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.
Turpentine or similar
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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:
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.