I’m home for Christmas and naturally, my mom gave me a project to keep me busy. Since it was woodworking related, I was more than happy to take it on.
About thirty years ago, my parents bought a maple butcher block from a restaurant supply store. It has been a part of their kitchen ever since and has held up pretty well, all things considered. But over time, it has become a little grimy it was definitely time for a serious refinishing.
We don’t have a powered sander here, so I got a little creative with the first stages of the process. I remembered hearing that you can turn an old saw blade into a card scraper and coincidentally, my aunt and uncle got me a few knives and a small sharpener for Christmas. The sharpener was just a small block of carbide mounted on a handle and I figured it would function well as a burnisher.
We have a an old post and beam barn on our property that dates back to the early 1900’s, and I knew for sure that there would be some old saw blades over there that I could work with.
It’s interesting to go over there whenever I come home because as accumulate more woodworking knowledge, I end up being able to identify more and more tools and see more details in the way the was the building was constructed. The old barn seems to come to life a little more every time I come back.
Two summers ago, I cleaned out the barn pretty thoroughly, but made sure to set aside all the old tools. I was just starting to get into woodworking then, and certainly didn’t have an appreciation for hand tools, but I did know enough not to simply chuck them in a dumpster. Most of them ended up in the small workshop in the back corner of the building. I staged it to look old and displayed all the vintage tools while storing anything new, plastic and/or shiny in the closets and cabinets.
When I was home last summer, I found an old No. 7 Stanley jointer plane that I had put aside, in the workshop. So I tuned it up, bought a new Hock iron and brought it back to Florida. This time I found a handsaw which is pretty rusty but still fairly sharp that I’m thinking about taking south.
Anyway, I found a decent sized blade that went to a saw that you could swap the blades out of, and decided to try that for the card scraper. I cut it in half with tin snips and taped the teeth instead of trying to remove them.
There were some old files there too, so I did my best to square up the scraper, and rolled a decent enough burr to get things started.
The surface of the block was pretty soft, so the shavings came easily at first. However, once I got down through that upper layer and down to the wood, the scraper dulled quickly and I had to switch to some sandpaper.
I took the block out to the garage and on the way there, one of the legs fell off. My mom had it shimmed with a small wedge but it didn’t really do much good since the leg was only “secured” to the sides with a 90 degree bracket that allowed it to slide up and down freely.
Once in the garage, I started with 60 grit and and worked the whole block, legs and all. I stopped with one leg remaining and snapped a picture to show the contrast between the original shade and after it has been sanded.
I went up to 220 on most of the piece but took the top up to 400 grit and finished the whole thing with several coats of a mineral oil and beeswax mixture that I cooked up back in Florida.
There are still knife marks showing but without a handplane, it would have taken an awfully long time to sand past those. Overall, it was a fun way to spend a few hours and now the old butcher block has a new shine, along with a little bit of the old patina.
-- Jay Gargiulo, Naples, FL www.swallowtailwoodcraft.com "Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things."- Miyamoto Musashi