Those of you that know me, know that I build quite a few wood hand tools but you might not know that I repair and restore quite a bit more. In addition to that I have my own tool collection (of course) and all of these need to be cleaned and maintained. The centuries of use by craftsman results in colors, spots and prints on these fine tools that are a testament to the dutiful work performed over several lifetimes. One of the more important aspects of the cleaning process is to preserve as much of that beautiful patina as possible. What one person calls dirt another one, such as myself, views as witness to history.
Not only does this patina need to be preserved during cleaning but it needs to be added to, by those of us that use these tools, and protected for future generations to marvel at. In the past I have used various waxes and polishes to protect and maintain wood tools but recently a fellow craftsman, and friend, has created a new hard wax polish to help us maintain and preserve our precious old wood tools.
Jim Hendricks of Kent, England, has spent the past couple years developing, testing and producing a hard wax polish he calls Alfie Shine, named after his friend & companion, Alfie. Alfie leads a very good dog life there in Kent and from what I understand, he approves of and officially endorses the product. As soon as he announced its availability I immediately ordered a tin from Workshop Heaven to try out. Matthew Platt, who assisted Jim with getting the product to market, runs a fine operation there and shipped the product soon after I ordered it.
It took around a week to arrive in the mail from the UK, unfortunately I wasn't home that day and it needed to be signed for. The following day on the way to an appointment I stopped by the post office to pick up my parcel. I couldn't wait until I got home to open it, so here it is fresh from the package:
|Alfie Shine straight from the package|
After returning home and finishing work for the day, I took Alfie to the shop with me to take it for a test drive. I fortunately had several planes in for maintenance, as well as a few of my own, so it was the perfect time to go test.
First up was a recent purchase, an H. Chapin no 8 round circa 1850. As you can see in the before images it wasn't in terrible shape, only needing a bit of cleaning, sharpening and a finish coat.
|H. Chapin no 8, escapement side|
|H. Chapin no 8, blind side|
My "standard" routine includes cleaning the plane and in this case I used my existing method that is a mix of raw linseed oil, pure pine turpentine and apple cider vinegar. Using that mixture I cleaned the plane with a cloth towel making sure I only removed the surface gunk. After sharpening I opened up the Alfie Shine and the first thing that struck me was the smell, it's divine. Whatever wax and ingredients were used, it's actually a nice tin to open up and smell. Using a cotton cloth I applied the wax sparingly then came back with a fresh cloth and polished it up. I must say, at that point I was quite happy with the results. There was a bit of residual dirt on the cloth used to apply the Alfie Shine so I decided to test the other claim: Alfie can be use to clean planes as well. Hmm, that's next up.
|H. Chapin no 8, escapement side after clean and wax|
|H. Chapin no 8, blind side after clean and wax.|
Next up was my walnut 15" jack plane, it had a years worth of dust and dirt buildup and I decided to use a bit of boiled linseed oil (BLO) followed by Alfie Shine to see how that worked. The idea here is that the BLO will "feed" the wood and prevent it from drying out, that being the #1 cause of planes cracking, then protecting that coating with the wax. I allowed the BLO to dry for a few hours then, using the same method as before, I applied the Alfie Shine with a cotton cloth then used a clean one to come back and polish. I must say, the Alfie Shine went over the BLO like a champ protecting the oil & wood and looks fantastic.
|Walnut jack with BLO and Alfie Shine|
Since I am in the midst of my annual tool cleaning process and my Stanley 62 was due up next, I decided I would take that opportunity to use Alfie on that. Not only to protect the metal from rust but to clean it up to begin with.
Here is the plane after disassembly and before cleaning. As you can see, it was in pretty sad shape, this is one of the more recent 62's I picked up and it hadn't been cleaned since I bought it.
|Stanley 62 before cleaning|
Using another cotton cloth I applied Alfie Shine to the plane body first, scrubbing it off rather hard to remove as much dirt, dust and grime as much as I could. After doing the entire plane, here's what the cloth looked like:
Personally, I would call that a roaring success. Not only did the Alfie Shine clean the plane as stated, it coated the entire body in enough surface protectant that there's no chance it will get any surface rust over the next year.
|The 62 cloth after cleaning|
Here's the 62 after cleaning and reassembly:
|62 after cleaning, knob side|
|62 after cleaning, iron and handle side|
The last test was of a molding plane I am repairing for someone, it's a fairly "simple" molding plane and best as I can tell was made around 1880.
It has much of the usual dirt and grime all over it and was dry as a bone. I started with the same wood cleaning mixture I use which removes most of the grime while feeding the wood a bit. After that it received a good BLO feeding over the course of a day. I applied a thick coating of BLO, let it soak in then came back and did that again until the wood didn't absorb any more.
When that was done I used the 2 cloth Alfie Shine process, the profiled sole of the plane received the same treatment and was given a bit of additional wax. This will certainly help the plane slide smoothly over the workpiece.
Here's how it came out.
|Molding plane after clean and wax|
|See the shine?|
|The blind side, again, shiny|
|The profile, waxed and ready to use|
At this point I had used Alfie Shine on 8-10 planes as well as on my marking gauges and several chisels. While the tin it comes in may seem small, a little goes a LONG way, I have used *maybe* 5% of it thus far.
The patina on the tool is meticulously maintained with Alfie and the layer of protectant should last for months to years depending on how much the tool is used.
Overall I'm extremely happy with the product, it does everything claimed and does it well. It's only available from Workshop Heaven in the UK today but they ship to the US, the shipping price is quite fair and it arrived in an expeditious manner. I've heard rumor they're working on a US based distributor as well.
It is available direct from Workshop Heaven here, more info will be available here.
The only real problem is I'm going to need more than one tin... I'll be using it on everything from here on out.