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There are a multitude of wood finishes out there in the world, and yet, I still choose to go down the route of a wax . . . and it’s not just because I make a them, either!
Each to Their Own
Everyone of course, will have their own preferred finish and favourite techniques. Waxes happen to be mine. I’m a huge advocate of wax finishes, but did you know that there are a few rather good reasons just as to why I choose a wax over anything else?
With a well applied wax finish, there is a certain soft and tactile feel to a piece that I find is missing in synthetic finishes like lacquers, wipe on polys or varnishes. Your skin doesn’t tend to ‘stick’ or catch the surface when your fingers stroke the surface of a wax finish. Waxes tend to feel like the wood beneath.
Waxes Are Versatile
Waxes come in different types with different purposes. Some are polishing waxes whilst others are more for creative applications like grain or texture filling. Some are coloured, others are metallic. Some, like MicroCrystalline waxes are designed purely for protection. Using a combination of waxes, you can quickly achieve a complex finish to a piece without having to worry about long drying times or whether one is going to ‘slip off’ another like a lacquer over a wax, for example.
Waxes dry pretty quickly and when applied correctly, can be used over the top of one another in a matter of minutes.
It’s Easily Applied and Easily Fixed if You Mess it Up
When using a wax, you have great control over the depth of finish applied – you can go all out for a deep shine, or ease off for a lustre. That’s not so easy with a spray or wipe-on finish – one mistake and you generally need to sand it off or dissolve it with a solvent, and that can get messy.
With a wax, any mistake can be burnished away and wiped so you are ready to go again with little or no worry about the surface of wood beneath. Waxes are gentle to apply and hard when cured, particularly when carnauba based like Hampshire Sheen in particular dries to a very hard finish. Beeswax based finishes dull fairly quickly.
This ease of application and ease of fix in the event of a mistake make a wax finish an ideal finish for beginners, as well as professional turners. Pro turners can finish their work to the level they want without having to wait hours, or days for their finish to cure, and beginners can achieve superb results on their first go.
Wax is Easily Repaired
Imagine you have a gorgeous vase on your sideboard. It took hours and hours to turn, and more hours to apply several coats of lacquer to it to make it really shine. Then someone puts something down next to it and scratches it.
A glossy wax finish can be repaired in the event of a scratch with little fuss and bother, and you do not even need to remount it on the lathe to do it, either. A cloth and a little heat is all it needs to repair.
Waxes are Extremely Cost Effective
Compared to spray finishes, waxes actually save you money. A tin of Hampshire Sheen for example, will cost you around £12.00 or so and produce a stunning, easy to apply finish on potentially hundreds of pieces. One tin will last you months and months.
A can of spray lacquer may well cost about a fiver, but you may only be able to finish a handful of pieces per can . . . and are not as easy or as quick to apply – the chance of messing it up is greater, too…
And there it is, the reasons I mainly choose a wax finish over anything else.
There are times when I’ll use just an oil finish over a piece, like on a salad bowl or on a piece that ‘doesn’t need’ a wax finish. I’ll also use a black spray paint on the back of some pieces, too where I want to hide faceplate marks or something like that. But other than that, I choose a humble but versatile wax finish that gives the results I want.