Full Chisel Blog

June 5, 2012

Horsetails [Equisetum spp] – Primitive Abrasive

Horsetails, joint grass, shave grass or scouring rushes, the same name for an ancient plant that has some remarkable properties.  High in silica content it is capable of scratching a hard steel file which also means it works great at polishing iron, brass, copper, silver, etc.  It also works on hardwoods, bone, horn, ivory, and antler

The stuff grows around streams and rivers and a couple of friends went fishing on Sunday and I asked them to pick me some if they saw any.  Well on Monday these were delivered.

I will let them dry out, this allows the chlorophyll to go away and keeps from turning whatever I am working on, green.  When it is dry I will soak the pieces in water, split them and flatten them out.  They are like segmented straws, hollow except at the nodes.

Being impatient I split out some to polish a silver dish I am working on, then polished a few iron and brass items, not worried about any green color here.

A ubiquitous plant, easy to identify and an inexpensive abrasive.  Also great for camping, a hand full can scour the the frying pan after you have burned breakfast.



  1. Great to know this. Horsetails are abundant around here. Any sense of the grit size / equivalence?

    Comment by Tim Lawson — June 5, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  2. Tim,

    I just tested the silver piece I polished, it appears to be 600 grit or finer.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — June 5, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

  3. The species favoured by Grinling Gibbons was Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as ‘Dutch Rush’ (although it’s a horsetail, not a rush.)

    Comment by Rob — June 6, 2012 @ 2:54 am

  4. Stephen,
    While these are still green, bundle them up tightly with cord (like a smudge stick) in equal lengths of about 6″ and 2-3″ in dia….Use the ends to scour. I’ve been using them to polish burl for ages.
    About 10 years ago I transplanted some near my shop…caution; they will take over! If you need quantity I can supply you with all you will ever need.

    Comment by steven lalioff — June 18, 2012 @ 5:53 am

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