Give your old wooden furniture a new lease of life with a traditional wax finish. It is effective and very easy to do.
If you have any antique or junkshop furniture that you want to restore to its original beauty, you may well want to use a traditional furniture finish, such as waxing. This technique was one of the favoured ways of finishing for hundreds of years before French polishing was introduced in the 19th century. Though it requires patience to build up layers of the finish, waxing is not difficult to do.
While a wax finish is more susceptible to heat marks than, for instance, an oil finish, it does give a glossier sheen Bear in mind that it should never be applied to bare wood, but only to that which has been sealed, and that the old finish must first be cleaned off with a solvent stripper.
There are several types of natural wax, made from animal, vegetable and mineral sources. Beeswax, obtained from the honeycomb, has a honey-like aroma, and is relatively soft and slightly tacky. It gives a soft, matt sheen. Carnuba wax comes from palm leaves, and smells like new-mown hay. Extremely hard and providing a high, long-lasting gloss, it is used in good-quality wax polishes, and may be added to beeswax to reduce tackiness and increase hardness and durability. Paraffin wax, made from petroleum and widely used in cheaper polishes, is relatively soft. Small amounts may also be used in high-quality waxes to soften them, making them easier to apply.
It is a good idea to use the best wax you can afford, and though a quality wax may be harder to apply, the shine will be deeper and will last much longer.
Traditional wax polish lends a subtle, soft lustrous sheen to almost any piece of old wooden furniture.
HOW TO WAX FURNITURE
Wax can be applied to furniture as a finish in itself or as a thin coating to another finish. Waxing both protects the wood, cushioning the surface against knocks and scratches, and buffs up to a soft attractive shine.
SEALING BARE WOOD
Sealing stripped or untreated bare wood before waxing is essential, otherwise the wax will sink into the grain and the wood will eventually become discoloured as dirt and grease is sucked into it through the wax.
CARE AFTER WAXING
A waxed finish on furniture needs a little more care and attention than modern synthetic finishes. Primarily, this means dusting the piece once
a week to avoid a build-up on the slightly tacky surface that waxing leaves. Surfaces that get hard wear, like table-tops, should be waxed no more than once a month to avoid heavy and hard-to-remove wax deposits forming. Less used furniture may need rewaxing only three or four times a year. Remember, also, to protect wax from hot drinks and to mop up spills within 10 minutes.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
1. If wood has been stripped, seal if first with a coat of French
polish. Do not use a 'rubber', simply apply with a soft cloth. Alternatively, use teak oil. Wear rubber gloves. Allow to dry.
2. Once the sealed surface has dried, apply a coat of wax polish with a soft cloth. A
little wax goes a long way, so apply if sparingly, rubbing hard to work if well in.
3. If the piece of furniture has carved detailing or moulding, apply the wax
with an old toothbrush into these difficult areas. Use a circular scrubbing
motion to work the wax in.
4. Remove excess wax by rubbing over the surface with a soft cloth. If is
important that the wax is built up in very thin layers - too thick a layer is
difficult to buff up to a good shine.
5. Brush along the grain over the entire surface with a shoe-brush.
Rub vigorously as if you were polishing your shoes to work the wax deep into
the grain and to remove any excess.
6. Wait for at least 10 minutes and then repeat the procedure so far to build up more layers if needed. When the final layer is hard and dry, buff to a shine with a yellow duster.