at the time.  While not an out of the body experience, it is both mental and physical and can be a rush.

Some of these moments came during reenactments, in 1975 on Henry’s Fork of the Green River near Burnt Fork Wyoming, the American Mountain Men annual rendezvous was held on the original site on the 150th anniversary of the first western fur trade rendezvous.  During the week long gathering I had several experiences when the line between now and then was gone.  The sights, smell and sounds recreated an environment where all around were opportunities to step back into the past and have an unequalled historic experience.  Many people had their own moments.

On a more practical note, I have also had moments while using old tools or trying to figure out how to use old tools.  In 1978 at Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement in Noblesville Indiana, an 1836 living history museum [where first person interpretation got its start], I had the opportunity to use a twibil.  Now for those who do not know what a twibil is, it is called a twibil because it has twin bills or blades, one a chisel shape and the other an ax shape so the blades are perpendicular to each other and opposite one another with a long metal eye for the short wooden handle.  I had read in other books how these were used and tried pounding with a mallet on the eye as was suggested but that didn’t get me anywhere.  So I sat down and held the twibil in my hands and contemplated how it might really be used.

I had to mortise sixteen 2 inch square through some green 5 inch square white oak and two through mortises 2 inch by six inch for a large pug mill for the Pottery.  My horse was used to power the completed large pug mill that could mix 600 pounds of clay at a time.  I wanted to use the twibil, with a wrought iron body and laid steel on the cutting edges and had sharpened both ends but from the descriptions, it wasn’t working.  Then looking at the inch and a half holes I had bored through the wood and looked at the tool itself, I had a moment.

I realized that the tool was not struck with a mallet or maul to drive it into the wood but was used to loosen the twibil if it became stuck in the wood.  I figured out that the tool was swung like an ax rather than beaten with a mallet.  The chisel side was used for the cross grain and the ax side was used for the inside cheeks of the mortise, with the grain.  Only having to change orientation for the opposite cross grain part, I was swinging and chips were flying.  It was truly an amazing experience and after several hours I had chopped through all 18 mortises and had several moments along the way.  Experimental archeology at its best.  The complete description of the process is in Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker published in 1981 and reprinted in 2004.

And this brings us to yesterday morning.  As part of a trek program for Mormon youth groups, they are dressed up in ‘period clothing’ and end up pulling hand carts several miles up the canyon on Park property returning in the afternoon.  The groups start out by camping overnight then early in the morning gather for a dramatic presentation by two actors playing Joseph and Hyrum Smith.  [Joseph Smith started the Latter Day Saints faith and was assassinated in June of 1844; he was at the time a presidential candidate].  A mob then rushes in, guns blazing, wrestles them to the ground, rough them up and haul them off in handcuffs and ropes to what will be their doom.  Needless to say many of the youth are in tears as the brothers are lead away, guns blazing, cursing, and a real looking mob scene.

The mob arrived before dawn to prepare, but on this day were distracted by the fact that the barn at the livery stable had burned killing the baby animals housed in side.  The mood of the mob as we prepared was somber unlike the many we had done before where all of the mob members had a good time.  On cue we fired our guns and burst into the school house and at about that time I had my moment.  I was not placing ropes on an actor’s hands, I had securing the hands of Hyrum Smith, I was angry and cursing the damn Mormons [part of the scripted presentation] and had an adrenalin rush that left me short of breath, sweating and slightly nauseated.  I was half way up the street before the moment went away.

Sometimes recreating the past isn’t pretty.


June 8, 2010

What happens in Vegas, sticks in Vegas

Filed under: Hide Glue,Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 12:19 pm

If you use Hide Glue.

I have been invited to do two, 3 hour workshops at the Piano Technicians Guild Convention in Las Vegas at the end of the month.  I will teach a class on Saturday June 26, 2010 and on Tuesday June 29, 2010 with Vince Mrykalo.  Vince took a dozen Hide Glue books to last years convention, sold them all plus many orders including a fellow in Canada that ordered a box of books.

Should be a lot of fun and I will have enough time to take some of the other classes, although I know nothing about pianos other than I have repaired a dozen or so [just the cases] but don’t do pianos any more because the last one I worked on broke my back.


June 4, 2010

Steven M. Lalioff

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Restoration,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:56 pm


I met Steven when he was a energetic red haired youngster with an impressionable mine.  We were both working at Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement in Noblesville Indiana in 1977-78, I was the Cabinetmaker and he was kid looking for a direction. I watched him try and hew a dry white oak log with a broad ax until his hands were bleeding, I will have to see if I can find the photograph.

I knew he had talent and was interested in learning.  He also looked into other trades and was influenced by the late Dan Bastine the Potter at Conner Prairie.  He worked with John Hollis and Rick Guthrie, Blacksmiths as well as first person interpretation in other sites.

His real proclivity was leather working as you will see by his web site as well as his blog, which I have listed on my blog roll.  He also has many other talents as you will see.  We have many old friends in common and it was good to re-establish contact with him.  Brings back many good old memories.


June 1, 2010

Hide Glue Book, back in stock.

Filed under: Hide Glue,Historical Material,Of Interest,Publications,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:48 am

Joel Moscowitz at Tools for Working Wood now has more copies of Hide Glue – Historical & Practical Applications and they are in stock.


He also has copies of Shepherds’ Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker as well as the Universal Receipt Book on hand.

If you don’t have copies then you should.


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