Beeswax is an organic alternative of wood finish that can be used on your woodturning project.
When applied correctly, it will leave a lavish, glossy finish that will protect and enhance the beauty of your wood.
Here’s Why Beeswax is Good for Woodturning
Beeswax used for woodworking finishes is an excellent alternative to other, harsher chemical finishes on the market. It has been used for centuries and has recently regained popularity for being a natural/organic alternative. Beeswax serves as polish as well as a waterproofing agent and a sealer.
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What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is a natural substance that is extruded from young worker bees of the Apis genus. These bees include honey bees, and beeswax is the substance of which the hive is made, as well as the hexagonal cubicles the bees store their honey in.
The compound comprises over 250 different minerals and acids, which are then extruded by the bee’s glands. The bees then use this rich substance to create their homes, and it is a strong substance.
Is Beeswax a Good Wood Finish?
Beeswax, as stated above, is a very rich and sturdy building material. It is smooth and can make a lovely finish to many woodworking projects. It is not quite as long lasting as some other industrial finishes, however, for many the absence of noxious and potentially dangerous chemicals is the reason for switching.
Our ancestors recognized this use of beeswax, and in the past, almost all woodworking projects were coated and preserved in wax. Although considering the amount of time and the number of bees it takes to make this substance, it was not deemed sustainable and viable anymore, and synthetics were made.
As of late, however, more and more people are reverting to beeswax, seeing it as the organic and safe way to finish their wood. One must be sure to get pure beeswax without any toxic additives such as paraffin which is not good for one’s health when this is used on tools such as eating utensils.
Does Beeswax Remove Scratches?
Yes indeed! Beeswax can be used to repair damages made to wood through careful application and blending.
For smaller cuts, it is recommended you take a small amount and gently smooth out the impacted area. If there are larger, deeper gashes, beeswax should be used more as a “filler” and you should apply it more thickly and allow it to fill the gash before blending it.
This video below is an excellent little tutorial about how beeswax should be applied and how to avoid certain pitfalls often experienced by new woodworkers.
Does Beeswax Make Wood Waterproof?
Beeswax will waterproof wood when it is applied correctly. This includes applying it thick enough, allowing it adequate time to dry, ensuring it is 100% pure beeswax (other components such as finish could cause it not to dry adequately or spread properly), and guaranteeing that it fills in the crevices of the wood.
Why is it important to ensure the crevices are completely filled? Primarily because those spaces could potentially become weaknesses in the coating, allowing in moisture.
Can You Use Beeswax on All Types of Wood?
The main concern with beeswax is not so very much the type of wood used but how you apply the wood finish. Although softer woods seem better for absorbing the finish and ensuring the cracks are secure, this does not mean you can’t use them on harder woods as well.
One recommendation that seems ubiquitous is utilizing olive oil as an effective method of encouraging the wax to absorb. There are a couple of ways you can perfect this further through added essential oils for a nice, lasting scent.
When Would You Use Beeswax for Woodturning?
Beeswax is used as a polish to create a finished shine. It is applied in small chunks, usually by hand, as the wood spins on the lathe.
Typically you would want to have most of the carving completed and then add it after to create the seal you want. The friction of the spinning lathe creates a smooth, not overpowering sheen to the completed project.
Do You Use Beeswax with other Additives on your Woodturning Project?
For woodworking projects, olive oil is the most common additive. In order to create a good wood polish, it is important to use oil to help thin the wax for easier application. Other thinning agents include linseed oil or turpentine.
This is different from how you would apply it for a woodturning job; however, usually, straight beeswax is used and applied gradually as the spinning wood creates friction (thus heat), making the wax melt slowly into the wood.
How to Apply Beeswax on Your Woodturning Project?
The most common way to apply beeswax when using a woodturning lathe is to apply it by hand, as pure wax. The process consists of first lathering the wooden piece with some oil or absorbent material and allowing it to dry before turning the wood and applying the wax.
Another similar method is to dab the wax with an absorbent rag or paper towel and to apply it slowly as the wood turns. This method is used with beeswax mixtures rather than pure beeswax. So, you might use this for beeswax mixed with a thinning agent such as an oil.
How Long does Beeswax take to Dry?
Beeswax takes up to 3 hours to dry completely. This is generally true, even if thinning agents are added to the beeswax for an easier polish.
One should not attempt to buff the wax before it drying completely, or else it may come off or clump up. One method of speeding up the drying process is to use a hairdryer as you buff to create a nicer shine and maybe shorten this waiting period. Again, however, don’t rush it, or else you might ruin the finish!
How Long does Beeswax Last on Wood?
Beeswax tends to last about 1 year on furniture that is moderately to lightly used. This must be done in part due to the shine becoming dimmed and there being a need for some TLC.
You want to make sure you do this in order to prolong the life span of your wood, as with time the coat becomes imperfect and the coat no longer protects it from the elements.
How Often should You Apply Beeswax?
There is some variance in the life span of a beeswax wood coating, and how often you should reapply. Obviously, for a cutting board or other kitchen utensils that you use often (and wash often) beeswax should be reapplied every 3 months or so.
For furniture that is only lightly used, you can wait until about a year before the shine begins to dull and it’s time to reapply. One important aspect of this is to ensure the wax is properly removed each time and reapplied properly in order to avoid wax build-up.
Is Beeswax Expensive?
Beeswax isn’t terribly expensive when you think of how much effort goes into the making of it by bees. It is estimated that for every 100 pounds or so of honey made by bees, there is only 1-2 pounds of wax produced.
Beeswax tends to sell for about $8.00-$9.50 per pound based upon listed online sale prices. Less pure beeswax (sometimes it is mixed with petroleum-based paraffin) is cheaper but is not recommended due to its toxicity and poor strength.
There is a disparity of about $1.00 between yellow beeswax and pure, clear beeswax. Fortunately, this is actually better for woodworking projects as the clear beeswax leaves a more clear shine.
Where can You Get Beeswax?
The most popular place to get beeswax is locally from farms or beekeepers. A lot of woodworkers state the quality is higher, consistent, and the source is fairly reliable.
Additionally, many claim it tends to be less expensive than when purchased from other places such as Amazon. Many also seem to think the quality from Amazon isn’t up to their preference and is not worth the wait or cost.
Another benefit many find in purchasing beeswax locally is you cut down on shipping costs and waste. If one is using beeswax for its environmental benefits, buying local does help in preventing undesirable pollution.