Hand Tools Archive

School me on polishing

david weaver
I'm no expert in it, and maybe nobody here is.

I read the 1850 version of Holtzapffel III this morning, which has a section about 100 pages long on whetstones, grinding wheels and polishes. There is some talk about use of them, but it's summary.

What I noticed at the time is that it seems like the ideal polish in the old days was something around the same hardness as the item being polished (final polish, not the cut polish before it). iron *oxide* isn't the substance being recommended for razors, but rather iron itself.

Lots of lead oxides, etc, in that document, but I'm sure that's out of style these days!

The polishing section also mentions health consequences of some of the professionals, suggesting that men who polish fork tines tend to live into their late 20s or 30 before developing pulmonary issues and going downhill quickly.

The only application of chrome ox that I've ever seen (aside from the recent adoption) is that it is suggested for stainless steel. I'm going to assume that the old tripolis recommended elsewhere may have struggled on the chromium in stainless, thus a chromium oxide particle shows up in a compound.

There is obviously no mention of chrome ox as a polishing media in the 1850 version (that section of text is publicly available on google books and is an interesting read for the bored. I read it long ago as it relates to razors, but it was probably a mistake because razors weren't really mature yet at the time and were more like knives ground slightly hollow. I've had early to mid 1800s razors, and safe to say, they're nothing really special because the grind of a fine razor contributes a lot to the use and the ability to really target the edge.

So, taking a tangent back from this tangent, is anyone into polishing things, and if so, is there some theory that you don't just want to go with fine, but instead or also, that you want to match the media to the medium.

Bill mentioned that diamond is replacing a lot of things, and to the extent that older school guidance may have relied on something other than particle size, if diamonds in tiny bits do it cheaper, then that will be the standard. There's a whole world of kind-of parallels in polishing, making teeth, making lenses, etc, that piggy backs on some of the things that we swipe for woodworking.

And if you read the first book and you see the entry where there is a discussion of turkish oilstones, and their superiority, and that there is a light and a dark type.
I have one of each. Curiosity is a real problem. Those weren't particularly easy to find for a reasonable price. (And they're not a hone slate like the text says, they're novaculite, just friable).

The fact that the washita is exalted in the revised text is something I can identify with. While the turkish stones are really interesting, I like our oilstones better.

© 1998 - 2017 by Ellis Walentine. All rights reserved.
No parts of this web site may be reproduced in any form or by
any means without the written permission of the publisher.