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  1. 1. Finishing Wax WAX THE PERFECT PROTECTION for FURNITURE? From a refinishing pro, a preservation expert, and Furniture manufacturers, the answer seems to be "yes." "Wax is the wear and tear, abrasion layer of fine wood furniture," says Ron Ashby, a professional woodworker, refinisher, lecturer, and owner of Liberon Supplies in Mendocino, California. "superficial scratches, dings, and dents should happen to the wax layer-not the finish you slaved over." DON'T DABBLE IN DUST Despite the multitude of furniture care products that promise to "feed" or "polish" your fine furniture, Ashby believes high-quality furniture wax is the best choice. "All the other care products available attract dust with the residue they leave behind," he says. At Virginia's Colonial Williamsburg, Wallace Gusler, director of conservation, oversees the preservation of authentic colonial furniture. "Our primary concern with pieces that have an intact, original finish is conservation," he says. "For that, we use wax. And, Gusler believes, all wood furniture, not just historic pieces, deserves wax protection. "Everyone collects furniture to some extent, he notes, "But their collection happens to be their household furniture." What about lemon oil, another popular wood-care product? Gusler says, "The value of oil to wood is folklore. Of course, oil gives a wood finish a superficial shine, but it isn't beneficial. In fact," he elaborates, "Commercial lemon oil has nothing to do with lemons. It's essentially kerosene, and can be harmful to a finish." Then, there are aerosol spray cleaners and polishes that contain silicone. They may not harm the present finish, say Ashby and Gusler, but they will cause problems down the road if you contemplate refinishing. "Products with silicones are cheap, quick, and easy, but they don't protect," comments Ashby. "Besides, silicones make refinishing difficult because, even after stripping, a new finish won't adhere." TOO MUCH WAX? What about the infamous "Wax buildup" that advertising people say their products avoid? Roy Frizell, Supervisor of Quality Control, Ethan Allen, Inc., Danbury, Connecticut, recommends wax only in small doses. "We tell customers to dust with a damp cloth, then maybe every six months use wax. 0therwise," he comments, "They'll put wax on every time they dust." zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 1
  2. 2. Finishing Wax Ed Finnety, customer service manager at Harden Furniture, McConnellsville, New York, acknowledges that most people over-polish. "they're zealous," he says. Ashby finds amusement in some companies' product claims denying wax buildup. "if you avoid wax buildup, you don't have any protection for your furniture," he muses. "it does build up, but it builds up clear." According to Colonial Williamsburg's Gusler, wax should never create a buildup problem when used in moderation. That's because all the wax you put on doesn't remain there. "It gets huffed, worn off, and even oxidizes," he says. Old wax can be removed with special products developed just for the purpose, according to Ashby. "but, if the furniture is heavily soiled, too, you should use a wood cleaning and wax-removing product, such as Liberon Wood Cleaner and Wax Remover." POLISH-ON PROTECTION You can apply wax over any finish-penetrating oils, varnish, lacquer, or polyurethane Ashby advises. But, only buy a high-quality, cabinetmaker's wax, one designed specifically for wood furniture, at woodworking stores or through mail order catalogs. Some notable brands include: Liberon's Black Bison, Goddard's, Butcher's Wax, Antiquax, and Renaissance Wax. Products such as these are traditionally formulated from a number of waxes- carnauba, beeswax, synthetics, and vegetable. Expect to pay from $12 to $15 for a one-pound tin of good quality cabinetmaker's paste wax. And, notes Ashby, don't confuse floor wax with furniture wax. Floor wax won't hold up on furniture because it's actually softer. He notes, too, that furniture wax comes as paste or liquid. "Generally," says Ashby, "Less solid forms apply easier but have less wax." Liquid wax does have a place in the home, though. advises Ashby, "for highly carved wood surfaces and the legs and stretchers of chairs, you can use liquid. Also, it works as the initial wax coat on cabinets, much like a sealer." Applying paste wax isn't complicated, and the method doesn't differ for newly finished furniture or older furniture. All furniture to be waxed, though, must be clean and free of oil and grease. "You can make only two mistakes applying wax," Ashby notes. "You can put too much on, and you can try to buff it out too soon." Too thick of a coat won't dry evenly, resulting in a spotty sheen. And, if you buff wax before it has dried, you just redistribute the wax. zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 2
  3. 3. Finishing Wax Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding the application of wax: * Do you have to apply wax with steel wool? Ashby recommends an oil-free, wood finisher's 0000 steel wool (see where to buy at end of article) to avoid streaks and blurs. A cloth will do, although it takes more effort. * Does it matter how you spread the wax? "No," says Ashby, "But, on large surfaces, such as a table-top, I use a circular motion, then even it out with the grain." * How can you tell if you have applied the right amount of wax? "If you see ridges across the surface, there's too much," he says. * Will one coat do? " On a new piece or one not previously waxed, put down three light, successive coats at four- to eight-hour intervals." * What do you need for buffing? Buff the dry wax with terry cloth, a cotton diaper, or an old T-shirt. "The higher the gloss you want, the softer the material for buffing you use," he says. "And, buffing with the grain or cross-grain doesn't matter." MAINTAINING FINISHES Following the initial three coats, Ashby suggests you reapply wax according to the rate of "wear and tear" your furniture receives. "You might wax the arms of a dining chair weekly, but the legs and stretchers only every 18 months." To maintain a wax coat on your furniture, follow Ashby's tips: * Dust weekly with a soft, dry, all-cotton cloth. * Don't use polishes or oils over your coat of protective wax. * Wipe up spills as soon as possible to prevent spotting * Use coasters under glasses and vases, and pads or trivets under hot dishes. * Reapply a coat of wax when you can no longer buff the coating to a shine. "On the West Coast today, it costs between $650 and $1,000 to have a dining tabletop custom refinished. If you have just finished one yourself, that's how much it's worth," comments the waxing expert. "Wax can preserve that expensive finish." zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 3
  4. 4. Finishing Wax How And When to Use Paste Wax Contrary to popular belief, paste wax is not a good choice for a protective finish. Even though you may still read articles or hear other woodworkers advocating the use of paste wax as a protective finish for raw wood, the simple fact is that when it comes to protection, paste wax is very inferior compared to oil finishes or topcoat finishes like lacquer, varnish, polyurethane etc. It is true that wax was used for centuries as a wood finish, but that was before the advent and discovery of oil finishes and film finishes. Wax provides no significant protective barrier for wood against heat, water, water vapor or chemical spills such as from an alcoholic beverage. Wax is very soft and never dries to a hard finish. Its melting point is approx. 140 degrees F, which is way too low to protect against any kind of hot object. Even a cup of hot coffee placed on a tabletop that has been finished with wax only will melt the wax right through to the wood. Because wax is so soft, most of the excess applied needs to be wiped off in order to achieve a clear and polished surface, therefore the film surface of a wax finish is way too thin to protect wood against water or moisture (water vapor). Even milder solvents like mineral spirits (paint thinner) and turpentine will dissolve wax almost immediately, therefore it has no resistance to chemical spills. Wax can be an effective barrier against water vapor when applied in a thick coating to the end grain of boards or freshly cut wood. Because it is applied in such a thick coating, it prevents the moisture from escaping too quickly, thus the freshly cut boards or wood will not check. About the only protection wax affords is against abrasion, and even that is not significant. It's not the actual film of wax that protects wood against abrasion, because the film is too thin for that. Wax makes the surface slippery, thus objects slide across a waxed surface, rather than digging in and scraping. You must remember that wood needs more than just abrasion protection. A piece of furniture that has only wax to protect it will soon become dirty and will have no water, water vapor or chemical protection. A wax finish will soon become filled with dust and dirt that will stick to it and create a dull, dark ugly mess. The only way to fix this is to remove all the wax, clean the wood and sand the surface to prepare it for another finish, hopefully not just wax by itself. zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 4
  5. 5. Finishing Wax However, when applied properly and for the right reason, paste wax can be very effective and add beauty and color back to an old piece of furniture. A wax finish can be very effective on a carved or turned object that receives very little handling, especially when you want a low sheen and don't want to change the natural color of the wood too much. Paste wax is best used as a polish over an existing finish such as lacquer, varnish, shellac, polyurethane or even oil finishes. As mentioned, it will give you a little extra protection against scratches, but most modern finishes like polyurethane and newer lacquers and varnishes are very hard to begin with and usually the finish alone is abrasion resistant enough. Thus, using paste wax to maintain and regularly care for your furniture is by far the best reason to use paste wax today. A paste wax will add shine to a surface by filling in small scratches or voids in a finish. The finish will appear shiner and deeper because the light that was getting trapped in those scratches and voids before the wax was applied, is now reflecting off the surface. On darker pieces of furniture it's best to use a dark colored paste wax. This will not only polish the piece but also hide some minor scuffs and scratches. Many people believe that pure beeswax is the best choice for use among paste waxes. This is not true. True, in the past beeswax was often used, but that was because it was the only wax available. Today, paste wax manufactures blend natural waxes like beeswax and harder carbuna wax with synthetic waxes. The waxes are selected for cost, color, slip resistance and hardness. This blend of waxes makes a paste wax that is harder and in many other ways superior to pure beeswax, which is also very expensive in pure form. Waxes like carnuba are much harder than bees wax, but are too hard to be used alone without blending with other softer waxes. All waxes are originally solid. They are made into a paste by being dissolved into a solvent. Years ago, turpentine was used as the solvent, but today petroleum distillate solvents such as mineral spirits,and toluene are generally used to dissolve the waxes. Most commercially made paste waxes are very similar in their quality and the sheen they produce. In fact, you can take the ten top brand waxes, apply them side by side to a finished surface and not see any significant difference in gloss or sheen. About the most significant difference in these waxes is in the amount of zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 5
  6. 6. Finishing Wax time you need to wait before wiping off the excess and buffing out the wax. Certain waxes like Briwax use a quicker evaporating solvent like toluene. Because these solvents evaporate quicker, the wax turns back to solid quicker, (becoming hazy) and once the wax hazes over, it's time to wipe off the excess and buff it out. Other waxes with slower evaporating solvents like mineral spirits will take longer to turn back to solid and haze over. Applying Paste Wax Many manufactures of furniture polishes and furniture care products always talk about wax build up. Some have even produced special products that eliminate wax build up. This is ridiculous because there is no such thing as wax build up. When you apply wax, you must remove approx. 99 percent of it when you buff it out. If not, you will never attain a shine. You must only leave a very thin layer on the surface. Therefore, there can be no such thing as wax build up. Make sure that the surface of your finish is clean and free of any dirt. If not, clean it with a mild soap like Murphy's Oil Soap and water. Take a piece of lint free soft cotton cloth and put a lump of paste wax in the center of the cloth. This will limit the amount of wax you apply to the surface and you need not have to continue to dip into the can. Twist the cloth into a ball and kneed it in your hand to soften the wax a little. Apply the cloth over the surface of the finish letting the wax seep through the cloth onto the surface. You can apply the wax in any direction, using any motion, straight, circular, with grain, against grain etc. When the wax is first applied, it glossy because of the amount of solvent in it. as the solvent evaporates, it will start to turn back to solid and the surface will become hazy. If you wait too long the wax will be difficult to remove. If this happens, don't worry, just take some fresh wax apply it over the hardened wax and wipe it off right away. The solvent in the fresh wax will re soften the hard wax again and you can remove it. If you don't wait long enough, you will still be removing all the wax and you will have no sheen at all. Work on small areas at a time until you get used to how long you need to wait until the wax has hazed and the excess needs to be removed. Wipe off the excess with a clean piece of lint free soft cotton cloth. Buff the surface with the cloth until you achieve a even sheen. WARNING DO NOT USE SOLVENT BASED WAXES ON WATER BASED FINISHES OR ON ANY FINISH THAT HAS NOT CURED FULLY. THE SOLVENT IN THE WAX MAY HARM THE FINISH. There are a number of methods used to apply paste wax, the method I just described is the most basic, but not the only. If you would like additional info on applying paste wax, please feel free to e-mail me. zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 6
  7. 7. Finishing Wax Waxing One of the nicest finishes for your projects is beeswax. This finish is ideal for any indoor project and has the great advantage of allowing the wood to nicely darken with age. Waxing should not be used for any project that requires a degree of water resistance, such as for kitchen or bathroom related projects. Instead, varnishing should be used here. Beeswax is available at almost any hardware store and is simple to apply. However, it is often a good idea to seal the wood prior to waxing, especially on softer woods such as pine. To seal the wood correctly you should use a pre-wax sealant. Again, this should be sold in most hardware stores. Once you have rubbed a coating of sealer onto the wood, allow it to dry for 30 minutes. Then, use wire wool to lightly work over the entire surface to roughen it slightly. Once this is done, you may add the wax. Apply the wax to the wood using a lint- free cloth, and leave to dry for at least 15 minutes. Then buff the wood, using a clean cloth, until a suitable shine is achieved. It is recommended that at least two applications of wax are used, even though many waxes claim that only one is required. The result will be a far better finish that will last far longer. Note: Waxed surfaces will need to be re-waxed every now and then (typically once every six months), in order to maintain the true finish. zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 7
  8. 8. Finishing Wax Wood Finish Supply Wood Cleaner & Wax Remover (NEW V99 Low Odor Formula) Wood Cleaner & Wax Remover dissolves and cleans old layers of dirt, grime, grease, smoke, old wax & polish buildup, fingermarks and other impurities. Wood Cleaner contains No water and will not raise the grain, harm veneers or remove the natural patina of the wood. You Will Be Surprised At The Number Of Pieces That Don't Need Stripping. Wood Cleaner & Wax Remover will gently clean and prepare old & antique furniture and other wood surfaces for refinishing or polishing. If the finish is intact try WFS Wood Cleaner first to clean all furniture and wood surfaces. Wood Cleaner will not remove the original lacquer, varnish, shellac, or French polish finish. INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE o Cautions: Use & Dry In Well Ventilated Area. Keep Out Of Eyes. Gloves And Eye Protection Suggested. o It Is important to TEST the surface to be cleaned !! o Use an area in an inconspicuous place to test and make sure the cleaner will not remove your finish. Proceed With Caution until you get a feel for the cleaning process & the proper amount of cleaner to use. Make sure the finish you are cleaning is a legitimate Finish. If The Finish to be cleaned does not have a proper bond with the wood below, The Cleaner Might Remove The Finish. Also Finishes that are completely oil or wax will certainly be removed, after all this is a Cleaner & Wax Remover !!! 1. Apply generously to the surface being cleaned using LIBERON #00, and on finer surfaces, #0000 Steel Wool. Use steel wool with Care (or use a cloth) on delicate surfaces such as inlays & veneers. (ON VERY FINE AND GLOSSY FINISHES USE LIBERON #0000/000 STEEL WOOL FOR CLEANING, and ON EXTREMELY DIRTY SURFACES, FLOORS, OODWORK and on COUNTRY or ROUGHER FURNITURE STYLES USE LIBERON #0 STEEL WOOL FOR CLEANING.) 2. Allow to stand for a few minutes. 3. Rub gently with the grain using LIBERON #00 Steel Wool to dislodge the dirt. zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 8
  9. 9. Finishing Wax 4. Wipe with a clean cloth. 5. Repeat until the surface wipes clean. 6. ALLOW THE CLEANED OBJECT TO DRY overnight or 24 hours and longer on soft or porous woods or surfaces that were soaked with the Wax Remover in cleaning. Any trapped solvents that donÕt not show on the surface after a short drying time will have a harmful effect on the proper drying of any subsequent surface treatment, even oils or waxes,- Let The Surface Dry ! - a rushed job will always show it. After the Wood Cleaner treatment, make any necessary repairs and protect the surface with 3 light coats of BLACK BISON WAX & buff to a warm glowing shine. OTHER USES Clean & prepare finish for repairs or respraying. Neutralize wood after stripping or bleaching operations to provide a proper surface for stain or applying a finish. Clean surfaces prior to using LIBERON Burnish Cream. Clean and condition brushes after varnishing, painting, waxing, or stripping. As a solvent for Black Bison Wax & for LIBERON wax filler sticks when used as a grain filler. DANGER! HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED VAPOR HARMFUL, COMBUSTIBLE Contains Petroleum distillates, Xylene and Methyl Alcohol. Use only in a well ventilated area. Keep away from heat or flame. Avoid contact with eyes or prolonged contact with skin. If swallowed, Do NOT induce vomiting. Call a physician immediately. KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN. zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 9
  10. 10. Finishing Wax OIL FINISH Oil finishes are growing in popularity as people ask for furniture that looks and feels like wood. When we mention oil finishes many people think of the old oil finishes, involving the application of boiled linseed oil. That’s one type, to be sure, and we’ll cover that, too, but what todays home owner is more interested in is a good looking clear finish that lets the grain of the wood actually be felt. The finish resulting from either Danish or Tung oil is just that. In addition, it’s almost fool proof in application, and it’s durable. Tung oil finishes (of which Danish oil is one) form a polymerized barrier against spills when they dry, and they dry fairly quickly. A small piece, such as a coffee or end table can easily be done in one day. Application for all the Tung oils is similar; wipe it on, let it stand for 15 minutes or so (check the label of the product you use) and then wipe it off. In 1 - 2 hours (after it dries) you’re ready for a rub down with steel wool, and then another application. You can repeat this process as many times as you want. Typically three or four coats gets the job done. Aside from ease of application an durability, modern oil finishes are easy to maintain. Any finished wood surface that is used will show wear after a time, including oil finishes. The fix is to simply apply another coat (after you‘ve cleaned the piece, of course) exactly as you did the first time...instant rejuvenation! A possible down side of oil finishes is they don’t produce a dead smooth surface. You can feel the grain even after 4 or more applications. Many people use oil finishes exactly for that reason, they want to feel the grain. It is possible to get a smooth surface, but it requires a lot more time and patience than most people are willing to expend. Tung oil finishes laid on that thick also tend to look "plastic". If you’re looking for a smooth finish, varnish, lacquer, and polyurethane are all better choices. The old style oil finish was simply boiled linseed oil rubbed onto the furniture. No, you don’t have to boil it, it comes that way. If this is the look you want, you can follow this formula for application, which is not a joke, by the way. Apply once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, and once a year for the rest of your life! Following this method (which can’t be rushed) it takes about 6 months to get a piece looking good. The original oil finish was used as much for a wood preservative as it was for enhancing the looks of the piece. Proper application usually involved all the wooden parts of the furniture, not just those parts that showed. As a side note, you should be aware that boiled linseed oil lends itself readily to spontaneous combustion. A rag used to apply boiled linseed oil and then carelessly thrown into a trash can, can easily result in a fire. This is not hearsay - I’ve seen it happen. When I was working out West I made up a furniture cleaner/polish that contained boiled linseed oil. I knew of the hazards, and told zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 10
  11. 11. Finishing Wax the people using it in a furniture store to dispose of the rags in a fire proof trash can. They didn’t, and about 45 minutes after a clerk had thrown the rag into a regular trash can with paper and other debris, it caught on fire. Luckily, no damage or injuries, but believe me when I say boiled linseed oil is a fire hazard. In my own shop I make almost all my own stains, using boiled linseed oil as an ingredient. I am always very careful how I dispose of the rags I use in staining. I’ve got insurance on the shop, but it would sure be a pain to replace everything! zaini@selectvest.com Wisdom Management Services (M) Sdn. Bhd. 11