There’s a certain quality about a wax topcoat that makes it unmatched by more durable topcoats. The smooth and pleasing texture of a waxed surface is so inviting that you can’t resist touching it. Not only does it look and feel great, but it also provides an extra layer of protection to the underlying finish.
Wax is not only used as a final coating for finished wood, but it also has other purposes. It can be used as a minimalist finish to low-traffic high-value items or to create an antique look for a newly made piece. Colored waxes can also produce unique effects. The best part is that the tools and techniques involved are simple. In the case of the most common waxes for finishing (carnauba wax vs beeswax), what wax should you pick?
Different types of waxes for finishing
Wax is obtained from three different sources – minerals, animals, and plants. However, synthetic waxes are also available. The primary distinguishing factor among these waxes is their hardness, which is directly related to their melting points.
Carnauba (pronounced “car-NOO-ba”) wax is a type of natural wax that is derived from the leaves of the Brazilian palm tree known as Copernicia prunifera. It is a hard, brittle wax that is commonly used in various finishing projects.
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by honeybees. It is derived from the wax glands of bees and is used in many applications, including cosmetics, food, and woodworking. Beeswax is often used as a natural alternative to synthetic waxes due to its pleasant aroma, easy workability, and low toxicity.
Paraffin wax is a synthetic wax that is derived from petroleum. It is a soft, colorless wax that is commonly used in a variety of applications, including candle-making, food preservation, and as a waterproof coating for paper and fabrics. Paraffin wax is often preferred for its affordability and versatility, but it may not offer the same level of durability and natural finish as carnauba or beeswax. When it comes to woodworking projects, paraffin wax may be used in combination with other waxes or oils to achieve the desired level of protection and finish.
Wax Type Melting Point (°F) Relative Hardness
|Wax Type||Melting Point (°F)||Relative Hardness|
As you can see, carnauba wax has the highest melting point, followed by beeswax and then paraffin wax. This means that carnauba wax will require a higher temperature to melt compared to the other two waxes.
Carnauba wax vs beeswax for wood
Carnauba and beeswax are two popular options for polishing wood, but they have some notable differences. The ideal melting point for waxes is about 150°F. If the melting point is too high, the wax becomes too hard to buff, while if it is too low, the wax smudges easily and cannot be buffed. Carnauba wax is typically too hard in its raw form and is therefore blended with paraffin wax to make it softer. As a result, all waxes for polishing have a similar softness to that of beeswax.
Carnauba vs beeswax for polishing wood
While the color and evaporation rate of the solvent can differ, waxes designed for furniture are generally easier to use. They tend to have a softer consistency (known as semi-paste wax) due to their higher percentage of solvent, which makes them simpler to apply. Some popular waxes for furniture include Antiquax, Fiddes (which has a low odor and dries fast), Liberon’s Black Bison (which goes on smoothly but has a strong odor), and Goddard’s (which has a pleasant lemon verbena scent).
It’s important to note that waxes designed for polishing wood floors (such as Butcher’s® Bowling Alley Wax and Minwax finishing wax) may contain a high percentage of carnauba wax and are intended to be buffed with a mechanical floor buffer. If you try to buff them by hand, you may have difficulty achieving the desired result.
Brewing your own pot
If you want to experiment with making your own wax, you can try using a simple recipe that involves mixing beeswax and carnauba wax. Here’s how you can make your own wax polish:
Melting wax at home
- 1 part beeswax
- 1 part carnauba wax
- 1 part odorless mineral spirits (or turpentine)
- In a double boiler, melt the beeswax and carnauba wax together.
- Once the wax has melted, add the mineral spirits or turpentine to the mixture.
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly until they are well-combined.
- Pour the mixture into a container and allow it to cool.
- Once the wax has cooled and solidified, use a soft cloth to apply a thin layer of wax to the surface of your project.
- Allow the wax to dry for a few minutes before buffing it with a clean cloth.
Which is better beeswax or carnauba wax
Wax is an excellent finishing material for wood projects, as it provides a natural and pleasing texture while also protecting the underlying finish. When selecting a wax, consider the melting point, hardness, and type of project you are working on.
Carnauba wax and beeswax are two popular options for polishing wood, while paraffin wax may be used in combination with other waxes or oils to achieve the desired level of protection and finish. With a few simple tools and techniques, you can create a beautiful and long-lasting finish for your woodworking projects.