Topic: Oil and Beeswax Formula

ArtMetal
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Posted by Chris Ray on September 30, 1997 at 20:29:03:

I have been asked about how to make up an oil/wax formula so I thought this might be a good place to give an answer.

There is sometimes a misconception about how oil and beeswax should be mixed together and most formulas that I hear about is a bit excessive in the use of the linseed oil.

Here is one formula that I use and it works quite well. Now remember that none of the mixing is precise and may be freely adjusted to suit your particular needs.

1 part boiled linseed oil

5 parts (volume) beeswax

Heat in a double boiler but be very careful since the mix is flammable.

When the oil and wax is melted together remove from the heat source and stir.

Now this is important, as the mix begins to cool down keep stirring ocassionally to blend the ingredients together until the mix stiffens up a little bit. The combination has a tendency to separate.

Pour in just a little bit of turpentine or mineral spirits before the mix turns to paste and stir that into the mix as well. How much is a little bit? Well, less than the one part linseed oil, you don't need much.

While still soft, you may then begin to spatula this mix into a container that has a lid with it. This formula will last indefinitely and to refreshen from time to time you simply add a little mineral spirits or even a small bit of linseed oil.

This formula is a little drier than one might think necessary but in fact even more wax can be added not linseed oil. What you are looking for with this compound is a paste like substance, not too oily which will take too long to dry once applied or may look too greasy.

Apply this paste to your metal as is and after a day or sometimes longer, it may be buffed. This is not a hard finish so you won't achieve the high shine of harder waxes, but this is what you are looking for. Sometimes if you don't buff the finish at all and leave it as is, the metal then looks like it has no coating at all on it.

This formula is for interior finishes. I have mentioned elsewhere how to apply this mix for exterior work over a varnish. For exterior work, then you may add a little more linseed oil to the mix or do what I do. I will sometimes take a bit of wax on a stiff brush, then dip it lightly into a tin of linseed oil and blend together right on the work itself. This way I only need to have one mix on hand and can use the same stuff for dual purposes.

Sometimes it's difficult to find pure beeswax so I can recommend another source. Use brown sculptor's wax, it's absolutely terrific as a substitute. It's mostly beeswax with some microcrystaline wax blended into it I think. Some art supply stores may carry this wax.

If you have mixed up a large batch of this oil and wax mixture and after a few years (yes, it seems to last forever), it begins to look grungey don't throw this out. Simply put it back into a double boiler, scoop out the dross, add a little fresh linseed oil and there you are. It's as good as new again.

Finally, use the above simply as a guide and adjust the mix to suit your needs. It's best to start out as dry as possible (mostly wax) and add the linseed oil in increments until you find the mix that you like. It's much harder to adjust the other way if you make a mistake. It's sort of like adding white paint into the black to make a gray color, it's easier to put the black into the white instead. It's surprising how little oil is actually needed to create the paste.

Finally, the metal does not have to be heated to apply the oil/wax formula. However, if you like, you may brush a soft flame over the surface and this insures that the mix fills in some of the cracks and crevices you may have missed. Be careful though because you may actually fill up what you want showing as texture. On exterior pieces when I might apply a much heavier coating of oil/wax, that is when I run a flame over the surfaces to smooth out the finish. Sometimes I may wait a few days first, until the mix sets up, then heat the piece.

Want to know another quick and dirty way to have an oil/wax interior finish? Okay here it is. Use something like Johnson's paste wax. Take a small tuna can and put a rag in it, then soak the rag with linseed oil, but not to the point where it's runny. Put some wax on the tip of your rubbing cloth, then dip your finger into the oil soaked rag a little bit and then you blend the two together right on the piece itself. Simple. Afterwards, I would strongly suggest you burn that oil soaked rag rather than try to dry it out because the linseed oil is a strong oxident and may cause spontaneous combustion when you least expect it.

It is good practice to make sure that any rag used for the oil/wax treatment be spread out to dry in a safe place before disposal unless it is soaked with the oil. Then I think the safest thing is to burn it in the forge or someplace.

Chris Ray


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