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Oil & Wax Finish

The finish I grab most often, is a simple oil and wax.

Why I Love Oil & Wax

I will start off by saying that there is no perfect finish. Every type of finish used on furniture has its own positives and negatives.

The downside to oil and wax is its durability, or lack thereof. It looks great but it will show its wear with heavy use.

The Ingredients

Raw tung oil - 2 parts - Derived from the seed of the Tung tree. A drying oil with means it will polymerize with exposure to air. Tung oil penetrates into the wood and enhances the grain and color.

Beeswax - 2/3 parts - A natural wax sourced from honeybees. This wax is softer and gives the finished wood a great feel.

Carnauba wax - 1/3 parts - A natural wax derived from the palm fronds on the carnauba tree, found in brazil. This wax is much harder and will give the finished wood, a nice sheen.

D-Limonene (solvent) - 3 parts -This is a citrus solvent derived from oranges. It smells great, natural and is safe to use without gloves.

The Process

First, a quick disclaimer: adding flammable components into a heat source can be potentially hazardous. Anything you do is at your own risk. Don't be a dumbass and burn your shop down.

Before you start you'll need a crock pot or a double boiler. I have a small crockpot used specifically for melting my oil and wax. Although this finish is all natural, you wont want to make your nacho dip in the pot after this process. A double boiler can also be used. I like the crock pot because it heats up slowly and consistently without getting too hot.

1. Melt the oil and wax together.

Add the tung oil, bees wax and carnauba wax into the crockpot and turn the heat on. Keep a close eye on the crockpot as it heats up. The goal is to create a homogenous mixture of all the ingredients. The bees wax melts at around 145 deg F (63 C) and the carnauba wax melts at the 180 deg F (82 C). Once the carnauba wax is melted, turn the heat down or off depending on your crockpot.

2. Pour into a can

After the oil and wax is a homogenous mixture, carefully pour the mixture into a final storage container. I prefer to use metal quart sized paint cans. I have used mason jars in the past, however the threads get gummed up which makes the lid difficult to remove.

3. Add the solvent

Once the oil and wax is in the can, its time to add in the solvent. Slowly pour the solvent in while stirring. When you add the cooler solvent, it will start to solidify the wax. Just keep mixing until it appears evenly blended. To aid in mixing the solvent in with the wax, try leaving the closed can on a sunny window sill or place the can in some shallow boiling water.

That's about it. You can experiment with different ratios to make your finish thinner or thicker. The D-Limonene can also be substituted for a different solvent such as pure turpentine or naphtha. These both evaporate faster than the citrus solvent but are flammable and more harmful. I generally steer clear of mineral spirits. It evaporates too slowly for my liking.

How To Apply

Application is pretty simple but you need to properly prepare the surface beforehand. Sand up through the grits and make sure you are removing all of the scratches from the previous grit. For table tops or surfaces that will reflect low angle light, I typically sand to 320 grit. Clean the surface after sanding with compressed air or a rag dampened with spirits.

I like to warm the finish up so it is less viscous. I place the can in a container with boiling water to warm it up. You can also leave the can in direct sunlight during the warmer months.

I use white, non-scratch scouring pads to apply the finish. They work great to rub the finish into the surface and does not soak up an excessive amount. After an the finish is rubbed into the surface, it is time to remove the excess and buff it out. I use a soft cloth for this. Old t-shirts work well. Buff the excess off before it dries (10-15 min) The carnauba wax will harden and be difficult to level out or remove bumps.

Repeat for a second coat after 12-24 hours.

Remember to properly dispose of oily rags. If left bunched up, they can spontaneously combust. I am not making this up. As the oil polymerizes and reacts with air, it gives off heat. I usually put my oily rags in my outdoor fire pit (with a cover).


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