Artisans revive the polissoir, a nearly-forgotten woodworking tool

André Roubo's series on carpentry called L'Art du Menuisier mentions a polissior, a small device made of broom straw for polishing wood. In the two centuries since Roubo's book, the device had faded from memory until a couple of years ago, when Don Williams recreated one from an illustration in Roubo's book. It turned out to work amazingly well.

This polissoir as close the original as we can make it, using full length broom straw bristles and ultra-heavyweight waxed linen cord wrapping to accomplish the overall diameter of somewhere between 1-3/4 and 2 inches. It is somewhat looser than the woven 2-inch polissoir, but not really enough so that you can sense any difference in how it works.

He also works with a broommaker who lives nearby to make a series of polissoirs with varying bristle strengths and widths.

This artisan noticed that traditional Korean artisans use something similar:

Polissoir line-up now complete (the Barn on White Run via Core77)

Notable Replies

  1. I love the quintessentially "old craftsman" style of humor of saying something completely deadpan while doing the exact opposite.

  2. FGD135 says:

    Pretty sure my granddad used something like this. He was trained as a piano maker and used to work a lot with wood in his spare time too, and after he retired. Still got marquetry he made.

  3. Bobo says:

    So, great for gently raising grain while polishing it?

    These would probably work wonders on woods with vast difference in grain hardness like Wenge...

  4. d_r says:

    French polish is a technique for applying thin coats of shellac. The reason the application pad is so tight (I use cheesecloth drawn tight around a balled-up rag) is to make the application thin and even. The polishing comes from added abrasives, like pumice.

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