Full Chisel Blog

May 31, 2011

Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes

I have signed and shipped all of those who have already ordered autographed copies.

I hope to be able to post soon, something wrong with the software.


May 26, 2011

Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19 Century Woodwork Finishes, done, but can’t post for some reason

Filed under: Alchemy,Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Publications,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:54 am

May 21, 2011

P. Guarneri tuning peg lathe

After finding photographs [see image below] of the rare tuning peg lathe used by Antonio Stradivari to make turning pegs, I realized I had an almost identical bow lathe.  This is a reciprocal bow lathe like those used by watch and clock makers.  This is slightly more fancy than the one in the Strad collection in Cremona, Italy in that the securing bolt for the tool rest can be turned out of the way while fashioning the tuning pegs.

Here is the one I have, it does not have the wooden bobbins for the bow belt to wrap around increasing the speed of turning.  This is a reciprocal lathe and only cuts on the pull stroke, or push stroke depending on how the bow string is wrapped around the stuff.  It is held on the bench with a clamp or vise and powered by a wooden bow with a leather or gut strap to provide the power.

I had no idea that this could date from the late 1600’s.

I tested the paper on the label with UV light and it did not glow like modern paper.  [P. Garneri Mant(ua)], I am sure it was added later.


May 16, 2011

Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes, off to the printer

Well that magic moment has finally come and Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint… if finished and off to the printer.  I am not sure how many times I have read the text on the screen, the next time I read it, I will have a physical copy in my hands.  Here is the final version of the front cover.


The book will be available from Tools for Working Wood, if you are interested in having an autographed copy please contact me personally.

Happy Day


May 14, 2011

Blown Oil or how to ‘boil’ raw linseed oil with air

This is one of the more interesting things that you can do with raw linseed oil.  Why you may ask?  It turns raw linseed oil into ‘boiled’ linseed oil by beginning the polymerization process by introducing oxygen.  And I am not making this stuff up.

This is a half a gallon of raw linseed oil that I poured into a glass gallon container.  There was some sediment that started to come out, so I stopped and still have some left in the can.  This I will strain and do something else with and I will save what I strain out [the foots] and make some putty.

During the historic period traditional methods would have been used.  Lacking a water wheel and the steam engine isn’t running yet, I bought an inexpensive aquarium air pump and some tubing to go through the process.  I put some small holes in the end of the tubing and crimped the end.  Seems to be working fine.  The pump is a lit annoying [I’ll put it in the back room] but the bubbling of the oil is pleasant.

I will let it work for a while and monitor the condition of the oil.  At the end of the process this oil will be turned into a drying oil without adding any chemical driers.  After a couple of days the bubbles are behaving differently, not as big and more uniform in size.

Of course all of this will be covered in Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes which will hit the press soon [should go to the printer Monday].  It will be available from Tools for Working Wood and if people want a personally inscribed copy they can contact me.


May 11, 2011

More fun with raw linseed oil

Here is another example of just how clever our ancestors were when it came to figuring things out.  This is a process of using kieselguhr or rottenstone or Tripoli or fossil flour or infusorial earth or fullers earth or diatomaceous earth for they are all the very same thing, to turn raw linseed oil into ‘boiled’ linseed oil without heat.

Above is the control picture of raw linseed oil straight from the can.  I also found I could easily remove the labels from the jars by carefully heating them up with an alcohol lamp then gently pulling them off, sure beats scraping them off with a blade.

Below is one tablespoon of rottenstone in the raw linseed oil and shaken up about a half a dozen times before allowing it to settle.

The photograph below shows the mixture after a few days settling, there is still some turbidity.

And this picture of how the stuff looks after sitting a couple of weeks.  It has clarified more than the chalk/raw linseed oil mixture I did before, but is slightly darker overall.

After a few more experiments I will make a sample of all of these altered oils with the glass smear test and samples on real wood.  I have actually used some of the washed linseed oil on wood and it dried in 24 hours.


May 8, 2011

First Review of Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint…is in.

Filed under: Finishing,Historical Material,Of Interest,Publications,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:10 am

“I cannot wait to tell my art conservation colleagues and students about this superb new book!  Stephen Shepherd’s publication is filled with useful information on historic wood finishes– so much of which has been forgotten.  His book is a great resource for a wide range of people, including: artists, cabinetmakers, wood workers, restorers and conservators.  Shepherd’s long years of practical shop experience enables him to explain the subject’s vast historic literature with authority.  He writes with an easy narrative style that is also illustrated with personal drawings.  This creates a text that is easy to follow, no matter how complex the subject.  His ability to interpret the historic recipes comes from years of practical experience and personal zeal for compounding mixtures from their most basic elements.  Years of teaching as a historic craftsman/demonstrator contribute to Shepherd’s remarkable ability to present his subject engagingly.  I have never seen various finish processes so clearly described.  This book, Shellac, Linseed Oil, & PaintTraditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes covers a great deal more than the title implies.  It removes the mystery, trial and error and frustration of working with what some consider unforgiving finishes without spoiling the joy or magic that comes from the correct use and understanding of traditional artists’ materials. 

This book is essential for anyone interested in historic wood finishes.”

Theresa Fairbanks Harris, Conservator and Lecturer at Yale University

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