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Wax is Your Friend

This message greeted me when I unwrapped my new back saws from Bad Axe Toolworks.

It made me laugh but it is a dogma to keep close to your heart while working with hand tools. Saws run easier, planes slide nicely, bits turn smoothly. Old English cabinetmakers often used tallow to lubricate their planes and that is what really gives most of the vintage tools that lovely patina we see today. The first time you run a block of wax along the sole of your plane and use it you will be shocked at the difference it makes and how much less you end up working. Saws are just the same especially when you get deep in that cut and your arm is starting to burn. A quick swipe of wax and your saw has wings and powers through the cut like a Coon hound on the scent of a prize jackrabbit (that was for you Kari).

Now Adam Cherubini just put up a post recently proclaiming the virtues of the wooden plane and the fact that it needs no wax to glide across its surface and I can’t deny this. In fact I commented on his post my agreement and satisfaction of using my wooden Jack. But I do own a fair number of metal planes that I am not going to stop using because I need to wax the soles. Maybe if Adam asked really nicely and threw in some of his grandmother’s lasagna and a sixer of Sam Adams Irish Red (hey I’m multi-cultural in my epicurean pursuits) then I might consider it. You would still need to keep that wax around for your saws and auger bits. For that matter, have you ever waxed the bed of your thickness planer or table saw? What magic that does to using the tool!

So, I’m sorry for all the tool endorsements that have cost my readers money lately. I will make amends with this recommendation. Go to the grocery store and buy a block of canning wax for a couple bucks, heck you can probably get it cheaper at Wal-Mart. This will change your work for the better. If you run out of that wax in your lifetime as a woodworker, drop me an email and I will buy you another block.

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