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Finishing timber - Wax polish

Waxes tend to be relatively easy to apply but this needs to be balanced against their general lack of long-term durability. Wax does give some protection to timber, but not against the effects of handling etc. A wax finish does give a wonderful low, natural lustre finish on pieces which will not be handled much.

Wax polishes are commonly available in two forms – a solid wax or a cream.

The creams have a lower wax content than wax pastes and are best used as a light polish to finish off work that has been french polished or varnished.

The higher wax content of solid waxes makes them ideal for use on timber without a substantial previous finish coat as they create a high build coating after only two or three applications. It is worth giving the fresh timber a thin coat of pale french polish before applying wax pastes as this partially seals the grain. This has the advantages that by partially sealing the grain, the amount of wax absorbed into the timber is reduced (which means less polish needs to be applied) and it reduces the penetration of grime into the timber grain.

Application of wax polish

If a pre-coat of french polish has been used to part seal the grain, allow this to thoroughly harden for a few hours before applying the wax.

Apply the wax polish using a lint-free cloth and rub it well into the surface by moving the cloth in small circles. The amount of wax applied to the surface needs to be fairly generous while not so much that a thick wax deposit is left – a thick wax deposit will make it difficult to burnish. Allow the wax to dry for at least an hour and then burnish the surface using a clean cloth.

After the first coat has been burnished, repeat the procedure of applying wax (each time will require less wax), leaving to harden and then burnishing the surface.  The number of coats you apply will depend on whether the piece had a pre-coat of French polish, the type of timber and your preference for the finish required.