« waxing poetic »
March 24th, 2011
mrs. jones recently fielded a question on using wax as part of a painted finish (with standard latex/acrylic/alkyd paint), and wanted to share a little more information in case others might have the same query. wax (as you know) is a petroleum-based product, and so acts as a fantastic sealer and protective layer on top of paint. but because it is so, well, waxy, paints and glazes will not adhere over it, and so it must be your final layer (or act as a “resist layer”…more soon on this technique.) (and if you’re using chalk paint™ decorative paints by annie sloan, or miss mustard seed’s (or other) milk paint, please follow waxing instructions particular to those wonderful mediums, since the method is a bit different.)
it’s simple to use wax over paint to protect, add sheen, and give that old-fashioned furniture feel. for an application like this, i (obviously) love annie sloan’s clear wax…it’s butter-soft, has a very low solvent content, and is truly clear (to illustrate, see photo above, and read below.) minwax’s paste finishing wax is also a decent one if you need to put your hands on a more widely available choice. myland’s and antiquax are both excellent. the list goes on and on..anyway:
with paste wax, run the bristles of a chip brush ( the 2″ size is perfect for this, as they fit neatly into most can openings) over the wax, and then brush in quick, short strokes over the surface, following your painted brushstrokes, and bearing down to spread the wax evenly. you’ll feel the brush begin to “pull” as it runs low and needs to be reloaded. let the wax dry – depending on your humidity levels, this can take 20 minutes to 4 hours – and then buff/polish with a soft lint-free cloth, like an old t-shirt, folded to the size of your hand. (if you’re using annie sloan soft wax, you can use a firm-bristled brush or a cloth for application. wipe the excess wax back while it’s still wet, and then leave it to dry, buffing later, or even the next day.) for buffing, cut-up oxford cloth shirts are a great tool, as are bird’s-eye-weave diapers.
the drawback to most paste waxes is (as shown in the photo at the top) that they can leave behind a hint of a pink-ish or amber tint, which will show on lighter and darker paint colors. over white/light paints, if you can’t easily get annie sloan’s soft wax, bowling alley wax is an option. it goes on very clear, and does not yellow over time. it buffs to a higher shine than plain paste wax…even glossier if you put on a second coat…though it requires more muscle to apply and polish.
tinted waxes (besides the annie sloan dark wax, mylands is hands-down my favorite line, but there are plenty available – your local antique shop will probably stock a great choice, too) give you wax and color in one step. (peek here to see a project using tinted wax on raw wood, and here for a restoration project.) over lighter shades of paint, wax containing a tint such as raw umber, antique pine, or dark brown will leave behind a yummy patina and a nice aged effect. black tinted wax over black paint gives beautiful depth. brush it on as thinly as possible, and if buffing with a cloth doesn’t remove as much as you want or give the desired sheen, try going over the surface very gently, and with the grain, with 0000 steel wool instead*.
(word to the wise: tinted waxes should not be used on a piece that will come into close contact with light-colored fabrics, since there is a chance that some of the pigment might rub off from, say, a dining room chair on to your aunt louise’s new white blouse, or from the bed headboard on to that fabulous ivory pillow sham you just brought home.)
if the wax is too firm to brush on easily, set the whole tin in a pan of hot water to soften it up, or leave it to sit in a sunny window for a little while.
*one other little trick to have up your sleeve is to apply a thin, very sparing dusting of rottenstone to the surface just after you brush on the wax. when you’re ready to buff, the rottenstone acts as a gentle abrasive, bringing up the shine and making the work go a little more quickly. it will leave just a tiny hint of dusty gray behind where you’ve sprinkled it, another great way to “age” a newly painted surface. using a small (1/2″ or 1″) chip brush, dip just the tips of the bristles into the rottenstone, and then tap the brush gently above the waxed surface to distribute the dust. (richard martin, long the king of fabulous painted finishes here in memphis, has a signature look to his work that includes a dusting of rottenstone left in all the right nooks & crannies. it is perfectly gorgeous.)
and, finally, don’t toss your waxed-up chip brush…ziplock-bag it, and keep it for next time. the bristles might become stiff, but will soften up when you start working with it again.