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Polissoir and Beeswax Update 2

We’ve recently debuted a new style of polissoir, based on the one depicted in and described by the accompanying text for Roubo’s Plate 296.  Not too surprising, I have dubbed this the Model 296 polissoir.  The Lie-Nielsen website featured it in their “Tom’s Toolbox” page of episodically available specialty tools.


This polissoir as close the original as we can make it, using full length broom straw bristles and ultra-heavyweight waxed linen cord wrapping to accomplish the overall diameter of somewhere between 1-3/4 and 2 inches.  It is somewhat looser than the woven 2-inch polissoir, but not really enough so that you can sense any difference in how it works.


This polissoir is available from both The Barn On White Run and Lie-Nielsen Tools for a retail price of $36.  They are also carrying our 1/4-pound hand processed beeswax for $10.

Polissoir and Beeswax Update 1

c polissoir bw5

I am delighted to take note of the recent Gift Catalog from Lee Valley Tools, which I believe offered the Original 1-inch Polissoir from The Barn On White Run, and the accompanying 1/4-pound block of hand processed beeswax.  Yes indeed, our interpretation of Roubo’s finishing magic has gone international, and I am truly appreciative of the vote of confidence from Rob Lee!  I don’t know if it will remain a specialty item for them or migrate into their standard catalog, so check it out.

beeswax block

Their retail prices are the same as mine, $24 for the polissoir and $10 for the block of wax.  So, you now have two sources for the same wonderful products.

Go forth and polish.

A Very LAPpy Christmas

What a wondrous time of family conviviality this week is.


Thanks to the unerring taste in Christmas presents by my wife and daughters, I was gifted with the LAP hooded sweatshirt and te new LAP book Calvin Cobb, Radio Woodworker.  In addition, with some Christmas currency I have three LAP videos coming my way along with the 2nd Edition of the Moxon.

A time of loving celebration in the bosom of my family, beautiful weather, and toolish gifts along with the thermal socks and undershirts I asked for.   Does it get better than this?

For Unto Us A Son Is Given

I am not a Christmasophile (the season, I fully imbue the true sentiment), but I do so enjoy the good excuse to play Handel’s Messiah two or three times a day for a month.

I am especially struck by this libretto taken from the Book of Job:

I know that My Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter Day upon the Earth, and though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I will see God. — Job 19:25-6

There is great comfort in the message of the entire work, as I simply do not have enough faith in irreproducible speculation to be an existentialist cosmological accidentarian.

I wish you a Blessed and Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and if you do not, I still wish you a Blessed and Merry Christmas.

Useful (Cheap!) Things Around The Shop

In the past I have waxed eloquent on the utility of elegantly simple humble items in the shop, like clothespins and bricks.  Well, I have just finished a project where three painfully prosaic supplies were of immense help, things I keep around the shop and use daily without even thinking about it.  So now I am thinking about it.


The first item is kabob skewers from the grocery store.  I use them as mixing stirrers, especially when I am preparing some small batches of viscous epoxy for adhering or filling something, as reaming cleaners when I want to clean out a small hole, especially a threaded hole, when I do not want to inflict any damage to the threads, and even is pins for temporarily aligning parts or even as mortise pins for small frames.  I go through a bundle of skewers about twice a year.


Next is a bundle of tapered shims, the kind used by trim carpenters especially for framing out or installing doos and windows.  I work on a lot of antique furniture, and one thing that is fairly self evident about antiques is that they are, well, old.  And lime you and me, as furniture ages it often gets warped.  Almost nothing irritates me more in the shop than artifacts wobbling on the bench while I am working on them.  Whether it is a chair on top of the bench or a cabinet on the floor, odds are pretty good that will not sit precisely and perfectly solid on the surface.  A quick application of a tapered shim under the offending corner or leg addresses the problem, and gives me one less thing to get cranky about.  Given the precarious state of Western Civilization in he hands of our perfidious “leadership” I already have enough to be cranky about.  Pairs of shims do wonders as expanding clamping blocks, too.


Finally, we have the often-overlooked container of petroleum jelly.  Among other things it is a superb screw lubricant or easily removable masking agent.  I use it more as a masking and parting agent when I am making silicone rubber molds, which I do fairly frequently.  It can be thinned with mineral spirits or naphtha as needed, and easily removed with the same fairly benign solvents.  I never know where to keep mine, so I have small containers of it scattered around the shop.

King Coal

With the Virtuoso manuscript out of my hands until the page proofs sometime in the coming weeks, and Roubo on Furniture not requiring my all-day-every-day reviewing just yet, I have begun to spend more time outside and in the shop.  Since I haven’t even unpacked all my tools yet, much less arranged them in an orderly fashion, it feels good to be up the hill puttering and actually doing productive work on projects.


It has been a fairly mild December thus far, which is a nice break after the brutal November.  One of the primary issues for the barn workshop is, of course, heating my work space in a locale with bitter winters.  Last winter my pal Tony installed a cast iron stove he’d found for me on one of his remodeling jobs.  It was a Coalbrookdale Severn stove, a bi-fuel Brit import no longer being made as far as I know.  Despite its compact footprint it weighs in at just under 500 pounds.

Since I was pretty busy with a lot of other things last winter I did not spend much time in the barn shop, so I only used the stove a few times because it takes so long to build up enough heat to be useful to me, while the kerosene heater gets the space warm in just a few minutes.


Now that I will be working out there more, and for longer stretches at a time, I have been playing with the Severn stove.  Yep, once it gets going, it is a terrific heat source.  But, its firebox is fairly small and I found myself going down about every hour to stoke it (it is in the basement underneath my shop, and the heat radiates nicely up to my space above).  I was talking to some of my wood harvesting pals about the use of coal as a fuel in this stove, and Bob said he had a pile of hard anthracite coal for me to try with.  I fired it up with coal yesterday and love it!  It takes a long time to get up to temperature, but once it does it burns long and hot, usually 8-12 hours per charge.  Even though I have not yet mastered the nuances of the stove — starting a coal fire is more complex than simply starting a wood fire, in fact the latter must precede the former — its performance is pretty impressive.  Yesterday it had the shop in the high 60s, which is a good 15 degrees more than I need.


I’ve seen the future, and it is black.  At least the “heating the barn” part.  I’ll burn my way through Bob’s coal pile then for next winter order a couple pallets of bagged anthracite to heat all winter long.  Soon I will add an in-stovepipe heat exchanger to extract even more heat from the pipe running up through the shop.  With January soon upon us, and the locals talk about January with a mixture of warning and respect, I hope to be ready.

Jersey Jon Visits Bearing Gifts


As you may recall, this past July I attended the annual Martin J. Donnelly toolapalooza warehouse cleanout auction, when more than three thousand lots of tools in less than twenty hours of auctioneering.  My old friend Jon was there with me, it was his first time there and it blew his mind.  At his strong suggestion I bid on and won a superb vintage Lamson machinist’s lathe, to bring back to the barn and add to my inventory.  To sweeten the deal, Jon offered to tune up the headstock and outfit the unit with a new drive mechanism.


Recently Jon dropped by the barn on his way home from a vacation of vintage motorcycling with his pal Mike from the Pickers television show (I believe Jon was one of the brains who came up with the show’s idea) and brought with him the refurbished headstock and the attached new drive motor.  He had done some bearing work and scavenged a DC motor and control from a treadmill, his favorite source for machine motors.


We spent a few hours assembling the lathe and getting it running, which was very exciting. Watching the first hot curling chips come off was quite a thrill.


Jon will return in a month or so to finish the tune-up, as only someone with almost two dozen lathes can.


Together we will try to decode the thread cutting chart on the lathe.


After the obligatory portrait of a fashionable man with his retro-fashionable lathe, we bid each other farewell as he raced for home to beat the coming snowstorm.

Jon’s account in the Bank of Don is full to overflowing.

You Want Pitchers? I Got Yer Pitchers Right Here!

I’m emerging from more than a week of radio silence.  I’m not apologizing for it, as I was feverishly selecting, identifying editing, and captioning somewhere close to 500 pictures for VIRTUOSO: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley. This was from an inventory of over 6,000 photos in my computer, which does not include the ton of pictures Chris took nor the ones Narayan was not happy with.  I would guess that if you gathered all the files from each time we snapped a picture it would number somewhere north of 10,000.  I had begun the process about the time I submitted the written manuscript a month ago, but it resumed in earnest once Chris had the manuscript edited for me to work with two weeks ago.


This does not include the glamor shots or other photographs that will be employed as galleries or visual punctuation as Chris Schwarz, Wesley Tnnner, and Narayan Nayar hammer out the final design and layout for the book.  It would not surprise me in the end if the book has up to 600 illustrations.  I’ll have to look it over one last time, but we have had enough conversations that I am certain they know what I want it to look like.


For tomorrow afternoon I have a handful of photos to shoot (literally, less than a dozen) then I will let the manuscript sit unstirred for 24 hours and read it one final time before washing my hands of the whole thing as I send it to land on Chris’ desk with a plop on Monday.




Good riddance, I say.  Come next week I will be free from my chair to work on the firewood pile, the new door for the root cellar, trying to impose some sort of order in the barn, continue reviewing Roubo 2, working on the preparations and marketing for the exhibit of the Studley collection…