Build Yourself a Polissoir

IMG_0801 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.

Essentially 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.

polissoir_instructions

Instructional Drawing:

polissoir_instructions pdf

Greg Merritt

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

25 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. 🙂

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  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.

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  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.

      Greg

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  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
    Drawnwright.com

    • 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.

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  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.
    Cheers
    Tony

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