Friday, May 31, 2013

Poliss-what Redux

As a way to fuel my obsession with woodworking, and in an attempt to offset my tool budget, I make and sell laminated cutting boards. Generally I just wipe on and wipe off my homemade super secret (not really) oil/wax finish. This produces a velvety surface that is very impressive when clients receive their cutting boards, but I find the finish generally lacking in the longevity department. I always provide a can of the wax paste for routine maintenance, but I am continually looking for ways to improve the quality and utility of my products. A while back I purchased several Polissoirs from Don Williams to try my hand at some traditional wax finishing techniques. After months of procrastinating, I finally put 'em to work.

To start out I melted down the oil and wax, lathered on a nice thick coat, and let it absorb into the wood for ten to fifteen minutes. Next, I dipped the Polissoir into the liquid wax, allowing the end of the straw to absorb the finish.

Marinating the Polissoir...I am not sure this was necessary.

I began burnishing the surface of the cutting boards using broad, quick strokes along the long grain of the wood. The wax had partially solidified on the surface of the wood, which provided a great...slurry?...with which to work into the pores of the wood. It was amazing how much wax I could burnish into the cutting boards.

Starting with a forwards-backwards stroke, speed and pressure seem to be important.

After the initial burnishing, the thin layer of wax had been completely absorbed. As a result I added some more wax, and burnished the surface again until it seemed that the surface was slick and the wax was no longer being absorbed. Notice I switched hands on the second round, this technique is tiring!

Half way through I switched to a side to side motion, still going along the long grain.

When my arm finally gave out I wiped the excess wax off and buffed the cutting board with a soft cotton rag. The finish was absolutely amazing. Instead of a velvety, delicate feel the cutting board was hard, shiny, and felt incredibly solid. Even The Boss said that it gave the boards a solid professional feel that they were lacking originally (kind of a back handed compliment if you ask me). I am hopeful that this finish will be much more robust in use, and I have made myself yet another cutting board to compare to my original finishing technique.

All in all I am incredibly impressed with the Polissoir, and I can't wait to try out various other techniques on more intricate works. Plus I always like to add another technique into my bag of tricks!


  1. Wow the gain is stunning in that last photo.

  2. Thanks, I bought the wood in rough form thinking it was hard maple, but when I milled it up it was clearly some really gorgeous birdseye cherry. The finishing technique really made that interesting grain pop even more. It is a really nice I might be hoarding it for myself.