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Old style polishing...

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I mostly make old style - 18th Century - fireside cooking equipment. Some needs a decent polish on it e.g. spits.

 

I'm only aware of two abrasives that were used for cleaning and polishing cooking irons: silver sand and brick dust.

 

I'll be grateful for any suggestions about other contemporary abrasives / polishing agents that were used for this purpose.

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Posted · Report post

Emory cloth works fine and is about all I use for similar work.  You can get it in a variety of grits to create a bright polish.

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Thanks for that, yes emory is good but... I'm looking for contemporary 18th Century materials, not modern ones!

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I dont know any documented polishing materials but if you were to look around a forge you would come across iron oxide (scale ) and the wash off from whet stones (natural or ceramic).

 combined with oil to form a slurry they would work well with a cloth or leather backing.

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Coarse and fine sand on canvass with water, soap and water, or oil has been an abrasive with regards to boats for centuries. 

 

"Sand" seems to range from beach, crushed stone, dirt, washed dirt... very generic material that is easily sourced.  No reason to not use forge scale, or play sand, or commercial abrasives for a demonstration.

 

Phil

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Since most sand is silica, it tends to be fairly sharp grained untill used say as casting sand where the grains break down further.

 

I would offer that rouge has probably been around since man found iron oxide dirt. Rouge contains Ferric Oxide, and is and has been common in jewerly work. I would also assume Pumice has been known for centuries as a coupound.

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Pumice.

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i've got an old workshop recipe book that has lots of compounds fr poishing and grinding, granted the book is early 20th century but I'm sure some of the formulae are much older. Loose abrasives are good for polishing some surfaces, but alot of the time its nice to have them bonded to a board or wheel for a bit more oopf.

 

A board with leather and some tallow will accept abrasive powder and works well (like a coarse strop). The book I mention has recpes for rubber and shellac bases. Some you cast a wheel/block of powder and the rubber, others you coat the wheel with something like pitch and then roll it in the abrasive giving a cutting circumference (I think old school sheffield cutlers did something like this with SiC grit and felt wheels for polishing)

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Here, traditionaly, blacksmiths used sand and a leather mitten. Of course I tried it. A sand box (no cats in the smithy) and you rub.

 

It works.

 

After a while...

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Thanks all,

 

Some interesting ideas. Old cookery / domestic management books (1700-1800) suggest the two I mentioned above, I've yet to come across references elsewhere despite looking for them.

 

The standard way to keep the spits shining was a trough of silver sand and a piece of leather and low-paid servant...

 

I've used rouge and tripoli for years with silver and gold, not on steel though - excepting my silverworking hammers.

 

Dave, please let me have the author and title of that book of yours.

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the book is in my workshop and due to some festivities happening this week, it may be a few days before I can get it ;)   The book was written in the 1930s I think and is a small compilation of magazine articles/letters. It's called something like '1001 receipts for teh home handyman'  I'll have a look through and photograph you some useful looking pages B)

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Rottenstone, which I think is powdered pumice.

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Chainmail gloves have also been used for burnishing blades to a high finish

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I'm shocked that no one has even mentioned files. Looking at colonial ironwork,one can see many small (flat) facets adding up to make a round. With proper technique and a halfway decent file, you can get darn near a mirror finish, especially draw filing.

If you don't pickle your forged pieces to remove scale, always use a crummy file first-scale ruins files quickly. Filing is pretty darn fast too, especially if your forging is accurate and quite close to the finished result anyway.

Aaron

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Emery cloth and emery flour are specified in The Mechanician published 1879

 

From The Smith's Pocket Companion published 1893: A very useful polishing powder for metals and glass is  made of very finely  ground glass mixed with a small proportion of dried soda ash.

 

So get out to the shop and start making some historically accurate glass to grind up! :lol:

Optionally, you can get silica in differing grits from a pottery supply house. You can get soda ash from some art supply houses.

 

The Companion lists two other polishing formulas, but you don't want those ingredients anywhere near food.

 

Wear a respirator or you'll have historically accurate silicosis.

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Aaron has it right----a lot of stuff was just left in a finely filed finish; especially kitchen tools which were NOT finished to what we are used to nowadays!

Now for very upscale items like armour you can see pictures of metal polishers in the renaissance hausbuchs using wooden tooling with tallow and sand for polishing.

I'll check to see what Moxon suggests in "Mechanics Exercises" published 1703 IIRC.

I know that Theophilus mentions filing a piece smooth and bright before tinning it for rust prevention "Divers Arts" 1120 A.D.

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I would agree with Aaron. Peter Ross is the master of bright work and filing. One other thing he mentioned was a lot of kitchen tools were case hardened. 

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Hmm... thanks for all this gent's.

 

Moxon mentions Emerick (emory) and tripoli. Rotten stone I've heard of as a sharpening stone (The Village Carpenter) but not for polishing, but it makes sense.

 

Thanks for book titles.

 

Filing can give the desired result for some items but not for others. Burnishing was certainly used as an everyday method to obtain a shine, sand seems to have been more of a monthly thing ot 'whenever it was really needed'.

 

I have never come across a mention of case hardening with reference to cooking utensils. Please let me know where this comes from.

 

For the most part, old kitchen kit was made from wrought iron; only the well-to-do merchant / large-scale farmer / squirearchy class and upwards could have afforded steel. The quality of finish, as well as of metal, clearly increased with cost too. There are some superb pieces in the British Museum (as one would expect) but smaller collections interest me more and usually show what someone of the yeoman level would have had - well made stuff, a bit of steel here and there, but mainly wrought iron. The very poor (a large majority) had little access to metal until the early 19th Century, their utensils for the most part being made or wood, bone and horn - very little of which has survived; any iron they had would probably have been of poor quality or suspect origin... unless a gift.

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What sorts of kitchen tools were case hardened? There are so many types that would not profit from it! I can see knives and chopping tools of the lower sort done that way just like cheap trade knives and hawks were here in the colonial USA. (Knives of the better sorts were generally imported!)

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As a kid, I saw that my dad always kept crocus cloth around to clean up his tools. Crocus is iron oxide. I submit that you can mortar & pestle forge scale which is iron oxide and apply it to thick, tallowed leather fastened to a board as Dave Budd recommended earlier. Use the pestle until the crocus is quite fine. Plus lots of elbow grease.

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Thanks Frank, a good suggestion, I'll give that a try.

 

Francis! Please come back with more in re' case hardening of kitchen tools. I have been looking and can find nothing.

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I have no books on it, but through discussions with some contemporary smiths, wooden wheels with hyde coverings, using different grit materials like sand/pumice bonded to them with fish or hide glues.

 

I know of a blacksmith that uses cloth wheels that he uses hide glue to bond different grits of aluminum oxide (i know, modern) to for different finishes. melt on the glue, then rol in grit, can be done in multi layers.

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right, I got to the workshop where I have some of my more useful books and have photographed what I could find there. It turns out I was lacking in the memory department regarding the 'Practical Receipts' book, but hee is what I found:

 

1000 Practical Recipts, first published 1913 (this edition 1920)

practicalreceipts0003_zpsd910d1fe.jpgpracticalreceipts0002_zps5f21d7a2.jpgpracticalreceipts0001_zps653fa2b2.jpg

 

Then from Practical Blacksmithing (reprinted from 1891)

practicalblacksmithing0012_zps87e883f6.jpracticalblacksmithing0011_zps84f9fe00.jpracticalblacksmithing0010_zps838d0d9d.jpracticalblacksmithing0009_zpsd9d4b95e.jpracticalblacksmithing0008_zps71ef5a50.jpracticalblacksmithing0007_zps5466a108.jpracticalblacksmithing0006_zps77c04c81.jpracticalblacksmithing0005_zps3cb95e6f.jpracticalblacksmithing0004_zpsf142a1fc.jpracticalblacksmithing0003_zpsc55d0853.jpracticalblacksmithing0002_zpsb1a0e536.jpracticalblacksmithing0001_zps7c078d7f.j

 

Lastly from The Art of Blacksmithing by Bealer:
bealer_zps320e7cf9.jpg

 

None of these are the reference that I remembered seeing, but I think it was in a reprint of a Holtszapfel (sp?) book that I have somewhere. I'll see if I can find it and post up when I have more info for you Giles ;)

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Great stuff, Dave!

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