So today, I returned to the site where I found a backpack of good clay earlier this month, with a bucket, shovel, and a knife to cut the horse-tail.  This time I didn’t have to wade thru a long section of creek, that was occasionally thigh deep.

Theophilus calls it Shave-grass, and Gerard’s Herbal calls it Naked Horsetail.  Gerard says the fletchers and combe-makers love it, and the housewives call it Pewterwoort, for the ability to scour their serving dishes clean.  Theophilius uses it to smooth a hide which has been whitened (p27), carved wood before it is decorated (p29), polishing tin (p182), and finishing bone (p189).  [All page numbers from Dover edition]

I tried it on my Anglo-Saxon Kent belt buckle, and it really did an amazing job.  Apparently, the plant absorbs silica from it’s surroundings, and then it is natural sandpaper.  Some online suggestions say use it dried, but green, it folds down nice to get into crevices, and is flexible enough to go around curves and tight spaces.

BTW, if you saw my belt buckle at Kingdom A&S, well, the Monday after I took a file to it and made some fairly major changes to the shape and decoration.  I think it is much better now.  And it’s so cool to be able to say I used a plant to sand it smooth.

Soon, I’ve got to mix up the nice grey/white clay with horse dung, and make some lost-wax clay moulds.  I know that plenty of people get good results with substitutes, like sand, grass clippings or bits of rope, but the question is… What if?  How is it different?  Will it really smell bad? (I’m using some year old stuff, that Gerald dried and sifted.)

I’ll let you know.