Thursday, January 10, 2008

Waxing Up

No, this is not an entry about the Boggs spokeshave pictured in the photo above. It's about the lump of wax next to it.
I am downright radical in my support for using wax on handtools. In instances where there is no worry of fouling the surface for finishing, I use a scribble of wax on the soles of handplanes, travishers, spokeshaves, saws, lathe tool rests, bandsaws and many others.

Those who haven't bothers to use wax, probably wonder whether it makes a signifigant difference. Imagine a car, all the effort that goes into designing a driving machine to be exemplary, now take the air out of the tires and hit the road!

This is the common experience of handtool users. The effort of pushing the tool without lubrication dampens the vibrations from the blade. You might as well be pushing a brick for the lack of feedback. Not to mention the extra effort that can often make using a handtool seem impractical.

I buy blocks of wax (used in canning) at the grocery store. One box gives enough to scatter pieces all over the shop so that they are always within reach. A quick scribble is all that you need, but how often you apply becomes the critical variable. Once you feel the difference, you'll be more inspired to make waxing an active effort.

One critical place for waxing is the lathe tool rest. I scribble it with wax and then buff off the excess with a scotchbrite pad inbetween every leg I turn. It dramatically affects the ability of my tools to move fluidly and therefore my turnings look better and are easier to create.

Another great place for wax is the grinder tool rest. The grit from the wheel often fouls the rest and makes "feeling" the edge difficult. Wax the toolrest and no only will the blade slide easier, but the pressure on the edge may become more apparent, reducing the risk of burning.

So dig deep and get ahold of a 2 dollar box of wax, and put some air in those tires!


Jean-Francois Theoret said...

What's your opinion of beeswax? (that's what I use) might not be as robust as paraffin wax, but it's not a petroleum product.

Have you ever tried carnauba?

Peter Galbert said...

If it's slippery, use it. I haven't tried beeswax but intend to. Just beware of any surface that may be contaminated and make painting more difficult (like it doesn't take enough time already!)