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The grease box story #3: What is a grease box.

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Blog entry by mafe posted 10-10-2010 10:04 PM 5345 reads 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The 66 years old secret Abdel box from Lebanon. Part 3 of The grease box story series Part 4: The grease. »

The grease box story.
Chapter three: What is a grease box.

I admit this should perhaps have been the first post in this series…
Medieval Latin pyxis, from Latin, box, from Greek, from pyxos box (shrub).


First a list of the names I have met for this little fellow:
Grease box, grease pot, tallow pot, lard pot, carpenters grease box, joiners grease pot.
And these can be combined to even more versions, so do not get confused, it’s the same thing, except the trade of the user, or contend of the box.

I think I like the name box best, and then the first name must be either grease for all kinds, or the name of the grease inside: grease box, lubricant box, tallow box, lard box, wax box, bees wax box.

The pot name, I do not find proper, but perhaps since my language are not English, I relate more the word pot to a ceramic pot or a tin pot, where the tallow or lard was stored, or the one used on trains.



This is a tallow pot used to grease locomotives

The use of the grease box:
In some of the old English workshops they used to have a tallow (grease) pot, mounted as a little drawer under the workbench. (This I have seen in an old print from a workshop, but do not remember where, think it was French).
My guess is that that would have been not ordinary, but that the tallow would just be on the table top, in some sort of box or jar, since it was seen as nothing fancy, ‘just a lubricant’.

The old versions:
On the move, the grease could be brought in a little ‘box’ they could have in the pocket or tool box.
This is the box we call the grease box here, and I have seen several different old versions around the web, in more or less fancy finish.

I have seen old versions on the net in the shape of a drop or half yin yang.
Some that was just a little tin can with a lit.
And then versions that was square or semi square, but that looked to new to be vintage.
(I will be really happy for input here)



For the shape I think this has been a favorite, but that it has been the joiner or carpenters personal finish and choice of wood, that gave them their charm. Just like we see it today with the tool totes. And therefore we have only the few well made once left.

Most of them I guess would have looked something like this old French version you see on picture 9, since it was made fast, and did the job.

Look here in book Carpentry and Joinery for the House# by Francis Chilton-Young

The use of the grease:
The grease could be used grease up the sole of the hand plane, so it would offer less friction, and therefore you would use less effort. As a mean to preserve the wooden tools.
lubricate woodscrews, or to grease up tennons in timber frames (here in France), or that was supposed to be able to come apart later.
It could also serve as a lubricant for drawers or other moving parts.

Today’s use:
The same as before, but also as a rust prevention on your metal hand planes, and on every metal surface in your workshop, such as the table saw or planner bed.
Also it excellent for metal screws in hard wood, to decrease the friction.


Best thoughts and a greasy smile,

MaFe 2010

—-
The grease box in a blog series under this name, in this I try to explore the details, and to collect the inputs I already got on my posts, and blogs, so it will become the ‘Grease box story’ .

I will try to uncover:
The secret Abdel box, the names for the box, why use grease, what kind of grease, recopies of grease, the pocket box and the bench box, what countries are the grease box known in (from input), if possible how far back in history, what designs has been used, the Abdel / Roy Underhill secret box with drawings, the LJ grease box clubs models and list of members (please send me a mail if you are not mentioned when it comes)and more subject vill come as we go.

I will love to hear all kinds of input as I go, so feel free to post comments and info.
The blog will be a mix of facts and inputs, so I can of course not guarantee for the truth of all, but I’ll try and document the sources as well as possible. There will be no finish date to this blog, but it will be posted as it goes.

—-

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.



21 comments so far

View Flemming's profile

Flemming

417 posts in 1647 days


#1 posted 10-10-2010 10:29 PM

very interesting mads :)
the word pot (and please no body shoot me if i get this wrong) i believe comes from the word pottery when earthenware was used as the main cooking utensil. and the word was carried over when these things began to take shape in their metal form. so it is in a sense wrong to call it a pot and i agree with calling it a box :)
i’m unfamiliar with old forms of finishing, but something tells me they didnt have varnish or polyurethane ;) this is just a thought, maybe they used the grease as a finish for some things as well? even to protect their wooden planes and not only make them slide better?

-- Flemming. It's only a mistake if you can't fix it.

View mafe's profile

mafe

9687 posts in 1840 days


#2 posted 10-10-2010 10:48 PM

Yes Flemming I did forget to write that it of course preserves the wood also, it’s added now.
Merci,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4163 posts in 1607 days


#3 posted 10-10-2010 11:01 PM

Flemming,
what about the Soapstone cooking pots that the Vikings came to Scotland for?
They cut them out in situ?

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Flemming's profile

Flemming

417 posts in 1647 days


#4 posted 10-10-2010 11:46 PM

alba, i bet the vikings stole them from somewhere rather than cut them out on site, lol :)

-- Flemming. It's only a mistake if you can't fix it.

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1866 days


#5 posted 10-10-2010 11:57 PM

niice work sofare Mads
its realy interressting reading
but I gess that is alot of the old school when you try to investigate them closer

take care
Dennis

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

15088 posts in 2427 days


#6 posted 10-11-2010 01:12 AM

Great history lesson. Now we know why we must make one ourselves as they are indispensable! :-))

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View NormG's profile

NormG

4537 posts in 1754 days


#7 posted 10-11-2010 02:03 AM

I was to stupid to ask. Figured someone would eventually do it for me. Thanks

-- Norman

View mafe's profile

mafe

9687 posts in 1840 days


#8 posted 10-11-2010 10:35 AM

Hi guys,
Yes now there are even a reason to make one! I laugh, sometimes we take to much for granted.
It’s acually hard to find knolage on this little fellow, but I keep on searching.
Next will be a tour around the grease in the boxes, types and history – I’ll try not to slip.
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

16043 posts in 1617 days


#9 posted 10-11-2010 11:33 AM

I really enjoyed reading this, Mads. It is very good research on an obscure topic and very well presented as usual. Thanks.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View swirt's profile

swirt

1952 posts in 1723 days


#10 posted 10-11-2010 04:23 PM

Great bit of history.
Stephen Shepherd at Full Chisel Blog
or Peter Follansbee Joiner's Notes may be able to fill in some of the missing info

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View mafe's profile

mafe

9687 posts in 1840 days


#11 posted 10-11-2010 07:22 PM

Swirt, I’ll look at the links, thank you.
helluvawreck, happy you enjoy, this is what keeps me going along with my curiosity.
Norman, there are no stupid questions – only stupid answers.
Topamax, make one and post it, I look forward.
Dennis, no way – this is rocket sience!
Jamie, stick to the issue… I laugh.
Flemming, this goes for you to!
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Div's profile

Div

1653 posts in 1691 days


#12 posted 10-11-2010 08:33 PM

Interesting reading my friend. This shows why you are the president of the GBOC!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View mafe's profile

mafe

9687 posts in 1840 days


#13 posted 10-11-2010 08:41 PM

Div, mad man mad(s) = MMM president GBOC = Grease Box Owners Club.
I smile my dear brother,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View swirt's profile

swirt

1952 posts in 1723 days


#14 posted 10-11-2010 10:11 PM

Mafe there is a lot in those two blogs and much does not relate to grease boxes. I just thought since you were so effective at getting a response form Roy Underhill, you may also be able to get some other info out of these two historian woodworkers.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View Pawky's profile

Pawky

278 posts in 1554 days


#15 posted 10-12-2010 05:33 PM

I’m with Norm and have been trying to figure it all out. I was able to piece some together from reading a ton of posts and have meaning to just ask. Well now I don’t have to as this was very well written. Thank you Mads, I look forward to more. The next article you talked about writing I am definitely excited for.

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