Chris Schwarz's Blog

Woobie, Beloved Wiper (1996 – 2008)

As a woodworking blogger, I try not to “overshare” when it comes to personal information. I try not to talk about my exotic skin lesions, what I had for breakfast and the wide array of annoying personal habits of my co-workers.

But today is a sad day here in the shop. It’s time to let go of the “woobie.”

The woobie is actually a rag (there, I said it) that has been soaked with the lubricating juices of many plants, animals and petroleums. For more than a decade, the woobie has wiped down every tool when I put it away. It has wiped every plane sole to make it easier to push. It has cleaned off every edge after sharpening.

But today I think the woobie goes in the garbage.

Here’s the problem: I think the woobie has been contaminated by some sort of abrasive grit. Here’s the evidence: My handplane edges are deteriorating more rapidly.

One of the indicators that it’s time to resharpen a plane iron is when the shaving from the plane’s mouth isn’t intact across its width. It comes out as several smaller ribbons. What’s happened to the iron is it has suffered small nicks or fractures in its edge that prevent it from taking a full-width shaving. Plus, it leaves little plane tracks behind at these fractures.

I’ve noticed that my smoothing plane iron at work is now deteriorating much more rapidly than my smoothing plane at home (which is where I keep “son of woobie”).

More evidence: When I was teaching at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking in September I left my woobie at home. And after crouching and whimpering in the corner a bit because of my forgetfulness, I noticed that my edges were lasting a long time again, even though I was loaning my planes to the students.

Hmmm. The woobie sees a lot of abrasive when it wipes off my tools from sharpening. And it sits by the drill press, where there are metal filings and other nastiness. The woobie could be the source of the problem. Embedded grit could be scratching the irons when I wipe them off.

I could launder the woobie, but I want to stay married. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put the woobie at the bottom of my now-empty garbage can, start a new woobie and monitor the longevity of my plane irons. If my edges improve I’ll let the woobie go to the dump with the next load of trash.

And judging by how quickly we move here, that should be about Christmas.

– Christopher Schwarz

21 thoughts on “Woobie, Beloved Wiper (1996 – 2008)

  1. J.C.

    Give it up, Linus! There is NO security without HOmeland Security. HA! I vote for the Viking send off. Please include pics along with the drunken toasts and attendant revelry.

    I use an old shaving brush. It used to belong to my father [long gone] and the bristles are much shorter due to their misuse [dragging them in the wrong direction across the newly whetted edge], oops! All it takes is a drop or two of your favorite lubricating elixir and it will impart the perfect amount of it to the tool. Voila! I know, I know, you don’t the same "feel" of rubbing your tools but hey, sometimes you just have to say no for the sake of marital fidelity… er uh, I mean bliss, yeah that’s it, bliss.

    always,
    J.C.

  2. Christopher Schwarz

    Have you not heard of the great rag shortage plaguing Cincinnati?

    Really, I kept the same rag out of habit. Just like I’m still using the same chewed-up pushsticks I built for my first woodworking class in 1990.

    Chris

  3. Samson

    No offense, but are rags hard to come by for you? Was the Woobster a very special kind of cloth? Old T-shirts and outgrown or worn out kid’s clothes supply me with more Woobies than I can use. The brave Woobs in my shop often sacrifice themselves by jumping in to fight spilled BLO, shellac, and yes, even glue. As such, their lifespans are usually measured in weeks.

  4. Ron Ashford

    Hi Chris

    Surely Mr Woobie has set some sort of record, which exact sort is the only question.

    I’d not dump or burn said Woobie, but frame it. My Grandfater framed the first dollar he ever earned, Mr Woobie is just as signficant for you I would quess.

    Cheers

    Ron Ashford – New Zealand

  5. Rick Lapp

    I made my first woobie today; one dies while another is born.. All my life’s a circle…Will the circle be unbroken… I used WD 40 though so I think I must add some other, more organic, oils to the mess. Sic transit gloria mundi. Rick

  6. david herzig

    I can understand your pain. I had my blankie made into a vest so that I can still keep it near. Perhaps you could cut it into pieces and sell them on eBay as the only way to really achieve quality work. Sort of like what happened to the remnants of Yankee Stadium.

    David, who has finished the bench and put it to use.

  7. Michael Dinsmore

    I dunno. This definitely sounds like a good enough of a reason to get a Shamwow! Beware of Shamwow imitators! Will not scratch surfaces!

    Ok, sorry. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to plug an awful infomercial product. The blog post seemed ripe for a post like this. 🙂

  8. Larry Gray

    Viking funeral? For a original, heirloom-quality, Chris Schwarz woobie?!? Oh, the humanity!

    Send that sucker to Wiktor Kuc. Restored, it will surely bring enough on eBay to cover that bronze Wisner you’re wanting …

  9. Dave Anderson NH

    Hi Chris,

    A couple of suggestions. I have multiple woobies. One at my bench, one at the lathe, and one in the (gasp) machine room. They get shifted around occasionally based on which one is closest to hand or which one still has a microscopic area cleaner than the others.

    I don’t have a problem letting go of the woobies when they get too grungy, but my turning apron and some of my shop clothes are a different matter. Sue has taken to litterally ripping a shirt off my back starting from the holes in the armpits or in the front and continuing until it won’t stay on my body anymore. I just can’t seem to convince her that the things are only just starting to get broken in. My turning apron has had holes and tears sewn and patched, but never in 8 years has it seen the inside of a washing machine. Needless to say, it is not allowed to leave the shop.

    Ah well, the sacrifices we make to stay married.

    Best regards,

    Dave Anderson NH

  10. Louis

    Simply burning the Woobie would be a travesty. Considering its vital role in your past endeavours, it’s only fitting that we build a mini Wicker Man and pay proper homage to the Woobie Gods, thereby assuring the success of future Woobie crops.

    hmmm…makes me wonder what Buddhists…er…Woobbists…would do…

    …sorry…need more coffee…

  11. Christopher Schwarz

    Dan,

    Perhaps we could use the woobie to set fire to some transitional planes.

    That would be justice.

    Chris

  12. Dan Pope

    Having moved to the Houston area where humidity can be cut with a knife most of the time (except today!) from Nairobi, Kenya where it is dry all the time, I created my "Woobie" using David Charlesworth (and others) recommended Camellia Oil. I use it the same way. But am I OCD to keep it in a Ziploc bag under the bench?

    Looking forward to meeting you in person in Berea!

  13. Christopher Schwarz

    OK, I’m all for this plan. If the woobie proves to be the source of the problem, we’ll have a Christmas Woobie Viking Flame Thing. And we’ll post the photos on the interweb.

    Heck, if someone had suggested I burn the thing five years ago I probably would have done it just out of curiosity.

    Great suggestion!

    Chris

  14. Marcus

    Chris,

    I bet you could give your woobie a viking funeral. With all the oil and solvents soaked into the woobie it ought to burn like a road flare.

    My wife lets me get away with all sorts of craziness because furniture comes out of my shop. I suppose if the furniture ever stops flowing, I’ll be committed. I’ll write you from the institution!

    Regards,
    Marcus

  15. Christopher Schwarz

    John,

    You are welcome.

    There’s a bumper sticker that’s appropriate here: I Fart to Make you Smell Better.

    Chris, who also showed this to his wife and was greeted with howls of laughter (not the good kind of laughter)

  16. John B. Dykes

    Chris,

    Thanks for writing this. I feel like I’m a constant battle trying to prove to my wife that I’m not nuts.

    Even when I stand at the sink for hours flattening backs and eroding all my fingertips. Even when I ask her if she can read newspaper print through a wood shaving. Even when I can’t sleep and I pop in a David Charlesworth DVD.

    It’s normal; I’m normal.

    I keep telling her it’s normal. I tell her, "There aren’t any handtool fellas with hair on their left forearm!" and "Yes, I have that exact Stanley, but THIS one was cheap!"

    It’s normal; I’m normal.

    With great expectations, I showed her your blog entry. You, being my link to reality, thankfully came to my aid. I tell her, "Beth, that woodworking guy from Lexington (her hometown; it helps to build credibility) is throwing his Woobie away! See it’s normal!"

    It’s normal; I’m normal.

    But she thinks you’re nuttier than a fruitcake.

    Better you than me,
    jbd in Denver, CO

Comments are closed.