Arts & Mysteries: Tallow Tales & the Black Handplanes of Britain


Puzzling Lubrication.
By Roy Underhill
Page: 24

From the August 2010 issue #184
Buy this issue now

I ran out of mutton tallow this morning! I searched my tool chests, under the benches and in the drawers hoping to find just enough white magic to ease the passage of the big jointer plane up and down the long shooting board. But all the grease boxes were licked clean – the cupboard was bare. Must … find … tallow!

It was a set of smelly black British planes that started me down the slippery slope of the tallow trail. Unlike American planes, British planes are often black from ceaseless soaking in linseed oil and relentless rubbing with tallow – a practice that was perhaps not so good in the long run. Aside from linseed oil turning planes black with age and dirt, the royal armorers at the Tower of London have recently discovered that the walnut stocks of the Brown Bess muskets that they have been rubbing with linseed oil since the time of King George are getting a bit soft. They now recommend that you switch over to wax after 250 years or so.

Video: “The Woodwright’s Shop” episode in which Roy makes his dovetailed puzzle grease box is available free online.
Blog: Kari Hultman (“The Village Carpenter”) makes Roy’s puzzle box.
Web site: Take a class at “The Woodwright’s School” in Pittsboro, N.C.
To buy: Roy’s latest book is “The Woodwright’s Guide : Working with Edge and Wedge.”


From the August 2010 issue #184
Buy this issue now