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blacksmith and dabbler

shane stainton

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hello everyone
my interest in wood finishes led me to your group

im a knife and tool maker who is always looking to expand upon my knowledge
Ive been dabbling in basic shellacs and polish techniques but am woefully ignorant of this fascinating subject. I definitely would prefer to formulate my own recipes and as such i was wondering if I could impose upon you all for some reference materials on 18th and 19th century shellacs, varnishes and polishes?

my reasoning here being that instruments obviously are handled a lot and any finish that can stand up to the rigors of instrumental use would be perfect for much of what I make...which is primarily knives and some tooling.
that brings me to my second request. what suggested sources or readings would you recommend for tooling of the luthier of the same time period? Im always looking to make something new as a form of relaxation from my usual work which is mostly kitchen steels....a fella needs a break now and then, and to be blunt im a little odd in that nothing says fun to me like forging a scorp or spokeshave blade  *grins*
thank you very much for your consideration and any help proffered.
Shane Stainton

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Hello and welcome Shane.  Shellac, excretions from the lac bug, is not a very durable finish.  It is prone to chipping.  I'm of the opinion (not worth much) that violin varnishes would not be very suitable for a knife handle.  Unless you're trying to recreate an historically accurate look I would think an epoxy finish would be your best bet.

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Violin varnishes would not be very durable on handles of knives or such, but I think long oil varnishes that are mostly in wood would be good choice. Many folks use tru-oil for such applications but genuine Tung oil based varnishes perhaps with some harder resins like amber or copals could work well. Epifanes spar varnish is one good commercial product that comes to my mind. Epoxy coatings are hard wearing but they don't adhere to surface too well and are prone to flaking off with moist environments.

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