Making polissoirs (a wood polishing tool) from local materials during a woodworking class is always fun, though it isn’t always easy. Getting the broom corn for the core of the tool is usually a snap. Hose clamps we can usually scare up. But then we need wax and something to wrap everything up tightly.
This week at the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers we made Roubo-style try squares and then made a couple polissoirs to finish them.
I conned a student to drive me to a local grocery store where we found a whisk broom and an assortment of hose clamps. The store didn’t have beeswax, however, so we had to buy paraffin. And to wrap it all up I grabbed some black 3M duct tape.
After cinching the broom corn tight with the hose clamps I mummified the thing with the duct tape, which was shockingly shiny. And when paired with the silvery metallic hose clamps, it had sort of dominatrix look (not that I know what that really looks like, Lucy).
Then we had to melt the wax to charge the polissoir. But there wasn’t a working microwave (or so we thought). So we did what any self-respecting group of nutjobs would do. We tried to melt the wax in a Coke can we perched on a Subaru’s engine block.
The Subi’s engine was surprisingly efficient, however, and the wax remained solid after 20 minutes. Another student found a sort-of-working microwave, and so he started nuking the paraffin. In the meantime, a third student remembered he had a gas camping stove in his car and brought it into the shop.
We fired it up and within two minutes we had all the hot liquid wax we could desire.
Melted paraffin migrates readily into the broom corn of a polissoir, but it doesn’t create the same sort of tool as when you use beeswax. I need to do some more experiments and reading to explain myself. But the bottom line is that it worked fine. It was just a different experience.
As always, we gave away the polissoirs to the students after everyone polished up their squares. By the way, Oregon oak (Quercus garryana) takes very well to the burnishing from a polissoir.
— Christopher Schwarz