Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beeswax Wood Finish

So a while back we got a dining room set that is a beautiful oak table and two chairs. It has certainly seen better days, and so I have decided that I am going to spend some time refinishing it. The coffee table extravaganza certainly helped in learning about natural dyes and linseed oil, but I was not convinced that was the route I wanted to go. So...I decided I would refinish another small end table in the house and try out a beeswax finish on it to see how I liked that.

I took the old finish off of the table with an electric sander. You can see here the contrast between the color of the old finish and the color of the wood. I was pretty excited to be able to redo this baby in lighter tones. I also love natural finishes because they do not create a barrier between you and the wood. The wood still breathes and feels like wood when you finish it with natural products.

I went back into "The Natural Paint Book" by Julia Lawless and Lynn Edwards for a recipe. I chose the simplest wax finish, which is just beeswax and a solvent. I went all over the place trying to get citrus solvent, but it is not easy to come by. So I went with turpentine because it is easy to find in small quantities.

I cut the beeswax into chunks using a hammer and screwdriver and put the bits into a glass jar. I made up the same makeshift double boiler I made when I recycled candle wax. I will say that melted beeswax smells divine!!! Sadly, when you mix it with turpentine it does not.

The recipe called for a 2:1 turpentine to wax ratio. I used 8oz turpentine and 4oz wax. The end result was a chunky paste that was smelly and yellow. The turpentine had been in the garage and was cold, and when I poured it into the hot wax there was an instant cooling that caused some chunks. If you wanted to avoid that I would make sure the turpentine is at least at room temperature. I would not heat it though because it is volatile and VERY FLAMMABLE. Please also note the open door in my kitchen that provided ventilation for the project.

I used a rag to apply the waxy paste to the table. I treated the application much like I used to when my dad had me wax the car. I smeared wax on thickly and let it set until it was hard and dry, then buffed it off. The finish brought out the beautiful color of the wood as you can see in these pics.

Because of the turpentine, I left the table in the garage overnight so that it could air out a bit. I then buffed the table one more time with a clean cloth so that it was not sticky. The end result is absolutely beautiful, and the table feels like natural wood as well. If you wanted to, you could do this kind of finish over a stain, OR add pigment to the wax.

As you can see, this table is a small end table, and it took about 6oz of the paste to cover it completely. Know that natural finishes soak into the wood as opposed to varnishes and shellacs that sit on top of it. This means that it takes a bit more volume to coat the wood properly.

1 comment:

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