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Re: [MedievalSawdust] Before sandpaper

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  • 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 1 of 12 , May 15, 2012
      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 2 of 12 , May 15, 2012
        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 3 of 12 , May 16, 2012
          > 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 4 of 12 , May 16, 2012
            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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