I like beeswax as a wood finish because it’s easy to use and safe. It’s natural, which is great for many woodworking projects.
But it’s not perfect. It has some downsides, like not being very tough and melting easily. I’ll go over these points so you can understand when and how to use it effectively.
I’ll cover both the good and the not-so-good sides of beeswax. This way, whether you’re new to woodworking or have been doing it for a while, you’ll get a clear picture of how beeswax can work for your projects.
Advantages of Using Beeswax As A Wood Finish
- An easy application. Beeswax is extremely easy to apply to raw wood or wood that has already been stained. Sanded and cleaned well as your prep, a clean cloth is all you need. If you want to keep your hands clean, wear a glove. An even application in a straight line along the wood’s surface will do the job. Cleanup is simply a matter of removing the glove and folding the cloth for further use.
- A quick dry. Beeswax goes from being applied to drying in 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the environment. Just make sure your coat is applied evenly and not too thick. That’s certainly faster than other wood finishes where something like polymerized linseed oil might take up to 3 days, or even polyurethane with 2 hours needed before sanding for the second coat.
- What about water? Depending on the source you cite, beeswax is either highly water-resistant or waterproof. We lean toward the latter, actually. Beeswax is used to seal many other surfaces, including concrete, granite, and other porous materials. It’s also used for waterproofing canvas and leather (gloves, boots). Even copper and zinc surfaces, as well. I used to seal my leather motorcycle boots with it when I was riding, too.
- Feeds the wood. Beeswax acts as a nourishing agent for wood. It can fill cracks and scratches and even undo damage caused by the sun. It will bring dull wood alive and smooth its appearance in addition to the shine it will provide.
- Non-toxic and safe. This might make it a suitable choice for kitchen surfaces like countertops. We’d say cutting boards, too, but it’s not durable enough to withstand a knife’s blade. (addressed in the list of disadvantages)
- Doesn’t Spoil. Properly stored, it’s like the honey it once held in the bee’s nest. It won’t spoil or go bad.
- A topcoat. Yes, beeswax can be used over varnish, shellac, paint, oil, lacquer, and polyurethane, adding a beautiful and warm shine to the workpiece. You just want to ensure the varnish, shellac, lacquer, poly, and all have fully cured before applying the beeswax.
Disadvantages of Beeswax As A Wood Finish
- It’s a final choice. By that, we mean that once you have applied beeswax to wood, there’s little turning back without some pain. It will block the use of any other measures – once on, you’re done. So be sure it’s what you really want for your furniture piece.
- Difficult to remove. It’s a final choice unless you want to start all over again. Beeswax is difficult to remove. Scraping first and extensive sanding after is the process. You will need to get down to raw wood again before you begin another finish. It must be completely gone from the wood’s surface, or the next finish you apply will be uneven and streaky, where you missed a spot or more.
- Durable? No. Beeswax is a soft finish (we don’t mean in appearance) and is very susceptible to scratches and dings. Remember when we mentioned cutting boards because it’s non-toxic and food-safe? Your knife will ding it or scratch it because it isn’t like a varnish, poly, or lacquer finish or even like the hard-wax finish of Rubio Monocoat. Yes, it’s great for repairing and filling scratches when they occur; it also facilitates those scratches by its soft nature.
- Heat can hurt. As we have said, Beeswax is soft and melts under heat. Keep in mind that beeswax makes lovely candles that burn evenly and well. This is good for candles but not for your furniture piece. Any amount or degree of heat will cause it to melt. Yes, it’s easy to repair – another application, and in less than an hour, the piece is as good as it was before the melt. How many times do you want to be repairing that piece, whether from scratches or melting, though?
- Frequent updates. Its lack of durability will also mean frequent re-applications to keep it looking fresh and new. It will wear off rather quickly, and so those re-applications could be frequent depending on use and environment. While that is an easy process, as we have said, it can become an annoying chore over time. If you are looking for a once-on-it’s-good wood finish, there are better choices that will last longer and provide more durable protection.
Pros and Cons of Beeswax Wood Finish
|Difficult to Remove
|Not Very Durable
|Feeds the Wood
|Non-toxic and Safe
Make Your Own Beeswax Furniture Polish
You can make a lovely DIY beeswax polish easily. By melting beeswax into olive oil and adding a little vitamin E and the scent of your choice, perhaps essential lavender oil, you will have yourself a fragrant and effective polish that will give your furniture a wonderful shine and your room a wonderful scent.
Let it cool completely after mixing before you use it. The polish will have a medium hard balm consistency to it, easy to work with by applying a small “glob” (technical term there) on either the furniture piece or a clean cloth and wipe as you would with any polish. You’ll be pleased with the results and the aroma it will add to the room.
General Aspects of Beeswax As A Wood Finish
Easy on is appealing, whether applying the first time around or reapplying because it was dented or scratched. Easy cleanup after application also has some appeal and is certainly easier to clean up after than a polyurethane. We recently wrote about cleaning brushes after a poly application, and you’ll find it here if you want to compare.
But, it also made those scratches and dents you need to repair possible by its soft composition and lack of comparative durability (varnish, lacquer, polyurethane). That push-me-pull-me dynamic might dissuade you from choosing beeswax.
Yes, it’s soft and susceptible to scratches and dents, but a beeswax finish can last 3-5 years before the entire piece of furniture needs a full new coat applied. Occasional repairs and re-applications for a 3-5 year lifespan might not be that bad, although a varnish choice will be both more durable and longer lasting. Of course, it’s a different aesthetic than beeswax, but that convenience may sway your choice.
We burn beeswax candles in our homes. Unlike paraffin candles, the candles are long-lasting and have an almost sweet aroma. While we’ve used wood waxes as a finish on some of our projects, we’ve not used beeswax yet. In researching this article and chatting with another woodworker who uses oil and wood waxes exclusively for his turnery projects, we’ve become curious enough to add it to our list for a future project.
Here is what we have decided in making that decision:
- It will be on a project that will not get a lot of use – certainly not a tabletop or a chair, and most certainly not a cutting board or even a charcuterie board where a knife would likely cause a scratch to need to be repaired.
- It will likely be a small piece as an experiment that will sit on a shelf for display, rarely to be touched.
- We will likely make a wood polish using the formula we presented earlier in the article and test it on some of our wooden furniture to measure its effectiveness and different aromas for our house.
We offer these thoughts that you might find helpful if you are considering beeswax as a wood finish sometimes. You can purchase beeswax in 1 lb blocks, which break into smaller amounts with a little light persuasion (chisel and mallet).
It comes in both yellow and white and will run you between $7 – $15, depending on the source. You may have a beekeeper nearby that sells wax; candlemakers will have a ready supply, too. Of course, you can also find many options online since you can buy almost anything online today.
We offer a second video for you, this time a school woodshop teacher who was looking for a toxin-free and safe wax option for his students to finish their wood projects. He melted down a 1 lb block of beeswax, mixed in some mineral oil, and deemed it safe for his students to use.
We don’t recommend ingesting beeswax, of course, although you could without harming yourself. Mineral oil is safe to ingest, but only do so if you need to use a mild laxative, as that is its property when you take a spoonful.
Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API