shellac wax

Where Did I Put That Stinking Knife Handle?

Recently I was sitting down ready to incise the pattern into the block that would become the pattern for the mold for making my soon-to-be-available Blend 31 block wax.  It was at that moment that I realized I had put the handles for my detail knives someplace for some reason I could not remember.  It was not that I had misplaced one of my handles, I could not find any of them, suggesting I had collected them for some purpose that I could no recall.  Fortunately they will be found as soon as my task is completed.

In the mean time, I needed a handle for the knife blades I needed to use.  So I made one.

Taking a piece of dowel stock from inventory I sawed a small slot with a fine Japanese back saw, inserted the blade into that and bound it with twisted copper wire, much in the same manner as quill brushes.  It worked just fine for the carving of the mat board that was the detailed surface of the block pattern.

An hour later I had the design incised into the surface and the block was ready for making the rubber mold.

 

And sure enough, the box with my micro tools was found right after this was finished.  Sigh.

The Waxerie

My recent mysterious bout of vertigo (still ongoing but mild, I describe it as being “fuzzy around the edges”) limited my work in all phases, but in the latter part of the acute phase I could gently walk the driveway and putter in the barn.  One of the techniques I used was employing a long walking stick held diagonally across my torso, planting it solidly on the ground with every step in order to be a sturdy hand-hold as I wobbled my way up the hill.

One thing I could do was tidy up, put stuff away and clean the shop.  Since a hand-hold was never more than arm’s length away it went pretty well.  One of the chores I attacked was organizing the west end of the shop, a space opened up this year to remain heated all winter long and serve as my place to mix and make wax/finishing products.  I had an idea of the spatial configuration and it turned out to be terrific.  I also moved an 8-foot workbench in there to go with my six-foot folding table and the huge map case so I have plenty of counter space for my work there.

I know, famous last words.  Especially coming from my mouth.

Look at me being all science-y and stuff in my new lab coat.  I am not certain that my LAP cap is laboratory-grade, though.

I spent a couple days working out some production details for Mel’s Wax (a big announcement due SOON).

Shellac Wax Now Available in The Store

At long last, pure shellax wax is now available from the donsbarn.com store.  I know a few of you have already found it as I have the orders in my “Pending” box to go to the Post Office next time I am in town.

Shellac wax, extracted from raw stick lac, is the second hardest of the naturally occurring waxes.  Because it is so hard and tends to be brittle at cooler temperatures it is generally used as a blend with beeswax to render it more useful as a block wax.  It is especially useful for polishing turnings by placing the block of blended wax directly against the surface of the rotating workpiece to melt it into the surface, followed by burnishing with a polissoir. It is also highly prized as an ingredient in paste wax/grain filler used with a polissoir.

My shellac wax is imported directly from the factory in east central India and is further refined here by molten filtering and forming into quarter-pound blocks for packaging.

Shellac wax is $19/quarter-pound, domestic shipping included.  For foreign or overseas shipping please contact me.

“Are You Sure You Want To Do This?”

Those were the words of the manager of our locally owned bank as she held her finger poised over the compewder keyboard.  “Once it goes, you can’t call it back.”  I nodded, and she did it.

Turn the clock back several months prior as I was searching for a direct source for shellac wax in bulk.  It was a Goldilocks sorta thing, most of the bulk suppliers in India wanted to sell hundreds of metric tons, and  already-processed and packaged quantities here in The States were simply too expensive.  One quote I got for an intermediate amount of 50 pounds was $3000 plus shipping!  Earnestly I continued my search, even attempting to work through Alibaba.  Finally I received a response from a small-ish (by industry yardsticks) supplier whose web site included a “Contact Us” function.  What was intriguing about this response as opposed to the many others I received from similar information requests was that this came from a real person, not a bot.  In every other case, I got a bot response.

As a result of that initial correspondence I requested a sample of their product, which they promised to send.  Fully expecting disappointment, much to my delight a week later a sample with an analytical report arrived here in the hinterlands.  It was splendid.

I melted it, cooled it, formulated some blends and products with it.  It was perfect.

Further rounds of correspondence led me to the point of visiting my bank.  We had negotiated the price for several hundred pounds of shellac wax, but the supplier was not plugged in to the world of credit cards nor Paypal.  They dealt only in bank-to-bank direct transfers.  My bank manager did some research and found out that such a transfer required going through two intermediate banks between my bank and the supplier’s bank.  Since our bank was a locally owned enterprise it needed an American bank with international transaction capability, and the terminal bank at the other end was similar.  Their bank needed a domestic (to them) bank to import the money and send it to them.  It turned out that their funds transfer portal was a British bank based in Mumbai.

Finally those details were all ironed out and the paperwork was prepared and signed.  That’s when the bank manager asked me what she did.  “Are you sure?” she asked.  “You can’t get it back if something goes wrong at the other end.”  Given that the funds transfer involved several thousand of dollars flowing out of my account she was correct in making sure.

I took a deep breath and reflected on the risk.  With the experience of the supplier complying with everything I had asked and everything they promised, I nodded my assent.  She pressed the key.

Ten days later the UPS truck arrived with 500 pounds of shellac wax.  I was not even home at the time, so the driver unloaded the cases into the barn himself.

In a series of interactions that eventually rested on risk and trust and eventually having to put my faith in the person at the other end of the interwebz that they would keep their word, the reward was heartening.

Thus the Age of Shellac Wax at the barn was born.

Periodically my contact in India drops me a note just asking, and one of these days I’ll respond with, “Yes, please send me another five hundred pounds.”

So now you know the rest of the story.