More on using Camellia oil

To illustrate the effect of moisture on Camellia oil, I applied the oil to half of a plane blade, then misted the blade with water. Fig.1A shows the initial state of the blade with water on oil (left side), and normal blade (right side). Fig.1B shows the blade after an hour of being left in the open – rust is beginning to form on the RS as the water droplets dry, with some rust also materializing on the LS where the larger droplets have aggregated.


Fig. 1: Effect of moisture on Camellia oil

Fig.1C shows the blade six hours after the initial misting. The un-oiled side shows large rust spots, whilst the oiled side (LS) has rusted forming on near the larger droplets of water. Fig.1D shows the middle portion of the blade – small specks of rust on the LS, larger regions of flash rust on the right, untreated side. This experiment is of course a worser-case-scenario, the normal workshop would by no means have this much moisture (one would hope!). Camellia oil offers a barrier against low levels of moisture, but should not be used as a corrosion protectant in an environment with high moisture content.

Cleaning planes with Camellia oleifera

Depending on the condition of a plane, it will either be cleaned, or restored. Generally planes to be restored will have a good amount of rust, or a finish that needs to be replaced. Planes in reasonable condition, I tend to clean until I have time to perform a deep cleaning, which normally includes polishing the brass and nickel parts of the plane. But how to clean and protect the finishes on a plane (or any tool for that matter)? One way is by using Camellia oleifera, or Camellia oil.

Camellia oil, also known as tea oil, is commonly used in Japan to inhibit rust on woodworking tools. Toshio Odate, describes Camellia oil as “not too heavy, and gives a beautiful shine to blades”. It is traditionally applied using an aburatsubo or oil pot which is made out of a section of bamboo and filled with a roll of cloth. It is odourless, and non-staining. Below are some before and after photographs from applying Camellia oil to a Union block plane.


Note that the oil has the effect of suppressing the light surface, or “flash” rust, and providing a gentle sheen to the japanning. I apply the oil to the plane, use a brush to work it in, and then let it sit for 1-2 hours. After this I just wipe off the excess, and hand-buff the surface.


One of the most common brands available in North America is Kurobara Camellia Oil. Oil is also made from other related species,  Camellia japonica (often used in skin-care products), and Camellia sinensis (tea).

New vintage powered toys!

Sorry, posts have slowed down… lots in the works, but they need research done on them and I have been backlogged with work, and the travel blog. Still, things should pick up a little into December.

A few months back I bought a couple of vintage machines from one of the myriad of conscientious machinery restorers whose work can be found on the forums of Canadian Woodworking magazine. They take pieces of our collective past and restore them to working order. I was lucky enough to obtain both a Canadian Blower & Forge No.15 bench-top drill press built in Ontario, and a Beaver JP-3800 6-inch jointer, built by Beaver Power Tools of Guelph, Ontario.


Now I do own new tools – I have a couple of Festool tracksaw, & vacuum, a Bosch tablesaw and a Matika planer… however finding just the right sized machines is a challenge. You see my machinery “workshop” is my backyard… the shed stores the major machines, and I usually only work on major stuff outside when there isn’t any of that white stuff floating about (although I am tempted to get one of those shelters that can be dismantled). The jointer will go in the shed, and the drill press I will find a way of squeezing into my basement workshop. I may have to clean out some of the excess hand-tools. These machines are built like tanks, and due to their external motors, can be easily fixed (or replaced) if something goes wrong. I’ll get some pictures of them up in the next week. Hoping for a nice day next week, so I can run the planer in the backyard.