Just puttering in the shop the last few nights. I had some off cuts of fairly straight grained mahogany, a small piece of ebony,and some nice white maple. Then I spied a perfectly sized piece of riven oak. So I made two new pair of winding sticks to replace my old ones. There was nothing wrong with the old ones. They were perfectly functional, just not real pretty. So I just felt like making some new, pretty ones and giving my polissoir a good workout. I actually have a third pair in the works. I don’t really need three pair of winding sticks (heck I don’t even need two) but the third pair are a bit different. I consider making the third pair an exercise in experimental archeology. More in a few days.
Ever since hearing about these little enigmas several years ago, I’ve had the desire to get my hands on one and try it out. I first saw these demonstrated by Don Williams, oh, I don’t know, three of four years ago. After seeing Don demonstrate their use, I had intended to buy one or three from him at Woodworking in America 2012, where he was giving a talk on finishing. However, by the time I had the chance to see him about procuring my own polissoir, all that he had brought with him had been sold. So I had planned to email him after the event to order a couple, but then life happened, I forgot, and here we are today.
So several weeks ago, I spied a bundle of broom straw sitting atop the cupboard in my shop, left over from making a small, round broom. Having To Make as Perfectly as Possible close at hand, I flipped to the pages where Don so eloquently describes the process of making said polissoir. I had a little time, I had the materials, I figured I might as well cobble one together.
OK, I hear you. “What the hell are you talking about, Bob?” What you see in the picture is basically nothing more than the straw from a broom, bound extremely tightly together, and trimmed flat on the end. It’s purpose is to burnish the surface of a piece of wood. And what a job it does. I still want to play with the technique a bit more, but it’s really a cool little tool. The piece of mahogany I used wasn’t even planed really flat or smooth, but the polissoir still put a nice shine on the surface. Just rub on beeswax, rub vigorously with the polissoir, then buff with a soft cloth. Really cool.
I still want to buy a couple of the ones that Don sells, because I think the straw I used was a bit coarse, but it was still a neat little tool to make and it’s really cool to watch the surface of a board change right before your eyes. Don’t take my word for it though, let Don show you himself.
Here’s something else cool that I found while browsing other woodworking videos on YouTube. Apparently, the polissoir is not just a French tool. Check out this video of some traditional Korean craftsmen. At about 0:40, one of them is using a tool that is very similar to Roubo’s polissoir, though not quite as tightly bound. Watch it from the beginning though to see how he uses it. It’s a pretty cool finish, no stain required.
Mitered frames can be a challenge to build without specialized equipment. Furniture moldings are typically only applied on three sides of the piece, requiring only two mitered corners. Frames, however, require that all 4 corners are perfectly mitered. Even without the specialized miter trimming machines that are used by professional picture framers, the home woodworker can still make frames using a few simple common workshop appliances and techniques. That’s exactly what I do in today’s show, as I build a frame fitting for a Mother’s Day gift that my girls gave to my wife.
Forget dovetails. If you want to become the envy of woodworkers everywhere, master the miter. It has to be the most finicky joint in Western woodworking to cut by hand.
Here’s that mahogany molding from the last post. It has been mitered, glued and nailed, and had one coat of oil. Almost ready for the wall.
Not much shop time working wood lately. Lots of saw filing. Slow progress patching a hole in my daughter’s bedroom ceiling (a story for another day; my Twitter followers know all about it). Exterior illumination (‘Tis the season).
I did manage to finish the firewood box though. I ended up using General Finishes “Milk Paint”. The local Woodcraft was out of the real stuff in black, and I was too impatient to wait for it to be shipped, so I tried a can of the General. It was OK. Just OK. It’s basically just flat acrylic paint, like you would find in a craft store, only in a big can instead of a little plastic squeeze bottle. It’s not milk paint, I’ll just leave it at that. Next time I’ll wait for the real stuff. It will be fine for a firewood box. I put a single coat of wiping varnish over it since it will live on my outdoor porch and be beat up pretty badly filling it with and removing firewood. I’m glad it’s done now that the 20 degree temperatures have left and the 70s have moved back in. Oh well. We’ll be ready for the next cold snap. I have a feeling we’re going to be in for quite a bit of cold and snow in the mid- Atlantic region this year.
At any rate, now I can move on to that 10’ board of mahogany :-). After the holiday.
Merry Christmas everyone!
I finally got around to applying the finish to the entertainment center doors. I took a finishing sequence from an old Fine Woodworking article on finishing walnut by Jeff Jewitt. While it is a bit involved, I think it served to even out the different colors of the different walnut boards quite nicely. I still need to build the upper bookshelf units, but at least the lower sections are now 100% complete.
In the battle of PVA vs. hide glue…hide glue wins. Not that I didn’t already know that :-).
If you haven’t read this yet you should.