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Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

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  • Stuart
    ... I place my horsetail grass in a loose weave bag and hang it under the deck to dry before using it. I first heard of it while attending a lute construction
    Message 1 of 12 , May 14, 2012
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      On 5/14/2012 3:50 PM, d6crawler wrote:
      I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?


      I place my horsetail grass in a loose weave bag and hang it under the deck to dry before using it. I first heard of it while attending a lute construction seminar last summer. I'm looking for the reference, but a paper from the 16thC discussing lute construction, mentions using this to finish the surface. Master Luthier Grant Tomlinson who taught the class, uses this on all his lutes.
      I've used this on strings and by handfuls while turning. The latter makes a mess, but works great.

      Aleyn
    • Karl Christoffers
      Somewhre I have a print out of an e-mail from Arne Emil Christensen, who has done a lot of research into viking shipbuilding. He wrote that horsetails were
      Message 2 of 12 , May 15, 2012
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        Somewhre I have a print out of an e-mail from Arne Emil Christensen, who has done a lot of research into viking shipbuilding. He wrote that horsetails were used by the Norse before sand/glasspaper.
         
        - Malcolm macGregor,
        An Tir

        From: Lynda Fjellman <lyndafjellman@...>
        To: "medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com" <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 5:01 PM
        Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

         
        Horsetail isn't really a fern.  As far as how it works as a wood smoother I couldn't say, but it was used as a pot scrubber.  It has a lot of silica in it.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum

        It it native here in Western Washington and I have seen it in S. California as well.

        Ilaria

         
        I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?

        Daniel

        From: AlbionWood <albionwood@...>
        To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 6:26 PM
        Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

         
        The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age
        archaeology (and earlier), and it's pretty easy to leave a very smooth
        flat surface with a sharp handplane on air-dried wood.

        The longer answer is to consider the entire process by which wood was
        prepared for a project, and the kinds of projects undertaken, and
        realize that the kind of smoothing accomplished by sandpaper was
        basically never needed. This is true not only for the Viking era, but
        most later medieval work as well.

        Most of the (flat-surface) medieval wooden objects I've been able to
        examine displayed plane-tracks; it was clear that no further surface
        prep had been done after planing. Carved work is of course not sanded
        or scraped, as nothing beats the surfaces left by the chisel.

        I'm not a turner and haven't examined as many turned objects, but most
        of the ones I have seen displayed very obvious tool-marks, indicating
        they had not been surfaced after turning.

        Cheers,
        Tim

        On 5/14/2012 12:56 PM, kenneth bain wrote:
        > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker, like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?






      • Liedtke Goetz
        Didn t the horses object?  No amount of sanding with a horse tail will take out the hoof print from a kick. ________________________________ From: Karl
        Message 3 of 12 , May 15, 2012
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          Didn't the horses object?  No amount of sanding with a horse tail will take out the hoof print from a kick.


          From: Karl Christoffers <interestingclutter@...>
          To: "medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com" <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 6:34 PM
          Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper



          Somewhre I have a print out of an e-mail from Arne Emil Christensen, who has done a lot of research into viking shipbuilding. He wrote that horsetails were used by the Norse before sand/glasspaper.
           
          - Malcolm macGregor,
          An Tir

          From: Lynda Fjellman <lyndafjellman@...>
          To: "medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com" <medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 5:01 PM
          Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

           
          Horsetail isn't really a fern.  As far as how it works as a wood smoother I couldn't say, but it was used as a pot scrubber.  It has a lot of silica in it.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equisetum

          It it native here in Western Washington and I have seen it in S. California as well.

          Ilaria

           
          I've heard horsetail fern was used as an abrasive. It seems like it would turn things green but maybe they dried it first?

          Daniel

          From: AlbionWood <albionwood@...>
          To: medievalsawdust@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 6:26 PM
          Subject: Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

           
          The simple answer is, planes. Handplanes are known from Viking Age
          archaeology (and earlier), and it's pretty easy to leave a very smooth
          flat surface with a sharp handplane on air-dried wood.

          The longer answer is to consider the entire process by which wood was
          prepared for a project, and the kinds of projects undertaken, and
          realize that the kind of smoothing accomplished by sandpaper was
          basically never needed. This is true not only for the Viking era, but
          most later medieval work as well.

          Most of the (flat-surface) medieval wooden objects I've been able to
          examine displayed plane-tracks; it was clear that no further surface
          prep had been done after planing. Carved work is of course not sanded
          or scraped, as nothing beats the surfaces left by the chisel.

          I'm not a turner and haven't examined as many turned objects, but most
          of the ones I have seen displayed very obvious tool-marks, indicating
          they had not been surfaced after turning.

          Cheers,
          Tim

          On 5/14/2012 12:56 PM, kenneth bain wrote:
          > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker, like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?










        • conradh@efn.org
          ... Well, many hand-tool woodworkers today still dislike using sandpaper, and go with the finish left by a good smoothing plane. Or, on difficult grain,
          Message 4 of 12 , May 16, 2012
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            > Before the first sand paper(glass paper) what did the earlier woodworker,
            > like during the Viking age, use to smooth thier projects?
            >
            >
            Well, many hand-tool woodworkers today still dislike using sandpaper, and
            go with the finish left by a good smoothing plane. Or, on difficult
            grain, scrapers of metal or pieces of broken glass.

            Sandpaper as such is mostly a thing of the power tool era I believe.
            Power tools don't leave as nice a finish on the work, and period glues are
            awfully brittle for holding abrasive powders to a flexible backing, and
            paper was really too expensive for disposable uses until the 19th century.

            Sandpaper probably came from the widespread use of sharkskin as a flexible
            finishing abrasive, for touching up spots a plane or scraper couldn't
            reach, or prepping a surface for paint. This was done in coastal areas
            all over the world; Pacific island woodcarvers and NW Coast Indian
            woodworkers used it, among various Eurasians and probably anyone with a
            supply of sharks. Another ancestor could have been the custom of loading
            up a cloth or scrap of leather with an abrasive powder such as sand or
            emery and polishing with that. If you do it over a hide or smooth
            worktable, you can gather up all the spilled grit and reuse it several
            times. Having the cloth/leather slightly damp with water or oil helps the
            grit to stick around a little longer.

            You can also use metal files for smoothing wood. I do this fairly often,
            especially on contrary bits of grain. Stone age woodworkers often use
            stones for smoothing and polishing wooden projects, the more sophisticated
            ones having stones of different coarseness and progressing just as we
            would with grades of sandpaper. With either one of these techniques, it
            helps to have a bristly brush to clean the cutting surface often, since it
            clogs with wood powder fairly quickly.
          • conradh@efn.org
            Oh, yeah. Horsetails (the reedlike fern relative, not the equine flyswatter!) were used to polish work by rubbing them back and forth on it or holding them
            Message 5 of 12 , May 16, 2012
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              Oh, yeah. Horsetails (the reedlike fern relative, not the equine
              flyswatter!) were used to polish work by rubbing them back and forth on it
              or holding them against turnings being spun in a lathe. This would not
              remove lathe tool or even plane marks, just polish the surfaces the tools
              left.

              In a similar vein, some turners hold their own turning-chips against the
              spinning work in handfuls, for a final polish. The work still looks
              handmade, just shinier, and you can't beat the price!
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