Build Yourself a Polissoir

The polissoir, French for polisher, is a simple tool to make and use.  I was first introduced to this finishing tool thru a Chris Schwarz blog entry.  Chris was introduced to the tool  by Don Williams who was working on a translation of Roubo.  A.J. Roubo described its construction and use in his “L’Art du Menuisier”.  There is also a video of Don using the polissoir.

IMG_0801Essentially it’s just a fist full of broomcorn tightly bound and it’s ends soaked in molten bees wax.  After the wax cools it is then rubbed on the wood surface to burnish the wood and to drive additional wax into the pores of the wood.  The resultant finish is glass smooth and has a very lovely sheen once buffed with a soft cloth.  Its a fairly quick finishing process and requires no chemical solvents.  That last bit is most important to me and my small home workshop.

I drew up a set of instructions to help you in making your own polissoir from an old broom and a few bits of string.  The bonus is that you will learn a few knots along the way.  I hope that you will at least give it a try and add this simple and effective tool to your finishing kit.

Greg Merritt

This entry was posted in 5-Tools, Finishing, Illustrating, Knot Tying, Polissoir and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Build Yourself a Polissoir

  1. Sandy says:

    A very good blog Greg. I appreciate the knowledge that you pass along and the drawings as well. I’ve downloaded several of them and put them in my journal. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Build Yourself a Straight Edge | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  3. bobeaston says:

    THANKS Greg!!! Learning about the constrictor knot led me to replace the ugly, uncomfortable, wire ties on my own homemade polissoir. Now, I have one that’s much more inviting to use.

  4. Pingback: Build Yourself a Fid | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  5. Pingback: End Tables Part 1 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  6. Pingback: The Constrictor Knot | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  7. Pingback: End Tables Part 12 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  8. Pingback: End Tables Part 13 – Done! | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  9. Pingback: HB Tansu Progress-5 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  10. handguitar says:

    I just made one using your instructions. thank you! I need to get some wax for the ends, but I just tried it out and even without the wax I’m getting good results. Amazing how effective this is.

    • gman3555 says:

      That’s awesome! Lots of people have viewed those instructions. It’s nice to know that someone has built one. I’m glad to hear that you found the instructions useful. The polissoir is handy and its amazing how well it works. Thanks for the note.


  11. Pingback: At the Alters of Flat, Smooth and Texture | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  12. lscarmic says:

    I must be the worlds worst knot tie-er. The constrictor knot is as far as I could get. Oh well – I guess that’s the important one!

  13. Greg,

    Thanks for the instructions, actually more like the inspiration, to get going on building my own polissoir. I didn’t have any tarred cord, so I used what I had on hand instead: some wire and a fancy thingy that I got from LV years ago. Worked like a charm.
    I still can’t get over the look and ease of the wax only finish. I did a test piece using BLO first before the wax thinking it’d give more depth, but when I did the other face using only wax- I couldn’t tell a difference! So out goes BLO! I’m a convert.

    Jonathan Wright

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thanks Jonathan. Good to hear that you found the post useful.
      It really is amazing how such a simple tool can create such a beautiful finish.

      Awesome illustrating work by the way…puts my little doodles to shame.

  14. Pingback: Tenugui Hanger Revisit | BY MY OWN HANDS

  15. Tim says:

    Where would a person get tarred nylon cord?

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Marine supply or fishing supply stores usually stock it. Any stout cord will work though. Tarred nylon is just my preferred cordage.

      • Tim says:

        Thanks. Since the method puts some pressure on the wood, is it better, if using this method, to do the finishing before assembly rather than after (so as not to loosen the piece up)?

  16. Tony says:

    G’day Greg,

    I made one of these today, like others, the Turks Head Knot! Big fail. I will have to make a few more, I am more interested in the use of this style of burnisher for enhancing grain rather than waxing per se.

  17. BG says:

    Great diagrams, thanks for sharing!

If you don't comment this is just a fancy way for me to talk to myself.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s