Wax on, wax off. We remember that line from the first Karate Kid when Mr. Myagi had Daniel waxing his antique cars to build up his arm strength and motion. We’ve never written about waxing our furniture projects here on Obsessed Woodworking, so we thought it was time to do so. The cars can wait.
While paint and varnish will provide a good protective finish to wood, so, too, does wax. Those who use wax to finish their wood projects do so because it offers good protection and leaves a natural finish. It draws out the natural features of the wood and shows off the knots and irregularities that make the wood unique to your project.
What Kind of Wax Should You Use On Your Furniture?
Beeswax is an amazing product, and a natural beeswax is a good choice for your furniture. So is a vegetable wax like carnauba from the carnauba palm tree. It forms naturally on the leaves of the tree to protect them from the heat and prevent evaporation of moisture.
The wax forms a barrier that can be applied both to painted and to unfinished furniture for protection from the environment. When buffed, wax will shine and bring life to furniture that can be maintained by periodic application of an additional layer when the furniture becomes dull.
How Often Should You Wax Furniture?
It’s best to wax only two times a year, and then only on those pieces or parts of furniture that get a lot of traffic or use – – things like armrests on chairs, desktops, etc., and every 4-5 years for table and chair legs. If you are unable to buff to a sheen, it’s safe to assume the wax has worn off and it’s time to apply another coat.
Use a clean cloth to apply the wax, and do your best to reach deeply into all corners. Be sure, also, to wipe off excess wax so the protective coat is evenly applied and won’t result in a wax buildup.
Johnson Paste Wax Composition
Johnson Paste Wax is a well-known brand name product that is used in finishing furniture with a protective barrier that can be buffed and shined. It allows the natural beauty of the wood to show through, and on furniture that does not get a lot of use will be long-lasting. For those pieces or parts that get a lot of use, and as we mentioned above, a coat every six months will keep the pieces looking good.
Johnson paste Wax is made up of four (4) main constituents that give it the qualities of a good wood finish.
- Deodorized Naphtha. This first component is also referred to as white mineral spirits. It serves as a solubilizer that keeps an even distribution of ingredients throughout the product. Johnson Paste Wax contains both water and oil, and as we know from our salad dressings, it’s difficult to keep them from breaking and separating. The deodorized naphtha keeps that from happening.
- Carnauba Wax. Mentioned earlier, this naturally forming wax comes from the carnauba palm tree, where it protects the palm leaves from the heat and prevents evaporation of moisture. It is found in cosmetics and skincare products, as well as in Johnson Paste Wax. It helps create that protective finish on furniture and adds a shine when applied to wood surfaces.
- Microcrystalline Wax. Another wax that can be found in cosmetics, eye drops, and chewing gum, this film former, like carnauba wax, provides a protective barrier to the furniture and offers a nice shine. This wax is also a binder that will hold together all of the ingredients in Johnson Paste Wax.
- Paraffin. This blend of waxes also adds to the protective barrier of the furniture. It’s the same blend of waxes that is used to make candles, acting as the fuel that burns when the candle is lit. It is a plentiful and widely used waxes in many applications, including lipstick, eye makeup, and other products. Like the other waxes in Johnson Paste Wax, it leaves a nice shine when buffed.
Versatility of Johnson Paste Wax
This product’s use is not limited to furniture too. Treating old tools with a coat of Johnson Paste Wax can extend their life and their usefulness. It works well as a protective coating for them, just as it does for furniture.
It also is useful on drawer runners to keep the drawer an easy draw; or, applied to screws to make them easier to turn; or on a jointer bed to provide a smooth slide for workpieces.
Here’s a good video from a fellow who uses and recommends the use of Johnson Paste Wax in a number of ways in his woodworking shop.
There is some sentiment among serious woodworkers about the use of Johnson Paste Wax, and the complaints are generally about a residue it leaves when applied that is difficult to remove evenly, and it is especially problematic in corners.
However, and as the fellow in the video insisted, it has to do more with improper use and application than it does with any inherent problem with the wax itself.
Others choose not to use it because it is not as persistent in protection as polyurethane. Yet, polyurethane can be chipped while wax can not, and polyurethane does not offer the same shine when buffed that a well-applied wood wax does.
Those same woodworkers will choose not to use it because it has to be applied by hand and a clean cloth rather than with a brush or spray gun.
To us at Obsessed Woodworking, though, we do not find these arguments persuasive. A wax finish offers great protection to the wood, buffs to a beautiful shine, and allows the natural beauty of the wood to present. We especially like the appearance of turnery projects with a wax finish.
Here’s a second video on wax finish in general to give you an idea of why many prefer to finish their furniture and turnery projects with wax.
Yes, there can be a wax buildup, but that’s an application issue, not a wax issue. Yes, corners can present some difficulty when it comes to an even coat. Yes, it can attract dust. Yes, it’s more work than other furniture finish options.
But, the beauty and shine, when properly applied and maintained, outweigh those objections. Consider a wax finish for your next project, and see if you don’t agree with us.