canes, rasps and finishing

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    Mick Mercer

    I have made a first cane very much as a try it and see project. Every project is a first for me as I am learning as I go on this wonderful masterclass series, and as always the first one throws many questions and teaches me many lessons. I thought I would share what I learnt just in case any one else is in the same boat or if anyone can help with the challenges that these present?
    1. Rasp: I bought a Bahco cabinet rasp which I found OK but was very rough and left the wood almost furry. I then bought a auriou 4 in one rasp which is wonderful but very small for the cane job! I guess I need a good quality large rasp but what cutting size would be best? Not sure, but the 4 in one has number 7 and number 9 which are good but do other makes use the same system? Also other than auriou, which are good but expensive, what makes are worth considering?
    2. I learnt much from making the cane but I guess the biggest point was the inside of the tenon. My tenons tend to fit pretty well but this time when I had to cut down for the shape of the handle I discovered that I clearly do not cut down square but rather go in to the wood meaning that when I cut down the tenon was too wide. Luckily sorted by the wedges but worth noting.
    3. the biggest thing I learnt was with finishing. The wood I had was lovely. Nice grain, and plenty of rays. When I applied the varnish (a dye varnish) it completely ruined the look of the wood and considerably raised the grain leaving a HORID finish. I have had to sand a lot to sort it out and apply several more coats and now I can hardly see any wood detail. I think next time I shall use an oil finish after staining, but do not know what the best oil for this would be?. Any comments or points on my problems here would be welcome. I certainly look forward to Paul’s blog or even masterclass on finishing!

    Just my few points on this ever evolving skill I am so enjoying learning.



    Nice looking cane Mick.

    Finishing is it’s own craft and is just as hard to master as woodworking. I know some like to pad their projects with a damp rag to raise the grain and sand it down before they start to apply finish to handle the problem of raised grain.

    Oil finish by itself offers very little wear protection and would not be suitable for a cane.

    Oil in a resin or varnish offers more protection but most would probably add some type of clear coat for extra protection on a cane.

    Some like to “pop” the grain with a thin layer of oil to begin with (BLO are used a lot for this). Then you could add some dye in your shellac to get the color you want and end with a protective clear coat (poly, varnish, etc).

    There are just as many options as there are finishers. 🙂
    The best is always to save some scrap pieces of the wood you are using for the project and try different finishes until you find one that work for you and the project.

    Dallas, Texas

    Eddy Flynn

    great looking cane Mick ,i used a Narex rasp which “will Do” until i can afford better it does take quite a bit of work with a file and card sraper to get a nice finish, i think the better quality rasps will leave a nicer surface and a lot less clean up.

    Eddy .. Liverpool, Merseyside, UK

    Steve Follis

    Nice looking cane Mick, congratulations!

    I had the same problem with my mortise, after I cut it down it was a bit uneven on one side. I just filled the gap with a small sliver of oak, now nobody knows but me, (and whoever reads this post). I think next time it will be better for me to get closer to the finished height of the handle before chopping my mortise. Of course as I get better at it, I would hope that issue goes away as my mortises get better.

    Memphis, Tennessee

    Mick Mercer

    Thanks for the useful advice and encouragement. I shall try different finishes and products and keep practicing!


    Nice work!

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