Last weekend during the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Charleston, S.C., I completed three try squares and even applied the finish right at the bench using a polissoir (French for “polisher”).
For the attendees who had never seen a polissoir or the surface it leaves behind, it was an eye-opener. Photographs don’t do the surface justice. It’s an experience that is both tactile and visual.
Most people assume that the polissoir is a tool used only to apply a wax finish. While you can do that, my favorite way to use the polissoir is as burnisher, with wax only as a lubricant on the tip. In fact, I have never added any wax to my polissoir since setting it up 18 months ago.
Many attendees also assume that the surface the polissoir creates is temporary and needs to be renewed, like a wax-only finish. This is also not the case. After I set up my polissoir 18 months ago I polished up a piece of mahogany left over from a campaign chest. During the last 18 months, that poor piece of wood has been kicking around the shop. I’ve used it as a clamping pad, planing stop and more.
The surface is still excellent.
And in other polissoir news, there are now three more models to choose from. Don Williams, who rediscovered the tool during his translation of A.-J. Roubo’s “l’Art du menuisier,” has developed different tools for different needs.
You can read all the details (and order one) from Don’s blog here. The photograph below shows the three new models: a 1-1/4″-diameter tool with slightly longer bristles (these allow more sculpting of the tip), a 2″-diameter model (which was the size speced by Roubo) and a model with 1″-long bristles for working carvings.
I’m going to set up the full-size model this week and put that sucker to work.
And if you want to see one live in the broomcorn, come to the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Cincinnati this weekend (details here). I’ll bring the whole lineup.
— Christopher Schwarz