Making Oil Wax Finishes

Cooking the Finish

First, to clear up a common confusion between paste waxes and oil wax finishes. Strangely enough, a paste wax is a surface polish, and an oil finish is a drying oil based finish that soaks/penetrates into the wood, and eventually dries into a polymerized surface. Two examples follow.

When wax is melted with a solvent, say terps, mineral spirits, or citrus solvent, it becomes a paste wax, or a pure wax held in solution by a solvent. When wax is melted by a heated oil, sometimes in combination with a solvent, it becomes an oil wax finish. Time for some specific examples.

Melting away in my Trangia 25 cookset (still less than $100, alcohol stove included), is some oil finish composed of 4 oz of Walnut oil (highest oil content of any drying oil), 2 oz Beeswax and Carnauba wax, and a teaspoon of Citrus solvent. This is definitely the best smelling finish I have ever cooked, and should be durable as well. Here’s the Roman workbench with a couple of coats on it.

Still needs Four More Legs

The Citrus solvent idea came from Christopher Schwartz, who uses a 3-1 ratio of oil to wax. I tend to go with 2-1, but to save time, I should have dissolved the Carnauba wax in the Citrus solvent before adding the oil and beeswax. I applied the finish with a high tech applier, an old smart wool sock that has a big hole in it.

The possible combinations are almost endless:

Oils I have used–

Walnut Oil (my favorite)

Polymerized (heated) Linseed Oil

Oils to experiment with–

Sunflower seed oil

Tung oil

I have made mass quantities of paste wax with Tung oil, to the point that I have run out of it, as well as the Citrus solvent. Time to make a shopping list.

Waxes I have used–


Carnauba wax

Note to self–Dissolve the Carnauba wax in Citrus solvent first, then add the oil.

Waxes to experiment with–

Candelilla wax

Bayberry wax

Candalilla wax fascinates me, as it is not as hard as rock hard Carnauba, but harder than soft beeswax. One day I will look up the technical specs. I once owned somewhere between a few hundred to a few thousand wax myrtle bushes, growing wild on a twenty acre farm in south Alabama. The seeds are the source of Bayberry wax. If I had known what I was doing back then, my whole house could smell like a Bayberry candle now.

Author: southernfusionfood

Writer, Woodworker, and Happy Eater

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