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These are just a few interesting tidbits about the history of turning that I have run across in various sources that I thought could add some interesting details for others who are demonstrating man-powered lathes in front of the public.
Originally published in 1678, Mechanick Exercises was the first English book to describe and illustrate the tools of various trades and explain their use. It included chapters on smithing, joinery, house carpentry, turning, bricklaying, and drawing sundials, and included 26 engraved plates. It has been reprinted by Astragal Press.
Moxon on Polishing hardwood or ivory
"Lastly the hold either a piece of seal-skin, or Dutch Reeds (whose outer Skin, of filme somewhat finely cuts (pretty hard against the work, and so make it smooth enough to polish.
Hard wood they polish with beez-wax, viz. by holding bees-wax against it, till it have sufficiently toucht it all over; and press it hard into it by hard the edge of a flat piece of hard wood made sizable and suitable to the work made sizable and suitable to the work the work upon, as the work is going about. Then they set a gloss on it with a very dry woolen rag, lightly smeared with salad oyl.
Buty Ivory they polish with chalk and water, and afterwards dry it with a woollen rag, and a light touch of sallad oyl; which at last they rub off again with a dry woollen rag, and so set a gloss on it."