How to use beeswax?

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How to use beeswax?

Postby Sharif Adams » Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:47 am

Hi folks, hopefully someone can help. I've been given a lovely big bar of pure beeswax and tried using it the other day but don't think my approach was the best. I just tried on a small birch platter so grated a small amount, about a teaspoon or so, and added that to a tablespoon or so of oragnic food grade flaxseed oil from an equstrian supplies company in a pan and heated gently until gthe wax had melted. Then I poured it over the plate and swilled it around inside and allowed it to spill over the back. The wax quickly became solid again and sort of set all over the plate, so I had to remove it gently with a sponge scouring pad. The result is a plate that feels finished but I'm sure there's better way to do this. I don't have a deep fat fryer so can't easily judge temperture. Any tips on how I can do this better with a pan over a hob? Ratio of wax to oil etc?
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby monkeeboy » Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:55 pm

I think you need to rub the wax in, rather than just pour it on.
The ratio can vary but generally I would use about 2 wax to 1 oil, you can probably experiment a bit.
Ideally it needs to be more solid than liquid, sort of like butter at room temperature.

I would rub it in with a lint-free cloth, or rub it on to the wood when it is still on the lathe.
That way you can build up some friction and it'll buff up a bit too.
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby arth » Sun Jun 12, 2011 2:06 pm

I used hot bees wax on some coppergate cups I made recently.
I had a old saucepan and melted bees wax into it (enough to cover the cups) and dipped them in. Left them in there for 5 mins and keet turning them. Take them out and leave upside down on some newspaper.
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby Ian S » Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:51 pm

I think that beeswax tends to be used as a surface polish rather than a penetrative coating.

Beeswax polish was traditionally made from beeswax (duh) and proper, real, turpentine - not turps substitute. I'm not sure where you could buy sensible quantities of real turpentine, but an artist's suppliers will stock small amounts (oil painters use it). I think I've read a 2 parts beeswax to 1 part turpentine recipe somewhere. Melt the beeswax, add turpentine, stir, leave to cool and set. Be incredibly careful how you do this - turpentine is very, very flammable.

Use a small amount on a cloth - polish in really well.

I'd still be tempted to oil finish the objects that you make, and let the oil cure for however long. Once the oil has cured, use the beeswax polich as above.

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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby Sharif Adams » Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:53 am

Thanks for your replies. Seems there are two approaches - rub it in or dip the finished item in to the hot wax. So I s'pose I'll have to experiment a bit. Arth - when you took your cups out of the wax to dry, did the wax run off uniformly or did it set in lumps and need to be rubbed off? Do you re-use the same wax; just leave in old pan and reheat, and if so how long can the same wax be reused I wonder? And presumably you don't mix with any oil then, just pure beeswax?

The recipe with Turps is interesting, although I wonder if that would leave an unpleasant smell on the bowls and perhaps be unsafe for eating from to a degree? Or is the pure Turps you mention OK?
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby grinagog » Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:16 pm

Sharif Adams wrote:The recipe with Turps is interesting, although I wonder if that would leave an unpleasant smell on the bowls and perhaps be unsafe for eating from to a degree? Or is the pure Turps you mention OK?


Hello Sharif

yes I dont think using Turps is a good idea for anything you may eat out of!

Could it be that using less Beezwax and more oil would help penetration of the wood?

I wonder what a good ratio would be?

all the best
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby arth » Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:24 pm

Sharif Adams wrote:Thanks for your replies. Seems there are two approaches - rub it in or dip the finished item in to the hot wax. So I s'pose I'll have to experiment a bit. Arth - when you took your cups out of the wax to dry, did the wax run off uniformly or did it set in lumps and need to be rubbed off? Do you re-use the same wax; just leave in old pan and reheat, and if so how long can the same wax be reused I wonder? And presumably you don't mix with any oil then, just pure beeswax?

The recipe with Turps is interesting, although I wonder if that would leave an unpleasant smell on the bowls and perhaps be unsafe for eating from to a degree? Or is the pure Turps you mention OK?


Any excess wax will run off and the rest will soak in. The trick is the wood is hot unlike your method which is putting hot wax on cold wood which will set before soaking in. You will be amazed how much hot wax is soaked into the wood.
I have a old saucepan full of hard wax which I top up when needed.
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby SeanHellman » Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:55 pm

Use an hot air gun, this will melt the build up of wax. Do not use turps on anything you eat off.
I would only use wax with wood that does not have any hot food or liquid on it or in it. Waxing plates that you eat off is pointless, unless it is cold food only
As has been said before for any penetration of any oil or wax it must be hot, and the wood must be allowed to get as hot as well.
In my experience all oils and especially waxes are surface finishes only. To have these substances soak into the wood the wood and finish has to be very hot, too hot to hold. This is based on years of experience with having to refinish items I have previously oiled and waxed.
To get wax into the wood use a microwave or hot air gun. It is amazing how much wax can be soaked into the wood.
If just waxing wood that is not going to eaten off then wax, oil and turps makes a good recipe. There are hundreds of recipes, just do an internet search
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby Sharif Adams » Fri Jun 17, 2011 9:23 pm

grinagog wrote:

Could it be that using less Beezwax and more oil would help penetration of the wood?

I wonder what a good ratio would be?




Hi Nick - Good point; I'll have to experiment but I imagine I did use too much beeswax.

Thanks Sean and Arth for pointing out the wood needs to be hot. That makes sense and is something else for me to try. I did once put a slightly spalted birch kuksa in to a pan of hot oil and it soaked up so much oil it is now still saturated and useless. But perhaps that's on account of the wood being spalted. Or maybe the oil was too hot...or maybe I left it soaking too long, a couple of hours I think. Anyway; I won't be doing it again! The plate I tried to wax is just for buiscits, cheese, that sort of thing and really only waxed it because I wanted to try out the wax. I can see the logic in not waxing anything that will be used for hot drinks or food; another good point to bear in mind. Waxy soup wouldn't be too clever. Thanks for the tip about hot air guns and microwaves. Something makes me nervous about the wood cracking, getting it so hot that it is too hot to hold. Have you ever known that to happen Sean?

Thanks again for all the advice folks.
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby jrccaim » Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:21 am

Sharif Adams wrote:Thanks Sean and Arth for pointing out the wood needs to be hot.


According to all my reading and some limited experience, the way wax (any wax, beeswax, carnauba wax, whatever) works is that it melts and flows into the pores of the wood. Gives you a beautiful finish on furniture, which is where I have used it. Oil or turps is there to make it a little easier for the wax to flow. You make the wax melt by buffing it, so you really have to buff hard, fast, and long. This is very similar to how shoe polish works. No buff no shine, but shoe polish does not use beeswax, it uses some other wax (nowadays, something out of a Chem lab, no doubt) . For that matter car polish works that way too, except that there are no pores to go into so it makes a microscopic layer on your metal. You can buy, at least in this country, carnauba wax in supermarkets. It gets a high gloss but takes much more effort to buff than beeswax.

And I agree: if you are going to eat off it, don't use a wax finish. What is pretty on furniture is not good for your insides. Besides when you wash your utensil, the soap will remove the wax. Detergents are even more powerful than soap, so all your buffing was in vain.

And finally an anecdote: when I was in the US Air Force oh, three centuries ago, we polished our shoes with water. Smear shoe polish on a cloth and wet it down really well. Then rub as if your life depended on it. Do not under court-martial penalties use a brush on the shoe. Eventually you get a mirror finish on your shoes. It was known as a "spit shine." Alcohol works faster than water (known in the USAF as a "mexican shine") but ruins the shoe if done more than once or twice. I suspect this technique would also work on furniture. You could probably get away with alcohol -- it obviously dissolves the wax much better than water -- but I wouldn't try it on a Hepplewhite antique.
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby Simon Hartley » Wed Jun 22, 2011 10:59 pm

Sharif Adams wrote:I did once put a slightly spalted birch kuksa in to a pan of hot oil and it soaked up so much oil it is now still saturated and useless.


Why not use it for ladling molten beeswax? On a more serious note, putting it in a hot dry place might cause some of the oil to drip out over a period of time. If you dry chair legs in a kiln like Mike Abbott does, make the kuksa a long-term resident.
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Re: How to use beeswax?

Postby Sharif Adams » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:16 am

Simon Hartley wrote:
Why not use it for ladling molten beeswax? On a more serious note, putting it in a hot dry place might cause some of the oil to drip out over a period of time. If you dry chair legs in a kiln like Mike Abbott does, make the kuksa a long-term resident.


Interestingly it has been on a windowsill for about two months now and it has patches of sticky leakage which I guess must be the cured oil starting to seep out. It is hardish, sort of pine resin-like and would be tricky to remove without scraping I guess, and it's still heavy with oil all the way through. Someone suggested making a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water and rubbing that in to draw out the oil but I've not tried that and have no idea whether or why it would work. Someone else suggested forgetting about it, learning from the experience and investing the time better in making a new one, which is probably the way to go.
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