It’s the perfect finishing touch on your wood projects – paste wax. Apparently at some point many years ago, some creative soul noticed beeswax and figured that it would work well as a finish. Or maybe not. Regardless of the origin, people have been using wax as a wood finish for many years.
There are a few key reasons why you should use wax as a finish. Most finishes are easily damaged from abrasions. They can develop scratches and scuff marks quickly when you have objects sliding or rubbing on them. That’s the reason that hard floors almost always have a layer of wax finish to protect them.
No matter what the wood project is, a coat of wax is a great idea. Even if you’re not too worried about abrasions, the wax will also keep wood safe from dust and moisture. And of course, it gives the wood a nice luster.
How Paste Wax Is Made
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The majority of the paste waxes on the market are Carnauba wax. People extract wax from trees that are found in northeastern Brazil, called the Carnauba palm tree. While this isn’t the only paste wax used as a wood finish, it’s the most common option.
It’s common to use wax in conjunction with another finish and not on its own, because it provides limited protection. With a melting point of 140 degrees, it’s no good against heat, and it can’t handle alcohol, either. It’s best as a final coat to give wood a beautiful shine and protection from scratches. It can also be used to improve the appearance of an older finish.
Another area where waxes work well is as a finish for chalk paints. Those types of paints have a porous, flat composition, and wax can make them shine. The wax also sinks into the pores of the paint, reducing the likelihood of stains.
Choosing a Brand
Which brand of wax should you choose? What’s the best brand you can buy? Fortunately, these aren’t concerns you need to have with wax. You can get a quality finish with any wax brands you find at your local store, so it’s fine to choose a wax based on the price.
Applying paste wax as a finish is a breeze. You can either brush or wipe it on to the surface that you’re finishing. Once you’ve applied it, take a soft cloth and rub the wax with it. This takes off any extra wax and helps enhance that luster.
Give the wax time to dry to a haze, because the solvents need to evaporate before buffing the wax. Buff your wax too soon and you’re going to undo all your work as the buffer takes the wax right off the wood. Don’t waste your time and money by rushing.
Make sure that before you put on the wax, the finish is fully cured. Otherwise, solvent fumes can become trapped in the finish, which will then lift and bubble. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on cure times for the finish.
Light or Dark
Waxes are available in light and dark colors, and for the best results, you should choose finishes that match the color of the wood and its finish. Here’s why:
Let’s say you have a dark finish but you use a light wax. The wax won’t be dark enough to block scratches and scuff marks.
What about a light wood and finish with a dark wax? You’d think the dark wax would hide scratches, but actually it can enhance them, making them more prominent.
There isn’t much cleanup required after applying waxes. Check the wax manufacturer’s instructions for solvents you can use to clean your brush, or just throw out the brush if you used one that’s disposable. Soak any rags you used in water first, then let them dry before you throw them away.
Waxes aren’t ideal for finishing raw woods, but they work when that’s all you have. Where they’re at their best, though, it as a top coat. Give a paste wax a try on your next project and see what you think.