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
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