Throughout history beeswax has been adapted to all sorts of art media and finishings. Its value as a restorer and protector of fine wood furniture and household objects dates at least as far back as the ancient Egypt---traces of beeswax have been found on burial objects, including picture frames and death mask paintings. It is a very pure product and, when mixed with clean organic compounds as a furniture paste or polish, is completely nontoxic.
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Paste Wax and Liquid Wax
Beeswax comes in two main forms. Liquid wax ranges from pourable to a cream texture and is used for large pieces that don't get heavy wear, like wood panelling, bookcases, armoires and dressers, breakfronts and cabinets. It rubs on easily, dries fairly quickly, depending on humidity and heat, and is then lightly buffed to restore finish and shine. Cream wax is a very thick liquid that works the same way thin liquid polish does but is useful for areas that are more exposed to nicks and wear. It smooths on and can be buffed to a low shine or high gloss once dry. Paste wax is great on tables and surfaces that get a lot of wear. It takes a little more work to apply and to buff it off but the trick is not to overload the piece with wax. A little goes a long way. Thick applications of paste wax just mean a lot more buffing and you end up removing most of what you slathered on. Save money, time and elbow grease by using a thin film of paste wax to refinish a piece.
Coloured beeswax is a speciality finish that works particularly well to refinish a darker hued wood. Some companies make a mahogany beeswax that is brown in colour and should be applied to medium to dark woods. On an old piece, the colour in the wax will even out faded, stained and otherwise discoloured areas as long as any finish, such as a lacquer or a liquid polish, that would repel the wax is removed first. Coloured wax can be applied to cherry wood, as well as "brown" woods like mahogany and walnut, and will give it a rich reddish-brown patina.
Solid beeswax sticks are used to fill in damage to wood furniture, such as wormholes or slight gouges and scratches. The wax may be clear or coloured. Apply it by pushing beeswax into the wormhole then scraping off any excess with a wooden chisel so the surface is even. You can use a putty scraper for this if you are careful not to abrade the wood surrounding the area to be filled. Most finishing products will work over a small, filled-in beeswax section but a beeswax finish is naturally ideal over this type of solid beeswax repair.
Museum Wax and Edible Wax
Museum wax is just a high quality beeswax, usually a very pure mix of all-natural ingredients that contains no silicone or petroleum products that might interact with an antique finish on furniture in an exhibit. Museums have the same concerns as homeowners---only more so. Moisture, dust and dirt can abrade fine furniture and the wax acts as a protective coating over original or restored finishes on period pieces and wood frames. Edible wax is used for wood flutes, salad bowls, butcher block, kitchen counters, children's toys and cribs, wood spoons and cutting boards---anything that comes in contact with mouths and food. For edible wax, the beeswax is often mixed with purified carnauba wax, a derivative of a palm tree that is hypoallergenic and helps to produce a bright shine.
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