Wax has been used by wood craftsmen around the world for centuries. Wax comes from three sources: animals, plants and minerals. Up through to the 18th century, there was only one type of wax known as beeswax which comes from a bee. This is a simple recipe that includes grated beeswax dissolved in turpentine. The recipe is simple, but proper preparation requires some knowledge and skill. If you don’t believe me, watch Don Williams do it. You can find the video on the Wood and Shop website. The wax we know is carnauba. A vegetable wax obtained from Brazilian palm leaves. Although carnauba provides high lustre and excellent durability, it is difficult to polish by hand, so commercially carnauba is mixed with beeswax. The third type is my favourite mineral wax. This is a microcrystalline derived from crude oil. These synthetic waxes are non-acidic and will not destroy antique finishes and nor corrode metals. That’s why Smithsonian uses Renaissance wax for furniture. Me too. It gives a very pleasing shine and works astoundingly on chalked painted furniture. Apply this wax to all coatings and all tools to prevent corrosion. Wax alone does not provide much protection as a polish, but it has many advantages. Wax fills small scratches left by fine abrasives and improves the gloss of the finish. Wax is easy to keep clean and is abrasion resistant and waterproof to a certain degree. You can rejuvenate a dull or aging finish, you can apply it raw on a picture frame or over a finish. As with all tools, you need to learn how to use it properly to achieve its full potential.
The trick is to apply it thinly and buff it off with a soft rag. Sometimes people will apply several coats of wax. The wax melts into itself, so applying new wax will dissolve the old wax and it will not form a film. Save yourselves the elbow grease and apply only one thin coat and wait for that haze. To give it an extra shine, use a stiff shoe brush, you’ll be surprised on how much shinier it will become. Even when applying wax on turned objects on a lathe, you’d think the high rpm of friction polishing on a lathe is the shiniest you’ll get. Well, guess again. Hit it with a shoe brush and you’ll make it even shinier.
Renaissance wax isn’t cheap. They charge a lot, and for size you get very little, but it works wonders. If I use it only for furniture, it will last a long time for me, but like I said I also use it on my tools and for that reason I wish they made the tub a lot bigger.
Here is a website with waxes such a carnauba maybe you will want to make your own wax
Goods & Chattels (goodsandchattels.com)
Waxing is an old English polish, commonly used before french polish and varnish were introduced, especially for hardwoods like oak. If you want to know a little bit about using a polisuer or French polisher I suggest you google Don Williams and have a read on his methods of applying wax polish. In this blog I only intend writing on how it was once made and still can be made in your own shop today if you so wish and it’s methods of application. Doesn’t hurt to give it a go as the results may be more pleasing than buying several cans of the stuff of various brands which can add up to be an expensive journey.
It’s quite simple one part melted beeswax and one part turpentine or citrus solvent, mix and cool. That’s it.
Rub a thin layer with a rag, stiff brush (make sure you don’t leave surface scratches) I’ll leave that to your better judgement or apply it using your fingers as the applicator, did I repeat myself twice there lol. Let it dry for several hours then rub with a cloth, flannel or piece of felt is best. Put on several coats leaving the work overnight between coats. Rub often with a warm cloth. This method was used centuries ago when they made their own waxes but isn’t necessary if your using modern day waxes or off the shelf waxes.
As you can see this method goes against you knew about waxing with modern day products. Modern day products are designed to quicken the process but are we truly achieving the best possible results. This I will let you answer if and when you decide to make one and give it a try. There are many great waxes on the market, in the beginning I was amazed with one, Minwax finishing paste wax till I bought another from E-beaut their Traditional Paste wax and now I’m not so crazy about it anymore. I’ve actually got mixed feelings about it, it’s good and does what it say’s but I’m not sure whether it’s me and my tastes are changing or if it’s too shiny for my tastes. I don’t know it kind of reminds me of putting car polish on timber but the bottom line is I haven’t settled on a wax I can truly say I am very pleased with it. This you can only see after using it for a while atleast upto 12 months and if you still like it; then stick with it.
As for making your own I would definitely give it a go, I was in the process of making it when my wife came home early from work and saw me using her saucepan melting beeswax, well it’s not just a saucepan but a Bessemer and no we can’t have that now can we, anyway the results were the reenactment of the Benny Hill show for those who remember it, you Brits will. So I never got my chance of finishing it but one of these day’s and soon I will buy a cheap saucepan and cook it on my BBQ and let you know the end results..
My next post will be on a new discovery I made, a fool proof method of blotch free staining in softwoods, just when you thought you had nothing more to discover in woodworking. And just to add to that I was the winner in PW for another discovery I made almost 12 months ago.
With a little thought and experimentation the possibilities are endless.