PE - Question of pole-working

John LaTorre jlatorre at
Mon Aug 14 21:28:30 PDT 2000

Wendy Freeman/Otte wrote:
> Here's a question to spice up the list:
> I am building a simple Roman "pup" tent.  I am trying to do this in as
> painfully period a manner as possible (although it looks like I'll have to
> subtitute canvas for goat hides (sigh...).
> Here's the dilemma: I saved some long branches (2-3" diameter, I think Maple)
> to make the two upright poles, have de-barked them, and am whittling off extra
> branch bits.  They are still rough enough to cause splinters, though.  I'm
> sure something was used in medieval times to "sand down" (as we call it) the
> wood.  I vaguely remember someone saying sandpaper (i.e. sand glued to a
> backing) was used in later period medieval Europe - but what did they use
> before then?

Somebody else has already mentioned sandstone or other
abrasive stones, but the other big smoothing instrument was
(and among serious cabinetmakers, still is) the scraper ...
a flat piece of metal, shaped and burnished in such a way as
to produce a tiny shaving edge. Just about any decent
woodworking book explains their use. I use them a lot,
particularly because sanding leaves lots of microscopic grit
in the wood, and when you're carving the wood after you've
smoothed it, all that grit is death on your delicate carving
tools. So you scrape instead, and leave nothing on the
wood's surface but a glassy smooth finish.


John LaTorre (Johann von Drachenfels)

"Always do right. It will gratify some people & astonish the
--Mark Twain

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