Did you know that all waxes are hard or semi hard in their natural state at room temperature. Think of a honey comb. So… the soft wax we use has to be soften somehow. You could heat it up, since all wax melts above 45 degrees C but that doesn’t do our furniture application any good.
How do we get this nice soft wax? Soft wax is usually a combination of waxes that have some form of mineral spirits or other chemicals such as oil added to them. Turpentine was the original chemical used to soften wax, either natural or now also distilled from hydrocarbons, but now a days mineral spirits (white spirits in the UK) are used. White spirits are also graded as to their purity and odor. Read here that the non smelly ones are higher grade and have had extra distillation which is extra cost.
No matter what the chemical, you can not have nice soft wax without something added to make it soft.
Now back to the wax itself. Common organic waxes are from plants and animals. Beeswax and lanolin from lambs are the most common animal waxes,
while Carnauba Wax is the most common plant wax. Carnauba wax, is a hard wax obtained from the Brazilian palm. It is known as “queen of waxes” and in its pure state, is hard yellow-brown flakes.
Ironically another common wax used on furniture is Shellac – from the lac insect Kerria Iacca. This also comes in flakes.
The rest of the common waxes are made from hydrocarbons, paraffin and petroleum jelly. It is a little ironic, that naturally occurring hydrocarbons make synthetic waxes but there you have it.
Most of the waxes we use are mixtures of bees wax and Carnauba. Carnauba is a hard wax while bees wax is easy softer but more common.
So… if all waxes are hard, and you add the mineral spirits. What happens when you evaporate off the mineral spirits? You got it, the wax gets hard again. This is what give you your great finish.
And remember when the mineral spirits dry the topcoat is food safe. Just like… ta da, candy covered in Carnauba
Chalk Paint 101 – Saturday 10-2
Want to learn more! Join us on Saturday for our Chalk Paint ® 101 class.
Bring your own piece of furniture and create! You will even get to learn and practice how to use wax.
This post is part of a series on waxes which will be published throughout the months of December, check back often or sign up for our posts.