L. & I. J. White


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Shop Fun with Scott Grandstaff


 
 

Something so Right...

 

Well, there is an old saying about blind hogs and acorns... And yesterday, I found one.

Right in my own basement, right in front of my own eyes, unrecognized for who knows how long??

I had scored a spokeshave. Wm Marples and his boys made, at one time, miniature spokeshaves in solid genuine boxwood.  They aren't particularly rare, but they are totally adorable.

They almost never sell in my price range (that being a little to nothing range).  I had looked maybe 5 years, off and on, waiting for one to "fall through the cracks".  Couple of weeks ago, it finally happened...

Down to the last minute and my 6 dollar bid actually held!!! 6 bucks!  The poor seller had listed it badly. They had listed it as the proper item that it was, but the grammar was so broken and odd you had to read-through-the-cracks to know what it was and I guess nobody was reading very close that day.

Delightful little thing is it too! So very delicate, 6" long overall, and yet a perfect dying-to-work, fully functional tool.

Well, when it showed up it had paint splashed and splattered on it, and the DPO (damned previous owner) had taken a woodburning tool and deeply burned their initials right in the face. It wouldn't have been so bad had they done a better job. But as it was, it had to go!

My job was taking off the offensive burn marks while removing as little wood as possible. The patina was even and rich in this particular piece of boxwood.

Well, Boxwood scrapes like buttah! Did you know?

It may be near as hard as bone, it may show every slip or misstep like neon, but it was made for a sharp scraper. Easy peeling!

I sliced off the paint like it was never there and turned to the burned initials. Fortunately for me, the DPO had burned them in between the tangs in the area that dips. A little more dip wasn't going to hurt anyone's feelings. In fact, since these shaves were hand carved, nobody could ever really swear it wasn't always carved this way. I had to cut into the shave, and the original varnish was wounded a bit from removing the paint as well. I started to try repairing the varnish finish. But on second thought, I went ahead and took off the rest of it. Cleaned up all the other little boo boos. Besides, the standard factory finish on boxwood, (most everything I ever saw that is), is semi smooth and varnished as a standard finish.

Its not a bad finish or anything, for most woods. But for boxwood it is practically a crime. Boxwood is so close grained, it polishes like almost no other wood. It polishes about like ivory. Taking it to a high sensuous polish and hard waxing?? This is an incredibly scrumptious finish. Bright to the eye and literally begging to be touched! It feels like satin to the skin.

As I was scraping and finishing the little shave, something else caught my eye. Right there there on the wall above the vise of my "old" bench, were three pairs of hooks. A place for three shaves.

Well I had given one of the shaves away, and so there was now some spare hooks. Meanwhile lounging along the long shelf, was the brilliant ebony shave. (a Glootaclaus present a couple years back, thanks again GC). It was just laying loose on the shelf and with a pair of hooks doing nothing else...

I tried it. Didn't fit. Its a different kind of shave construction. A low angle blade, but the tangs are secured to the shave in a different way. (I want to talk more about that construction one of these days). I took the smallest shave off the bottom hooks and tried it in the middle instead. The ebony didn't fit the bottom hooks either. But as I had the bottom shave off and in my hand anyway, I took a good look at it for maybe the first time. I know I've had it for years but can't remember exactly how long or where it came from.

I dimly remember getting it because it was the 10" size and most are around 11". It was not in the best shape. Generally schmutzy dark and dinged all over, and it looked like a standard beech shave, which is probably why it had been longing around uncleaned and untuned all this time. But after just doing the schmutzty boxwood mini, I now had different eyes. Maybe, just maybe.

I chucked the thing up in the vise and took a scraper to the underside of it. Wha-zing, off peels a curl headed for the floor and... Yeee -- haw!!! I see yellow!!! Not the orangy brown of beech, but --bright--yellow--boxwood!!

Insert big sloppy grin right along in here!

This shave was pretty mungy all over, so I had to cut it deeper and it kind of wasted my aged patina. But it'll be back with some exposure to light, I'm sure. It is an unmarked body but the blade has a Spear and Jackson stamp. I never realized they'd been in the shave business?

You got to love a fine boxwood shave. Rosewood is gorgeous too. But there is something so fine about boxwood, when you get one in your hands, it simply can't be denied. One touch and you know why it was so priced for all these centuries. Its just a shrub after all. Dwarf stunted thing. An irritating underfoot kind of brush like the kind everyone always wants to get rid of off their property. Not enough wood for anything of much size, ever. Nobody ever sawed a 2 X 12 X 10 foot plank of boxwood, much less more.

But like Spencer Tracy said about Katie Hepburn... "There ain't much there. But what there is? Is choice".

yours Scott
March, 2010


 
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