Ok let's face it. It's the tote. Sure
we love brass and iron and steel and paint, but when it gets right
down to the heart of it, is there a one of us who didn't come here
by the tote?
I don't know where the tote came from. Where it started. It's not just a piece of wood. It's a symbol of
some kind. A goal to reach for from a far away time. You don't need
to hear the story. You know it.
Scraping a tote must have been a symbol
or proof of achievement somewhere along the line. I mean a tote does
not want to be scraped. It just doesn't. It will change grain directions in a wink. And
back again quicker. Before today I had always copped out somewhere
in the proceedings. Always resorted to sandpaper which wasn't
There was once a time when nothing else would save you. It was
you and a piece of plain steel against a pretty tough customer who
was ready to foil your every attempt to get a good polish on it. Every square inch is covered with
end grain, every which way.
I don't know how I got started scraping today. I bought one of
the new totes (all right 2) from Mr. Bordanaro through the museum. I purchased them instantly after I read the first report. I
mean totes for sale. It gets my attention right quick.
I think they're great. I bought the unfinished models mostly to
see how they were machined. They are machined beautifully as far as
I'm concerned. The shaping is as close as I could hope for if I was
making it, that's for sure. They are hot. Tolerances are tight in
the area of the holes, so to speak. I've scraped one of them so far. It is a trip. I found out how
they did it once. The whole story told itself as I was working on
the new tote.
I have made a small number of totes in my life. All from scratch. They have each been a project. I sort of fell into it today, just
now. I trudged downstairs (tah dump da dump dump). Picked up the new
tote and looked at it. It was shaped by machine, but shaped it was.
Possibilities, plain and simple. I happened to grab a scraper
that was old to me. First scraper I ever bought. Darn near the last
too, but that's another story. I have become fairly adept at getting
a pretty decent finish on wood right off the file. Drawfile the
scraper, go to work. It is possible I assure you. I'm sure it was
expected of the semi-unskilled for a thousand years. Probably expected for
almost as long as rubbing which was the most brainlessly (just
kidding) time consuming job of polishing wood of course. But
scraping had to be close.
All this just came to me as I was continuing to scrape the tote. I'd started by actually sanding the scraper. After my customary
filing I took the scraper to a stone and stoned off the perfect
enough, but rough, burr I'd just made on it. I somehow knew scraping
a tote would mean more than that. After the stone I went to scary
sharp paper (a copout from original equipment of course, but please,
don't cut my throat entirely. Give me a few small advantages any way
I can get them). I dutifully rolled a big burr with the burnisher
on one side and a small one on the other.
It's the pull stroke for this job. Lay the scraper right down
flat on the work. Instead of holding at a sharp angle, you lay it
down. Slowly raise on each stroke until it cuts. After that it's a
minute to minute tightrope walk. Any and every slip will be evident
in the end. One direction and then the other way faster than I can tell
anyone about it. Light fast strokes. Edge just lightly dancing over
the wood. Shaving and then scraping. The shaving is first and dangerous. The scraping usually attacks from the opposite direction.
I did it right on my lap. I've tried other things. I do know what
cramps are. It wasn't going to work. If you want to scrape a
rosewood tote clean with a scraper there is no other way I can find.
I almost gave up a dozen times. Almost resorted to help. Just
kept at it and I can't even tell you why. Just wanted to see what it
would be like, I guess. It's not easy. Don't let anyone ever tell you
hand finishing a plane tote is easy. Guess you knew that
instinctively as I did, just in case there was ever any doubt in
your mind, let me have a moment...
I now have a new tote with a not frightfully unacceptable finish. I'm glad I bought the unfinished ones. Not sure how many I want
to do, but I'm glad I did.
I'm also happy I didn't get or put any coloring pigment on it. I
think the wood is beautiful. Who doesn't love rosewood? The stuff is
clear and fairly tight grain. You gotta love it. I couldn't imagine
a mineral pigment that could improve it. It'll get dark enough
enough for me. I don't plan to help it any.
I'll polish it on a buff. Polishing is not a new or unGalootlike
job. I believe there were semi clothed guys squatting in the dirt,
rolling the arbor with their feet polishing stones for the emperor
of China quite some time ago. I'm not certain people really know
exactly when, but it goes back there. Polishing on metal, hide,
cloth. Use the best cutting compound you can get and go to work. It's just that accomplished skill is lacking in today's world. A bad
polish job is not a thing of beauty. A good polish job is not a
matter of accident.
Give it a try. What you got to lose? It feels
good. Like finally making it to grownup in a long ago time, even though
that comes with sadness too.
in Happy Camp, CA