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Re: [MedievalSawdust] Medieval Finishes Redux

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  • Jeffrey Johnson
    You forgot resins, pine pitch, gum, amber etc. (See Cennini) There are other blends in there that are hard waxes.
    Message 1 of 18 , Oct 13, 2010

      You forgot resins, pine pitch, gum, amber etc. (See Cennini) There are other blends in there that are hard waxes.

      On Oct 11, 2010 9:39 AM, "Siegfried" <siegfried@...> wrote:
      > So, I know that we've talked, at length, about medieval finishes on this
      > list in the past. But I'd like to bring the topic back up, as we have
      > new/different people on the list, and I myself am starting to have my
      > memory 'fade' a bit ;)
      > Plus I have some different directions I'd like to take it.
      > ----------------
      > THE PAST:
      > In the past, general discussions about 'medieval finishes' have revolved
      > around things that they definitely had:
      > * Oils (w/ linseed or modern tung filling in)
      > * Waxes (bee's wax, or modern paste wax filling in)
      > * Turpentine (as solvent)
      > * Shellac (common in 16th century, documented back to 12th IIRC)
      > * Paint (The most common)
      > I think we all agree on this (mostly), and this has led most people down
      > the routes of either painting things, or if they want to appeal to the
      > modern 'show the wood' sensibilities, they end up using just oil, maybe
      > with a top coat of wax.
      > Or they (as I myself have done), make some 'medieval mix' of ingredients
      > and end up with a 'that could be done'. Usually this involves a
      > combination of linseed oil, bees wax, and turpentine.
      > Depending upon the quantities, you end up with a thick goop (as I have
      > done) ... or I've seen it mixed HEAVY on the wax, to where it makes a
      > very nice period beeswax-paste-wax
      > -----------------
      > Now all that being said. I'm trying to solve some 'problems' with these
      > finishes. Specifically for heavy use items. Specifically for 'show the
      > wood' sensibilities.
      > I realize that I may not be approaching this from a perfectly 'medieval'
      > mindset. But I'm ok with that at the moment. What I'm trying to do,
      > is to find a hybrid. Using 'conjecturally / arguably' period
      > techniques, to achieve a modern sensibility/protection.
      > So, the problems that I've found, personally, with all the oil/wax/turp
      > style finishes. Is that they are 'soft' finishes. As 'soft' finishes,
      > they allow a heavily used item, that will be handled while people are
      > sweaty and dirty ... like, say, a crossbow (*wink*), to get very very
      > very dirty.
      > Dirt/grime gets into the wax/oils, and things start to look very 'worn
      > down'. Not that there is a serious 'problem' with that, it's medieval
      > afterall. But most folks I made a crossbow for, don't like it when
      > their expensive crossbow, after a summer's shooting, looks rather worn
      > down. Especially when right next to them, is someone shooting a
      > plastic-y-coated polyurethane crossbow. That glistens with it's 'modern
      > beauty'. I don't want that on my crossbows (or other woodwork). But I
      > WOULD like a finish that's more durable and resistant to grime.
      > So, a few discussion thoughts:
      > ----------------
      > * Shellac - Now, shellac is period, and is a film-forming finish.
      > Granted, you have to keep the booze away from it. But at least it's
      > easy to refresh if you need to :) I've used shellac a fair bit in the
      > past on kid's furniture and the like, I do like working with it. (Who
      > can argue with a 10-30 minute drying time for coats!)
      > In fact, to help with 'grime' issues on open pored woods, I plan on
      > starting to use shellac as a pore/grain filler on future projects
      > regardless of final finish. Giving it that one coat of sanding
      > sealer/dewaxed shellac, then sanding/scraping it back down, then
      > finishing it.
      > But my question, for people who have used it more than I ... is just
      > this: How 'durable' is it? Specifically in terms of being 'touched'.
      > My gut instinct just tells me that by it's nature it's not as
      > 'hard/firm' and is a more delicate finish. To where I'd expect in the
      > case of, say, a crossbow, that it might get actually 'worn off'.
      > Am I right in this idea? Or is it a much more durable finish than I'm
      > giving it credit?
      > * Varnish - So, now-a-days, we basically only think about polyurathane
      > when it comes to a hard-coat-varnish. But lots of different varnishes
      > have existed over time. I've read documentation of ancient eqypt using
      > pine sap w/ solvent to create a golden hard-varnish. And of other
      > natural materials being used as well (amber, etc). And there were
      > period references to 'varnishing' items, but without good 'what they
      > meant' ;)
      > My question is: What other semi-commonly available varnishes might
      > exist, that might better approximate a period varnish, than poly, but
      > that don't have that 'Oh that's been polyd' look, while providing good
      > protection.
      > * Lacquer - Lacquering is period for the Orient. Is there any
      > documentation for lacquer in the West? And is there any documentation
      > for 'clear/amber' lacquer, instead of solid color?
      > -----------------------
      > One final topic: UV Protection
      > None of the period finishes I've used, have ever provided any UV
      > protection. This isn't a real problem if you are using basic woods,
      > that either don't really care about the UV. Or that get prettier with
      > UV exposure (Cherry).
      > However, there are times when I find myself making something, with very
      > specific colorful woods, IE, exotics. Purpleheart, Osage Orange,
      > Bubinga, Bloodwood, Padauk ...
      > In these cases, the result of the finished piece, is often, always,
      > striking.
      > Until someone takes that item out into the hot sun for a season of
      > shooting. Then, after only an oil/wax finish ... everything has turned
      > muted shades of brownish-brown ... the hard work put into inlaying woods
      > of striking difference is lost as they become nigh the same color, etc.
      > YES, I realize that this is a 'not period issue'. In period, if you
      > were inlaying woods, they were striking to begin with. Pear vs Ash,
      > Cherry vs Ash, etc (I've seen lots of Ash inlay).
      > Anyway, to my point, I'd love again, a period-ish finish that contained
      > some UV protection. So that if someone commissions me to make a bow
      > with bloodwood or purpleheart inlay ... it looks as striking on day 1,
      > as it does on day 500.
      > Yes, I realize that one solution here is just to say: "Hey, I'm putting
      > non-period wood into it, put a non-period finish on it"
      > But really, I do want to keep stuff as CLOSE to period as I can, even
      > when I'm straying from the field. So I'd much rather have a period
      > finish on something, even if the underlying wood, isn't.
      > So any thoughts on this? My current solution I'm planning on trying.
      > Is to make a custom blend of linseed oil and Spar Varnish. Heavy on
      > the linseed. To try to get some UV-spar finish protection, without
      > causing a poly-look
      > But are there any other options here that people know about? Basically
      > the ONLY UV-protecting finish I know of, is Spar Poly
      > Siegfried
      > --
      > Barun Siegfried Sebastian Faust - Barony of Highland Foorde - Atlantia
      > http://hf.atlantia.sca.org/ - http://crossbows.biz/ - http://eliw.com/
    • erik_mage
      The point was to find a finish cleaner than waax or linseed oil that was still period. I have done many gun stocks with a product called Linspeed it basicaly
      Message 2 of 18 , Oct 13, 2010
        The point was to find a finish cleaner than waax or linseed oil that was still period.
        I have done many gun stocks with a product called Linspeed it basicaly gives a fast drying finnish like boiled linseed oil.
        I suspect it is just that with some japan drier in it.
        ERIK ' mage
        --- In medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com, John LaTorre <jlatorre@...> wrote:
        > Regarding this issue of varnishes and such, it might be worth pointing
        > out what "spar varnish" really means, and why urethane varnishes are
        > well suited for it. Spar varnish must not only be tough and UV
        > resistant, but it must flex as the spar flexes without developing
        > cracks. Urethane varnishes do this particularly well, although you have
        > the usual hassles of stripping off the original finish when refinishing
        > your work. But unless your work actually flexes, like a spar or a tent
        > pole or whatever, spar varnish isn't really better than any other
        > varnish for outdoor use.
        > We do have varnish recipes of a sort from Italian musical instrument
        > makers (although not Stradivari, I'm sorry to say). Again, the finish
        > wouldn't be optimum for furniture or chests, but this time for exactly
        > the opposite reason. Musical instrument varnish is designed to be as
        > hard as possible, to stiffen the tonewood and increase resonance. It
        > isn't really designed for wear, and certainly not for moisture
        > inhibition (in fact, many stringed instruments don't have the interiors
        > of their soundboxes finished). So I guess we're still looking for the
        > recipe for a finish that does what we expect our everyday furniture or
        > tool finishes to do.
        > As for "Tried and True" finishes, I've tried them and haven't had much
        > luck with them. It may have been a quality control thing, but I found
        > that one of the cans I opened had already oxidized to some extent. Has
        > anybody else used this stuff?
        > One last comment about tool finishes. I've used "Tru-Oil" which is yet
        > another varnish/oil hybrid like Watco or Tried&True. The difference is
        > that it's formulated mainly for gunstocks, so it expects to get a lot of
        > hard handling and abuse. It's also a favored finish for guitar necks,
        > which get a similar amount of skin contact. Available from your local
        > gun shop.
        > --Johann von Drachenfels
        > West Kingdom
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