Posted on 15th January 2017 at 17:16
Tallboys Woodworking is Andy. He lives and works in the National Forest area of the East Midlands of England. Andy's preferred timber is Oak. He uses FSC approved and re-claimed timber to make sturdy domestic furniture, kitchenware, homeware, garden tables. benches, driveway gates but also doors and cratches for narrowboats. Read on to find out how Tallboys and The Bee Farmer work together.
I first met Tallboys at a country fair where we both had pitches next to each other. Over time we pitched up at other events across the East Midlands of England and a frienship was forged.
Tallboys works primarily with Oak. Oak can be difficult to work as it is a dense timber and hardens as it seasons. It is part of the reason Oak is used in timber framed building. It is also very resilient, resisting insect attack, denting and abrasion which is often used by shipwrights work and for Butcher's blocks. When Oak is quarter swan the grain of the wood reveals a natural figuring. So when the Oak is finished with sanding and dressed the figuring is enhanced.
One of Tallboys best seller at fairs is chopping blocks along with their wine bottle & glass holders. Both objects highlight a differing need in the finish. The wine bottle and glass holder needs to be resist to accident splashes and is a decorative piece of homeware. The chopping block, on the other hand, is a working piece subject to regular wetting for cleaning and scoring from the cutting action. Both need some kind of protective finish.
Over a mug of tea I got to understand the properties required of a polish for Tallboys. It needs to be food safe, non allergenic, water repellent, enhance the wood and be easy to apply. I conducted a lot of research on old polish recipes and their applications.
These days we are used to polishes that are sprayed from aerosols and that are artificially scented. although they are easy to use they have drawn backs. The propellant can be damaging although strides have been made in the chemistry to make them less polluting. There are papers on the effects of artificial scent on people who have sensitive respiratory systems. My challenge was to produce something that did not add to these problems.
I do not make spray polishes so that element was easy to resolve. What I have to manage was the consistency or the polish. It had to be thick enough to be solid in the tin at room temperature yet liquid enough to be applied easily and evenly. I made several batches with varying the ratio of beeswax and mineral oil until I had polishes at various consistencies. Next it was over to Tallboys to test out the polishes and decide upon a recipe that met their needs.
The feed back was that the recipes that was selected for production was sufficiently liquid at room temperature to be easy to apply to raw timber. This timber soaks up a lot of the oil for the first application, important as Tallboys finishes his work before it leaves the workshop. The wax content was sufficient to leave a residue that buffs up to a lustrous sheen without too much exertion yet repelled water. Subsequent application of the polish builds upon previous applications without becoming greasy. The polish also brought out the figuring in the timber. It seems we had a winner.
Modern polishes varnishes have hard waxes which give a high shine but are often so hard they do not move with timber and so fade and crack over time. My polish is "soft". It is absorbed by the timber giving the required protection no matter how much the timber moves. However it needs to be reapplied on a regular basis. I am thinking that is not such an overhead for a beautiful piece of woodwork.
My polish, which we named Butcher's Block Butter, because mineral oil is what butchers use to seal their chopping blocks and the consistency of the polish. The butter only contains two ingredients - unbleached beeswax from my hives and mineral oil from a UK supplier. I found that Butcher Block has other applications. It makes a very good leather waterproofer too. I ran out of regular shoe polish and my work boots need some waterproofing, I had Butcher Block Butter to hand so gave it a try. It work very well.
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