Random Wax of Kindness

Extensive waxing (whilst remaining customarily hirsute) gives me great pleasure for a couple of reasons viz. it means the furniture acquires a glorious glow and the weather must at last be cool. We have indeed had several recent frosty starts betimes which always prompts me to grab some sort of wax and a few cloths and go in search of something to buff.

Following my earlier post about waxing, I recommended a number of Fiddes’ wax polishes to a friend to try, as he lives quite close to the Australian importer of Fiddes’ products. He procured a small tin of their Mellow Wax.

I know Fiddes very well as, during the six years I lived in England, their delivery van was a weekly visitor to my workshop. The producers of wax polishes are many, but as I sit here typing this, I can honestly say, as a furniture restorer or reproduction furniture maker with a love of the British Glow, the only tins of (proprietary) wax polish you will likely ever require are a tin of Fiddes’ English Oak Mellow Wax and a tin of their Georgian Mahogany Mellow Wax.

If you are feeling flush, you might add a tin of their Clear Wax to your order too. I still have a little 16 oz. tin of Clear Wax that I brought out to Australia with me from England. It’s still half full and now quite stiff.

Do not be swayed one way or another by the names of the colours; think of one wax as cool and the other as warm, and they can be applied to all manner of furniture as appropriate.

Fiddes’ Supreme Wax range comes in a broader range of colours, however, for my purposes, it never rated as highly as the Mellow Wax range.

I believe Fiddes’ products are available worldwide. I have no affiliation with Fiddes – though I am running a little low on both flavours. I jest. I make my own.

Jack Plane

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in colouring and polishing, Materials and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Random Wax of Kindness

  1. Guido smoglian says:

    Hi Jack
    As a former frenchpolisher,
    My opinion on waxing differs to yours,as you know waxing was pre french polishing, where the maids went around waxing the furniture.once to open grain is finally full of wax after years of waxing,mainly oak elm etc.
    There is little need to wax funiture,except for the odd scratches, waxing over a frenchpolished surface is a waist of time.

    It is really a myth that very old furniture needs to be waxed.
    In my opinion.

    Like

    • Jack Plane says:

      It takes a fraction of the time to create a hard wax finish compared to a French-polished surface. The resultant finish is far more robust and durable than any French-polished surface.

      Wax nourishes wood. French-polishing forms a barrier that prevents anything from nourishing the wood ergo waxing a French-polished surface is of little benefit. However, I’m all for anything that changes the appearance of French-polishing.

      JP

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      • It is debatable if wax is harder than frenchpolishor especially after 100 years or 50 years.
        My point was once the timber is sealed ,the timber does not need more nourishment,
        The so called nourishment is not going into the timber,it is just staying on top of the original sealer shellac or wax and going round and round on the surface.
        Like putting wax on glass,what is the point.
        Where is the wax going when the grain is full.

        Regards Guido.

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        • Jack Plane says:

          Because I really only restore antique furniture and make reproduction furniture, I am not concerned which finish may or may not be harder (though if I were to bother myself with such matters, I would be far more interested in which finish was the most resilient), I merely apply the appropriate finish for the age of the item at hand.

          With old hard waxed surfaces and most old, dry, spirit varnished surfaces, the grain can be full, but the wood can still be thirsty. Without going into all the ins and outs of wax polishing, try applying a little wax to such a surface and observe the wood take up the solvent and wax.

          JP

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          • Guido Smoglian says:

            Hi Jack
            thanks for your reply.
            I do not agree that fully sealed furniture is still thirsty, may be underneath where it has not been sealed, it is like saying a dam overflowing with water needs more water..If the surface looks better when it is waxed it, is because some dust may have been removed ,the new and old wax are blending together in a minute way (not penetrating deeply into the wood)

            If very early pieces in museums are never waxed again ,that would not be a problem ,they would not crumble up and crack and fall to pieces ,because they have not been waxed,every day.
            applying wax to an old surface ,gives the owner ,a minor feeling he is achieving something ,but in my opinion it is not really that necessary,to the survival of the piece,and is just cosmetic.

            Regards Guido.

            Like

  2. W Patrick Edwards says:

    I have been using Kiwi Bois French paste wax for my entire career. Unfortunately, the Kiwi production company was purchased at the end of the 1990’s and closed. Now you can only find it on eBay when it is offered. I generally use the Light Oak color, which produces a warm umber tone on nearly everything. Most importantly, it is necessary to apply a thin coat of wax and let it set for 24 hours before buffing. Use stiff brushes and scraps of wool to burnish. I have a special brush made with ostrich quills for polishing carving. You only need to wax furniture every year or so.

    Like I tell my clients: Do not polish antiques with any type of oil polish! It is best to do nothing if you do not know what to do.

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  3. Eric R says:

    In my experience, wax is always a nicer finish then the plastic trash they apply to furniture these days.
    It just makes the piece look more refined and pleasant to the eye.
    I believe I will try to obtain some Fiddes, as I am running low on a similar brand I obtained from Lost Art Press’ Chris Schwartz. He makes his wax to help put his daughter through collage, but now that she has graduated, I feel more inclined to try something else.
    Thanks Jack.

    Like

  4. Andy says:

    I recall using Fiddes in the UK but I really liked the brand Harrells when working over there. I’ve not seen it in Australia. I would buy that again if available. A good local one if still available is Birregurra wax from Victoria.

    Like

  5. Pablo says:

    Hello Jack, regarding the debate about varnish versus wax, I was under the impression that a very light coat of shellac varnish was frequently applied to new English furniture in the 18th century and then followed by constant waxing on top. Is this mistaken? Or is this dependent on the wood?
    Many thanks,

    Like

    • Jack Plane says:

      You are quite correct: Spirit varnishes have been used to protect wooden objects since at least the mid-seventeenth century. These varnishes are not the heavy-bodied, modern oil-based concoctions that you may be familiar with; they are light and, while they can be built up, were normally employed simply to seal the wood and impart a modest shine. They certainly weren’t padded up to a slick plasticy surface film like French polish.

      Frequent applications of wax polish (often with the inclusion of resins and other ingredients) then builds up over time, incorporating scratches and minor damage, creating the much-prized patina so beloved of collectors.

      JP

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Jack
    You seem to be creating some confusion ,Shellac ,although mixed with methylated spirits,Is not a varnish,Frenchpolishers do not use vanish,They some times used some thing that was called half and half (half shellac and half a sticky cheap 626 man made additive) which created a quick shine on very cheap furniture. That should never have been used on Antique furniture,
    Frenchpolish never created a slick plasticy finish if done properly. It does not have any modern ingredients .

    As Pablo says ,shellac was used as a sealer in the early days,Frenchpolishing became the next progression ,after waxing as I said at the start of the discussion. To fill the grain quicker.

    I realize you are anti frenchpolishing Jack,

    My main point that I was trying to get across from the start is that once the grain is full of wax or frenchpolish ,,that waxing is of minimal importance to the improvement of the piece.

    Regards Guido.

    Like

    • Jack Plane says:

      Shellac and several other resins, when dissolved in alcohol, most certainly are varnishes and French-polishers absolutely use varnishes! And yes, when built up, French polish does look plasticky. I didn’t say French polish is plastic, though I have, in the past, modified shellac varnish with the addition of melamine/phenolic resin to improve its alcohol/wear resistance.

      As highlighted at the top of this and every page, this blog deals with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century furniture; specifically, the long eighteenth-century. The abomination that is French-polishing, has no place on this blog.

      I am not “anti frenchpolishing”: It became prevalent from the Regency period and it’s late Regency/Victorian/Edwardian/Junkian furniture that I detest.

      “Early days”? “Sealer”? The first use of shellac goes back more than three millennia and has been considered a fine standalone varnish since.

      Wax is a sacrificial substance and does indeed require periodic topping up. A French-polished surface is normally too slick to hold wax for long, which is why it’s seldom done.

      JP

      Liked by 1 person

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