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Working with Hands - James E. Price

  English Joiners' Tallow Pots 1 of 5  

It was a chilly, rainy day on the Ozark Border all day so it was a good excuse to hide in the shop and make something useful...


Today's project is a tallow pot, a small wooden box in which beef or mutton tallow and sometimes beeswax were kept for lubricating the soles of planes and the blades of backsaws.

When coated with wax or tallow the sole of a plane glides over the wood with little resistance and a good backsaw won't bind or chatter in the kerf due to the lubricant.

I reproduced an old English specimen that is made of mahogany. Mine is made out of Ozark wild cherry and the lid is made from a black walnut knot. I have made several kinds of tallow pots but this one is very challenging because the lid turns on a central pivot away from two stops exposing the cavities in the box in which the tallow and beeswax are kept.

The walnut lid is inlaid with two pieces of mother-of-pearl. It has one coat of boiled linseed oil rubbed in it but once that hardens it will be rubbed and another coat added and polished.

All the English tallow pots I have exhibit this kind of screw. One has a grommet-like washer. I guess I could engrave a screw head to make it more elaborate.

Here are some other tallow pots I have collected over the years and some reproductions of these originals.

The above photo shows an original one in the shape of a coffin and a similar one I made.

Here is another original pot and a replica I made.

1 of 5  

Block Planes

Sandusky Planes

Combination Planes


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