Easy wood polish!

Here is how to make a (very) simple wood protectant and polish. I've had occasion to use this stuff a couple of times on things about which I'm working on blog posts [update: this knife, and this knife switch], so I thought I'd do a quick post about it.

1: Get some beeswax. It's easy to find cheap on eBay; beekeepers often seem to cast the stuff into bricks in margarine containers or something, and they usually seem to filter and wash it too.

(I got a couple of big 0.95-kilo bricks of beeswax for less than $AU30 delivered a couple of years ago, but that seller doesn't have anything on offer right now.)

2: Get some ordinary light mineral oil. Those little bottles of clear "all-purpose oil" or "sewing machine oil" you can get from the supermarket will do nicely.

3: Melt the wax and mix in the oil. Beeswax melts at a bit more than 60°C, so you don't need a lot of heat. If it's smoking, it's too hot.

You'll probably want a ratio of about five or six parts oil to one part beeswax, by volume, but there's lots of room for experimentation. To play with the recipe, or if you only need a little polish, you can make it in an old spoon, heated with a small flame or boiling water under the spoon.

This simple polish is non-toxic, food-safe and won't go rancid, and has the same pleasant faint honey smell as the wax. It's easy to vary the consistency from thick and waxy - but not as thick and waxy as straight beeswax, which doesn't really work as a polish by itself - to liquid-at-room-temperature. And it really is the work of a moment to make this stuff.

A little of this polish goes a pretty long way, so you can make as little of the stuff as you actually need - perhaps using only a tiny one-ounce block of beeswax, which are the cheapest eBay options - instead of buying a bucket of commercial polish that you'll never use all of, or a ridiculously overpriced tiny container.

UPDATE: I have now discovered that this stuff also makes perfectly good lip balm.

That's right - it's a floor wax and a dessert topping!

6 Responses to “Easy wood polish!”

  1. Dunx Says:

    Cool. I will add that to the rather more involved recipes in The Eccentric Cubicle (which is an excellent book which I am pretty sure you would enjoy: here's my review).

    Thank you.

  2. Boxy Says:

    Excellent! After all these years of reading your posts I finally have something to contribute.
    I've done a fair bit of experimentation on polish, waterproofing and preservatives over the years and now have a handful of products which when combined in different amounts can handle just about anything.

    Beeswax, or cheap petroleum wax.
    Carnauba wax.
    Stockholm tar (pine tar)
    Mineral oil.
    Neats foot oil, for leather and low temperatures.
    Paraffin (kerosene)
    Hairdryer (yes you read that right)

    Beeswax is obviously best for quality items, Carnauba wax added in small amounts makes the polish tougher. Not too much though or it becomes brittle. Add paraffin to spread thinner coats.

    Carnauba wax is very brittle and is usually used as an additive for polish for quality furniture and as a beeswax additive for candles.

    Stockholm tar is very stinky (imagine concentrated pine scent) but the smell does fade eventually, so best used for outdoors or items you can store for a few weeks in a shed or such.
    Also its very dark and works as an excellent stainer. (makes pine a similar shade to mahogany) adding a little to a mix works well.

    The oils - only use neats foot oil for leather or for minus degrees C. (probably not useful for Oz) but mineral oil is not advised for leather no matter the temp.

    Paraffin is used here as a thinner.

    A hairdryer is needed for proofing leather, you make the mix in a pan and rub it over and over into the leather. after a while, use the dryer to heat the wax/oil/tar mix and it will be absorbed.

    Ps. cats dont like strong pine scents.

    Use of Paraffin as a thinner up to you.


  3. iworm Says:

    Heh. This takes me back to my early childhood (which is back a fair old way...) My grandmother used to make her own wood polish. One of the key ingredients was, and I remember this most distinctly, fag ash (for US readers: that's cigarette ash - stop tittering) of which she had a permanent and copious supply. Mixed it all up and kept it in White's Lemonade bottles. It worked too - everything gleamed. Not sure if all the furniture smelt of ciggies though, as the whole place did anyway.

  4. rho Says:

    I use a similar recipe, with a bit more wax than oil, to make a wax for sewing twine when I'm using my sailmaker's palm. You thread the needle, double the thread, and run it through the block of wax.

    Next you should try making your own tallow. It's fun, keeps forever if you try it out well, and useful for a number of oddball things. Keep it in a cow's horn for extra points.

  5. Nathaniel Says:

    Google says that line is from an old SNL skit, not UHF.

    • dan Says:

      Only a few years late, I've changed the link to point to one of the pages Google does indeed suggest. I could swear I saw that skit in a movie, though - either it was transplanted into one of the SNL spin-off movies, or I'm making it up.

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