Thursday, March 25, 2010

A medieval waxed tablet

With much gratitude to the waxed tablet links on I conducted some research into making a waxed tablet. There are variations in the number of leaves in the tablets; I chose to use the fewest number, two, because the end result would be less bulky and also easier to construct.

I chose quarter sawn white oak as it is the most similar to European oak commonly used in the period, has pretty grain, and because it is quarter sawn is more stable and less likely to warp.

Different colors were used to mix with the beeswax in extant tablets including black, red, and yellow. I decided on red because I had a large amount of the pigment, thought it would look good, and work well enough when written upon.

The linseed oil and wax finish is a period appropriate finish and looks very good. This was my first time using linseed oil and I was extremely pleased with the result. The oil really brought out the beauty of the wood grain. I am now completely sold on using it in a finish and looking forward to trying it under shellac. Here's what it looks like in full sunlight:

Here is a little photo essay showing my process and progress to date:


nijso said...

Nice work! It is a lot of work to cut out the recesses for the wax. There are very small hand routers around that might be useful for this purpose.
The wooden tablets that I know of from museums in the Netherlands and Germany are made of the wood of fruit trees like apple, pear or cherry. It is much softer than oak and does not have the tendency to break when you drop them on a hard floor. They were usually quite small though, around 6x12 cm, give or take a centimeter.

Kathy Storm said...

Thank you!

Yes, I know I could have set up a router but I really wanted it to be carved. If I were to make a bunch of these I would probably set up a jig, then maybe hand carve just the edge of the recess to give the illusion that it was all carved by hand.

This was a fun project and I will likely make a few more, experimenting with different woods. I like oak and I had it on hand, I also plan on another in beech; maybe I will give another wood a try. I really wish I could get pear wood where I live.