I finished my toolbox yesterday and gave it the colour is deserved by applying my favourite wood finish, clear shellac. Despite what anyone say about shellac, it’s still the best surface treatment and protection I can find for many if not most projects. People tell me it’s no good for dining tables and I might agree there — somewhat at least. It doesn’t do well in careless or super-busy households where no cleanup or a fast cleanup is required for an emerging family and neither does it do well with spirit alcohol because spirits like whisky dissolve the surface in a heartbeat. It is such an easy finish to repair though, so I have no issue with it. I use coasters for hot drinks and I never liked spirit alcohol anyway, so no issues for me.

I enjoyed closing out the series of videos yesterday. Today I will reinstall the hardware and wax the finish. My journey into the past was very enjoyable and I now must decide what to do with two more toolboxes I have no specific need for. Perhaps I will load the oak version with some of my special tools and enjoy that. Because of the pandemic I now have set aside an area above the workshop for me to enjoy cooking and a little rest in my lengthened days. I have several pieces I made in the previous years in use there. The toolbox will be a nice fit I think.

Even though I use mainly the Aldi chisels in my daily use, I still love looking at the vintage Marples and Wards ones with their shellacked boxwood handles and brass ferrules that served me well through the previous decades. Some things never grow old. In truth, this toolbox could sit on a table in my lounge with a few favourite tools inside and it would look as decorative as a fine oil painting or art piece. I imagine a small table at chair height with a cup of hot tea on one of my oak coasters there in front of the toolbox too. Just another work of art! Maybe now is a time I will design a specific table to fit the toolbox and my cup of tea!

Oh, and no, I am not retiring and have no plans to. I love what I do too much and I have a houseful of furniture to design and build for our Sellers Home project. My new design rocking chair is underway alongside my Brazos rocker and so too a couple of other pieces as well. Don’t worry, I want you with me on this exciting journey. I’ll be keeping you by my side as I build!

29 Comments

  1. Simon on 12 November 2020 at 8:53 am

    I am really really excited for the Brazos rocker! I’ve build your craftsman style rocker as a wedding gift for my brother, never before was I so proud and so happy with a present. I’ve also seen the pictures of the Brazos rocker in your blog for many years and I’ve always thought “The craftsman rocker was already pretty nice, but I hope someday I can also learn to build one like that!”. I honestly can’t wait, thank you so much Paul!

    • David on 12 November 2020 at 12:07 pm

      Can hardly wait for the Brazos Rocker.

  2. Richard Harnedy on 12 November 2020 at 9:59 am

    Dear Paul

    Great that you are in a positive mood, masterclass and common woodworking have been a Godsend during the pandemic. This toolbox is a great training project, dovetails, mortice and tenon, raised panels – perfect. Sellers home project coming too guess I have no excuse but to keep woodworking 8 hours a week and keep improving.

    Richard

  3. Ted on 12 November 2020 at 11:30 am

    I have been looking forward to the toolbox videos Do we know when it will be released?

  4. Andrew on 12 November 2020 at 12:39 pm

    I wish you great and sustained happiness. You have been so generous with your knowledge and wisdom.

  5. Thomas on 12 November 2020 at 12:41 pm

    Can’t wait for the rocker. Great to follow you with all this progress.

  6. Terry L Bohannon on 12 November 2020 at 1:16 pm

    The problem I had with shellac was when I didn’t know how to properly apply it. I will use it like you have here next time I have such a project. It turned out so beautifully.

    I do like linseed oil. I have used raw and then a mixture of BLO, mineral spirits, and wipe on poly to finish my mallet. The mallet I was restoring is made of oak and dates from the post Civil War era. I had been hoping that the linseed oil would penetrate deeply and help stabilize the wood that had felt a bit dry and brittle. It sure feels great now.

  7. Corey Collins on 12 November 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Brazos sounds like it will have a heavy Texas influence to it, one would go well in my Texas home.

  8. steve on 12 November 2020 at 4:50 pm

    My own recollection of shellac was from school fifty years ago. I think it was used like varnish and had the consistency of treacle. I did the restoration on a No4 plane and approached the finish of the handles with some trepidation but was amazed to find how straightforward it was – as long as you worked reasonably quickly. I used the fine steel wool and wax polish and they look like they came out of the factory yesterday.

  9. RS Hughes on 12 November 2020 at 5:07 pm

    What a beautiful box Paul. I’ll look out for the videos with interest.
    I haven’t used shellac for about fifty years now, but maybe it’s time to revisit it for interior stuff. Or maybe not – I do like a shot of aged rum now and then haha.
    Most of the things I make are for outside, some in various gardens and a lot of bits for exposed places on the decks of assorted boats so I tend to rely on Cuprinol for the garden stuff but the boat stuff (carved oak cleats and things like that) get the treatment with hot Tung oil – as much as the wood will take – and wax finish.
    If you use hot oil don’t apply it with a cheap nylon paintbrush by the way; it won’t end well. (Ask me how I know haha)!
    Stay safe and positive Paul, and take care of yourself mate.

  10. Paul Boegel on 12 November 2020 at 7:15 pm

    I am your age Paul and there is absolutely no reason to slow down or stop doing this hobby/occupation. I used to demonstrations for Delta Machinery for many years and was annoyed that other demonstrators in the store would take a 2x6x10ft board, make a few cuts or holes in it then toss it in the dumpster. I asked the department manager to keep those for me and went out in the parking lot. I took basic outlines of some cars in the lot and made templates to cut them out of the scrapped boards. In the end I had over a hundred cutout cars that I have left at the Christmas Stocking facility. Simple as they are at least a kid that would not have had anything for Christmas will have something to open. Sadly a lot of the toys that show up are cheap plastic and will likely be broken in a few days whereas my toys will likely be handed down. The look on the faces of the fund volunteers when I show up with a box of wood cutout toys is priceless.
    So as far as having to stop Paul, we both will likely continue this until we are unable to stand or hold a tool. And yes, they will be finished with shellac and water based stain so they can be chewed on safely.

  11. Roger Allen on 12 November 2020 at 8:43 pm

    I agree. Work if you enjoy it and are good at it is tonic to the soul. I am 69 and an still in the saddle 24/7 as a lung and sleep specialist. I reviewed three Covid survivors this week; one who was seven weeks on a ventilator.

    I was reminded when Paul spoke of band saws versus table saws of the worst case of kickback I saw (pun) in a saw miller.

    A ten foot long piece of 3×2 he was feeding in kicked back, went through his right shoulder and came out the left, punching under aortic arch without piecing great vessels as it had a blunt leading edge. Ambulance officers had to cut ends the off to get him in the vehicle. He was conscious. I looked after him in ICU. He survived. Abridged edition. Long story. So beware of kickback. It could crucify you.

    • Amberlyn H on 17 November 2020 at 10:37 am

      Roger, your anecdotal story is more than enough evidence for me to avoid a table saw addition to my toolset. But I had already witnessed first hand a table saw accident that for years made me fear woodworking as a hobby. (I’ve overcome!) My dad did a lot of woodworking projects as an anecdote to his professional stress. He was notoriously frugal and had a very very old table saw I believe he inherited from my mother’s father. (So, probably circa 1950? I’m curious now). Well, anyway, one afternoon when I was about 16, my dad had the table saw out in the driveway and I was chatting with him (yelling more likely) as he ran a few pieces through. Right before my eyes a piece kicked back and caused his hand to slip and it sent his thumb right through the blade. The slow motion version of the event is still painfully imprinted in my mind even though years in the military exposed me to far worse. My most intense fear is having a finger cut off! Lol!

  12. Roger Allen on 12 November 2020 at 8:51 pm

    I forgot to say what a lovely box. I have an old pine chest now in my shed and my grandfather’s sea chest with wooden batons on top and a shirt tray inside and crazed leather handles. He took it to Dublin and back by steamer at the turn of 1900.

    Tools, chests and workshops are the home of the gentle soul and repository of memories.

  13. Pete on 13 November 2020 at 10:12 am

    Good morning Paul,
    Thank you once again for all your time and instructions.
    Is it worth thinking about auctioning the toolbox and perhaps donating to Children in Need?
    I’m sure we all support such a worthwhile appeal and the monetary results could be good.
    Pete

  14. Ludovic Gatt on 14 November 2020 at 8:18 pm

    Hi Paul, when you say “clear shellac” it’s a colourless shellac ? I see on french site a “super blonde” dewaxed shellac, it is a clear shellac ? I’m confused with the possibilities (honey, garnet rubin, gold orange, lemon etc.) offered by this finish.
    Have a good day.

  15. J.R. (Ronn) Winn - Vermont USA on 14 November 2020 at 8:36 pm

    Paul, I apologize for getting behind on the reading of material. I believe you mentioned in a video or blog that your hand tool book was back in printing production and might be available before too long. Can you give me an update on when it might be out there. Thanks. JRW

  16. Gerald Etto on 15 November 2020 at 3:42 am

    That box is so clean and well made. Even using my power tools I get small gaps here and there. I’m thinking of doing the fine-tuning of boxes (especially the miters only with hand tools soon.

  17. BobE on 16 November 2020 at 3:55 pm

    “I enjoyed closing out the series of videos yesterday.” Videos? Did I miss something? There are videos on this tool chest build?

  18. Chris Harmston on 17 November 2020 at 12:13 am

    Paul, you have stated in numerous blogs and videos how easy it is to repair a shellac finish. Any chance you would consider creating a tips and tricks for repair of shellac finish?

    I converted to 90% shellac about 5 years ago, thanks to your videos. Now I have a few pieces with wear and several spirit circles I need to repair. I have been a bit hesitant to initiate this repair work due to never having tried it.

    Also looking forward to more of you home furniture projects. Particularly more advanced ones.

  19. Leopoldo Mayoral on 17 November 2020 at 3:33 am

    Thanks for your posts. I am enjoying reading them. In fact, you prompted me to get the low angle #4 Veritas plane which I’ve had my eye on for some time now. Thanks for the push on your last blog.

  20. Scott Smith on 17 November 2020 at 1:55 pm

    Paul. Keep those projects coming. What I’ve found is even if I wouldn’t use the project you make, the techniques you use are very helpful. I was lucky enough to take some of your classes in the states and my wood working skills have really soared. I’m retired now and the time in the shop is as enjoyable as you describe yours. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Scott from New Jersey

    • Paul Sellers on 17 November 2020 at 2:14 pm

      Hey, Scott. Was it postal work you did? I will be keeping going, no problem. Life still fills me with awe every morning when I wake. We just need to beat this covid issue and hopefully never get back to the old normal!

    • Sylvain on 17 November 2020 at 7:22 pm

      “even if I wouldn’t use the project you make, the techniques you use are very helpful.”
      That is the all idea developing skills and then use them on own design.

  21. Paul Babcock on 17 November 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Nice tool chest Paul. I particularly like the pyramid panel which reminds me of many of the doors I have seen in Greece. Thank you for sharing. PS I like shellac also.

  22. Steve Holland on 19 November 2020 at 3:10 am

    Yeah, shellac is underrated. Food safe, too. Great for kids’ toys. I also started using hide glue to hammer veneer last year. What an easy glue to use! I heard it can be used to glue up panels without clamps. Will try that this weekend.

  23. Pete on 19 November 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Hello Paul,

    I have no doubt you will be able to refresh my memory from schooldays (a very long time ago).
    During woodwork classes we would use a hot/warm substance, it was in a pot which was inside another pot which had water in it and sat on a gas ring.
    It was always applied with a camel hair brush and when dry beeswax rubbed in in small circles and buffed.
    Was this an early form of shellac? Has the modern day equivalent, shellac sanding sealer, replaced this method?
    Thank you once again for all your teachings and advice.

    Pete

    • Paul Sellers on 19 November 2020 at 10:33 pm

      I am thinking that you have mixed two techniques here Pete. It sounds like you had animal hide glue in the cast iron double burner which caused hard glue pellets mixed with water to liquify for application. The glue was usually applied with a brush sometimes called a mop. The dry beeswax would be the application of beeswax finish. Often, to make a beeswax more soft and penetrating, it was/is mixed with turpentine or mineral spirits in roughly equal parts. This too is mixed and melded in a double burner.

  24. Pete on 21 November 2020 at 11:03 am

    Good morning Paul, thank you for your reply. I am not, I repeat not for one second questioning the master. The coffee table was in its finished state and we were instructed to brush this hot warm liquid on, then apply beeswax, so it’s possible that a hot/warm beeswax liquid was applied to seal the oak/mahogany before rubbing in a wax.
    I can still remember the smell, and the teacher, “chisel chops” we called him.

    Pete

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