A Collection of Unusual Finds

Swedish Wooden Glue Brushes

Swedish Glue Brushes

 In a group of tools that descended from a Swedish cabinet maker who had emigrated to Boston, Mass in the early 1900s, I found several craftsman-made scraper shaves (some of which were marked with the maker’s dates), along with a Stanley No. 12 veneer scraper also marked with a date (1907).  Along with several boxes of fancy appliqué carvings, dowels, etc, were a series of curious wooden brushes, and some others that had not been completed.


At first I thought that these might have been craftsman-made brushes for grain painting, or a similar function.  But, closer inspection showed that one of the collection obviously had been used for spreading hide glue in the process of veneering.  All of those scraper planes and shaves suddenly made sense!


The “brushes” were apparently formed from the inner bark of basswood (Tilia) that had been split from branches about three inches, or more, diameter.  This material had been trimmed with a draw knife to remove most of the outer bark and had been roughly trimmed with a draw knife.  the trimmed pieces were 8 to 12 inches long, and roughly 1/4 to 3/8 inches thick and a couple of inches wide.  In some sort of fashion, the terminal two or three inches had been “feathered” to make the brush end.

Curious about the process, I took one of the “unfeathered” pieces, and figuring that it might have first been macerated and then pounded, I soaked its large end in some warm water for several hours.  Adding a little liquid detergent seemed to speed the softening process.


Then I laid the soaked end on my anvil and pounded it with a lignum mallet.  In five minutes – voilá – the xylem tubes in the wood had separated, and with some further working with my fingers, separated them into a brush that surely would work nicely as a veneering brush.  Clever folks, these Swedes!

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