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Guest katfen

Polishing

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Thanks for the report on your experiments and observations. I have not tried peroxide but have soaked a nut in water and noticed that something was leached out of the nut. The cracks have always made me suspicious so I do not carve the whole nut as one piece. I prefer to use the solid parts cut or broken along the crack lines, or to ream out the cracks until solid nutmeat remains.

 

The sanding stick as you describe sounds like an interesting adaptation. Bamboo, offers strength, flexibility and some porosity to hold the powders. Rock polishing supplies might offer a variety of powdered materials for polishing from more coarse to very fine. Our pottery studio (long ago I was a potter and my husband is a potter) has various grits of powdered clay and glaze materials I could use, but I have not done so.

 

Bamboo chopsticks down the scale to the various diameters and lengths of commercial skewers offer variety. Try to find a whole section of bamboo to experiment making your own and using the shiny exterior of the wood, shaving off the softer interior material. That shiny part would make a very smooth burnisher.

 

I use sanding papers, sometimes glued to thin wood slices (found some craft sticks, popsicle sticks, ice cream spoons of wood, all in the craft area of a multi purpose discount store for instance), but more often wrapped around bamboo slivers or thin sticks or skewers, depending upon the shape I want to back up the small pieces of sanding papers. Tissue or cloth also in the last stages of sanding, with polishing compounds deliver the agents to the tiny areas.

 

One hesitation with stick and powder, if there is one piece of larger harder material, it could scratch rather than assist the polish, not being able to sink into the fabric of the cloth. Separate tools for the grits perhaps, and sand to ultimate smoothness the wood tool's polishing surface.

 

The wood rubbed on the material producing a shine without a polishing agent would be called "burnishing". Potters and wood workers use this technique to compress the material to produce a harder and shiny surface. With wood, the grain will open up with handling mositure and the shine will be reduced a bit or what bumps were compressed might raise again. Before burnishing be sure that the surface treatment is complete. I have used bamboo and polished metal rods for burnishing occasionally.

 

Polishing powders in a medium might be available in your home already. Tooth paste, Soft Scrub for kitchen sinks, valve grinding compound (might be dark and staining: silicon carbide maybe), who knows what else...

 

 

Janel

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Hi Kathleen,

 

I think you’re describing burnishing. That’s compressing the wood surface with a hard/smooth object, leaving it smooth and shiny. I use this technique quite a bit, especially in hard to reach places where it’s difficult to use sandpaper.

 

I use several varieties of burnishers. Two are commercial dental burnishers, which have little round balls on the ends. The other two I made. In the accompanying image, the large one with the face is a deer antler tip (it is about 5 inches in length) and is flattish on the business end, tapering to an edge that is sharp, but slightly rounded. I use this one the most, using the flat part for broad areas, and the edges and tip up against edges on the carving. The long skinny one is made from ivory, with a similar (but smaller) flattish shape on one end, and a rounder version on the other. All of these are quite smooth and polished. Any rough spots, bumps or ridges will show up on the wood surface.

 

To use, I hold the carving in my hand and rub the appropriate sized burnisher on the wood surface, pressing pretty hard. I hold the work in my hand so as not to break off any delicate parts pressing against a hard surface. It is tiring, but safer this way.

 

Burnishing will leave the surface really smooth and shiny if the surface was reasonably smooth to begin with. Rough surfaces will smooth out some, but will probably leave bumps and gaps, so burnishing won’t work miracles. Also, you should do final burnishing after any water-based stain or finish is used, since applying any water to the surface will raise the grain and destroy the burnishing. Oil based finishes won’t hurt the burnishing. (There is a specialty burnishing and water style operation, called ukibori, that makes bumps, so this grain raising thing isn’t necessarily a bad thing.) I also use water to raise the grain before sanding with each grade of sandpaper, but typically leave the finish burnishing until last, and after stain has been applied. You can burnish the grain back down, but since you’re not removing any wood by sanding, more water will simply raise the grain again.

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Guest DFogg

I love that burnisher Tom. I am always in a rush when I make my own tools, you just might inspire me. Thanks.

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