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By Andrew Lewis
Antique furniture deserves something better than an occasional dusting with a spray polish. Real wood needs real nourishment, and nothing brings wood to life better than traditional beeswax polish.
The first time that I tried home-made polish, I was amazed how much it transformed the appearance of the table that I was working on. I could see my own reflection in the rich grained mahogany surface after just a few minutes of polishing. Encouraged by the results of my effort, I spent the next few hours applying beeswax polish to every piece of furniture that I could find.


Beeswaxpolish Ingredients

Ingredients

Beeswax
Turpentine
or similar

Directions

A traditional polish mixture uses nothing but equal measures of beeswax and turpentine, although any clear paint thinner should be fine if you can’t get turpentine.
Beeswaxpolish Step1
Step 1: Begin by gently melting the beeswax in a saucepan or bowl, and then removing it from the heat. Be careful, since the wax can catch fire if it overheats. You can reduce the chance of overheating by using a double boiler, and treating the beeswax as you were melting chocolate.
Beeswaxpolish Step2
Step 2: Move to a well ventilated area, away from any naked flames or other sources of ignition. Pour the turpentine to the molten wax, stirring the wax as you pour.
Warning: Turpentine is extremely flammable. Always read the warning label on the side of the bottle.
Beeswaxpolish Step3
Step 3: Pour the molten mixture into a suitable container (an old shoe polish tin, for example) and leave it to cool with the lid on.
Step 4: Apply the polish to your furniture with a soft cloth and leave it to set for a few minutes. Buff the wax to fine polish with another soft cloth, as though you were waxing a car.
Tips:

  • In addition to the basic ingredients, you can add some scented oil or vegetable dye. I never bother with scent, but a little lavender oil or rose oil helps to freshen up a stuffy room.
  • Add linseed oil or olive oil to the polish, to give it a rich golden sheen. Use equal amounts of oil, polish, and turpentine in the mixture, and then prepare as usual.
  • Adding a suitable vegetable dye to wax polish can help rejuvenate faded leather and help cover scratches or burn marks in wood. Polish with the colored polish first, and then with a clear polish afterwards.
  • A mixture of beeswax and dye (without turpentine) can be used like putty while it is warm, to fill deep scratches or gouges. Once the wax has set, the surface can be polished normally.
  • If you have a large table to polish, an electric car polisher can come in very handy. Apply the polish with a cloth as usual, then use a lambs-wool polishing head to buff the tabletop.
  • You can melt beeswax in a microwave, but make sure that it does not overheat and catch fire. If in doubt, the double boiler is probably the safest method.

About the Author:
author_andrew_lewis.jpg
Andrew Lewis is a journalist, a maker, an ardent victophile, and the founder of the www.upcraft.it blog. He is currently studying for a PhD. in archaeometrics and 3D scanning at the University of Wolverhampton.


Related

Comments

  1. tasha.myopenid.com says:

    Wouldn’t the olive oil go rancid, though?

  2. Sandradee says:

    Wouldn’t the turpentine remove the finish on the furniture?

  3. Andrew Lewis says:

    If you left a pool of turpentine on a varnished surface, it would eventually soften the varnish. However, the amount of turpentine used in the polish is quite small, and it is applied in a thin layer that evaporates in a few minutes.
    Artists quite often use turpentine to remove wet oil paint from a canvas without removing the dry under-painting. Since my artistic talents are extremely limited, I use it that way quite often ;)

  4. Andrew Lewis says:

    However, the turpentine should prevent this from happening. If you don’t use turpentine in your polish, then I suppose it might happen. You could always add a preservative like lemon juice or white vinegar to counteract the problem.

  5. Laurpud says:

    I have a few pieces of beautiful older furniture & have never been happy with the way they polish up. The problem is obviously what I’m using on them.
    I can’t wait to make your recipe & try it out. & I happen to have just bought some beeswax from a local apiary, too!
    So again, thank you!

  6. mama clare says:

    Haven’t tried this on beeswax, yet, but I stole this trick for gently melting chocolate from Alton Brown. Place and electric heating pad in a bowl. Place a metal bowl on top of the heating pad and fill the bowl with beeswax. Turn the heating pad on medium heat, and the wax should melt. If medium doesn’t work, try high, but I’d use the lowest possible setting for safety reasons.

  7. Andrea Dunlap says:

    What purpose does the turpentine serve? I usually try to avoid noxious chemicals, but I am excited to have a use for all my beeswax candle stubs. I tried making tea lights with them, but the tea lights don’t burn very well, so I am looking for other uses for all that wax! This seems great!

  8. mama clare says:

    Haven’t tried this on beeswax, yet, but I stole this trick for gently melting chocolate from Alton Brown. Place and electric heating pad in a bowl. Place a metal bowl on top of the heating pad and fill the bowl with beeswax. Turn the heating pad on medium heat, and the wax should melt. If medium doesn’t work, try high, but I’d use the lowest possible setting for safety reasons.

  9. Andrew Lewis says:

    Glad you like the article :)
    The turpentine makes the beeswax pliable, so that it can be spread on a cloth. As the turpentine evaporates, it leaves the beeswax behind.
    If you don’t want to use turpentine, I have seen some recipes that use lemon juice, white vinegar, and linseed oil instead. I confess that I like the smell of turpentine (reminds me of art school!), so I use that recipe by preference.

  10. Andrea Dunlap says:

    I’ll probably do the lemon juice/linseed oil trick!

  11. Emma says:

    Hello, I bought a rectangular cube of Beeswax and I have no idea how to polish with it, do I just simply melt it as you did here?

  12. Ross Stewart says:

    I suggest you use pure gum turpentine rather than mineral turps. I smells much nicer!

  13. Gene Ruelle says:

    To all:
    If you are looking for a non-toxic beeswax approach, I suggest Finisher’s Formula, It contains no solvents or harmful chemicals. It can be purchased at http://www.finishers.com

  14. Sigrid Aronsson says:

    Natural turpentine oil distilled from pine tree / gum terpentine etc….has several names, is natural and not the same as the cheap type. It smells lovely of pine tree and can even be used to ingest and treat rheumatism, so no need to worry. I am going to experiment with different amounts of shea butter, bees wax, carnauba wax and natural turpentine oil to make a natural shoe polish, much the same as Saphir Creme 1925, I hope. It is so expensive but good and I want quantities. Thanks for formula for wood polish. I can just as well make some of that too and maybe some lip balm, as I now have the ingredients.

  15. ourlance says:

    I would never use mineral turps (aka turpentine substitute) as it is quite toxic. I always use natural turpentine though there are lots of natural organic solvents available.

    Also, you can tint the wax by adding pigment or dye, it needs to be oil or spirit based as water would not dissolve, I havnt tried it but artists oil paint would probably work. You can tone down coluors that are too strong by applying a complementary colour so for eg to tone down something too red (like mahogany) you would add successive layers of pale green tinted wax.

    Another tip for a high shine is; wrap your buffing rag aroung a cork sanding block so you can rub hard to get more pressure and friction as it is the heat that creates the shine.

    En fin, the traditional rule of thumb for waxing new furniture is; once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year

    Happy waxing
    Lancelot Wood – Chorlton Woodcraft