The photo doesn’t show very much but this wood finish has intrigued me since I first read about it in Fine Woodworking a few years ago. It seems that in Scandinavian countries it is not uncommon to finish wood with soap flakes! Usually this is done for light colored woods like Beech. I followed the directions and finished this Hard Maple screw and nut this way. The wood is prepared as usual before a ‘regular’ finish. Then a thick paste of soap flakes and water is rubbed into the wood with a cloth pad and after drying all of the extra is buffed off. It’s very easy. The screw turns incredibly smoothly with the aid of this finish. The finish doesn’t seem like it would rub off. It might be good at ‘shedding’ glue or paste if it was used for a finishing press. Is it conceivable that this would be a good finish for some wooden binding tools? It is also easy to maintain and re-apply. It would reduce the labor of making a press quite a bit. The soap flakes used are as basic as possible without any perfumes or additives.
A lot of gorgeous paper was made on this mould before it broke. I undertook to return it to a useable condition and learned a few things in the process.
The mould had problems with sides that warped outwards. Braces had been added to restrain this but weakened the mould frame, resulting in a break which made the mould unusable. I decided to repair the mould by replacing parts of the mould frame with staggered strips of new wood which would be screwed down and glued with epoxy. The first step was to rough out a long area on each side to prepare a space to add the first layer.
The mould was then clamped into a specially made temporary frame. This provided a reference surface to enable a router to machine a true surface for glueing the new wood strips to.
New braces were installed along with the first layer. These are of a different design and should be much stronger than the ones they replaced.
After two layers of wood were added to the bottom, the second longer than the first, the mould was flipped over and clamped in the frame with the wire side up to repeat the same process of cutting away old wood and adding new strips but working from the top of the mould.
Great care was taken not to let the router bit contact the laid or chain wires. The remaining parts were carefully chiseled way to leave a good surface for gluing the next strip in.
A final layer was then added to bring the ‘patch’ flush with the top of the mould. The copper edging was tacked back into place, finishing the top repair.
One more layer of wood was added to the bottom and given a rounded shape to match the remaining original parts of the mould frame.
What I learned.
The sight of the ‘like new’ wood that was exposed during the repairs reinforced my suspicions that any kind of finish which attempts to ‘protect’ a paper mould from water is most likely pointless. I think if the wood is allowed to dry thoroughly between uses the mould will be fine. I think wet wood (wood is ‘hydrophilic’) allows water to flow better (along the surfaces of the mould while sheet forming) than wood that has been covered with a water resistant (‘hydrophobic’) coating.
Preparing and testing wood before using it is important to prevent the mould from distorting when wet. Unproven wood can lead to multiple problems due to warping; deckles that don’t fit well, difficulty couching, and uneven stresses on parts of the mould which can shorten its life.
Rub strips made of boxwood or hornbeam (I can’t tell the difference) are nailed to the bottom edges to protect the mould from wear. On this mould (and others I’ve seen) these are attached in short sections that have gaps between them. The gaps seem intentional and it’s hard to see what purpose they serve. You can see here that a single piece of wood was nailed in place (the grain is continuous) and THEN sawn in two! The saw cut goes down into the mahogany frame. Was this to keep the strong, hard, possibly ‘ornery’ boxwood from distorting the frame? There may be another reason but I can’t think what it would be. The nails used to attach it are ring shank nails; possibly bronze boat nails.
This my very first blog post. The choice may seem arbitrary and, in fact, it was! I hope to share a lot of stuff I’ve learned over the years but the order of topics will likely follow no discernible pattern. I hope some of these posts will be interesting to you.
Various Topics Book Arts Tool Related
This surface grinder helps me make wooden threads. Topics to follow may include Paper Mould making, Book Press making, Making Wooden Threads and others, small and large, somewhat related to these.