So there’s some info out there about making your own oil and wax finish for your wood products. This has been a great finish for me, once I figured out what ratios to use and how to apply it. It is all natural, food safe, and contains no petroleum products. Here’s what I’ve discovered…
There’s plenty of differing opinions about how much oil and how much wax to use in the mixture. I’m not sure if there’s a right or wrong answer to this, but I’ve found something that works for me. I use a 1:2 ratio of wax to oil. You might like more or less wax, depending on your process. What I like about the 1:2 ratio is that it is a soft solid at room temperature. It can be scooped up by a rag and smeared onto the wood surface without much effort. You don’t have to heat it to get it out of the jar. This makes it easy to work with, and it doesn’t run everywhere. There are a few tricks, though, more on that at the end of the post.
I mix everything in a 1 pint jelly jar, which happens to have little markings on the side…I think some of them are in ounces. So I fill it with 2 oz. melted wax, and 4 oz oil. Here’s how.
I start with solid bees wax. You can purchase this from many bee keepers at a market, online, or in various stores in various forms. Just be sure to look for 100% bees wax if you are trying to stay natural and non-toxic. You also want it clean and filtered. I have a little candle that is wax that I’m melting down to use for my mixture.
You need to melt the wax in a water bath. This is to avoid direct contact of the jar or the wax with the stove, which would be dangerous! So, just place a pan of water on the stove and put your jar in it. You can use enough water to cover about half the jar to aid in heating the wax. I don’t use more because I don’t want water to get in there. Bring the water to a boil and use fairly high heat to speed the process along. You don’t have all day, right? This takes about 10 minutes.
Some people like to shave the wax, but I find this takes longer and is messier and more difficult. I just sit the candle in the jar and use high heat and it melts pretty quickly. As it melts, I occasionally check the amount of liquid that is accumulating by removing the jar and the candle and looking at the side of the jar. The wick from the candle makes this super easy to just lift the candle out and check the volume of the melted wax. When the liquid reaches the 2 oz mark on the side, I’m done. Remove the rest of the solid wax and save it for next time. You should be left with just plain liquid wax in the jar.
Add the oil
Next you want to add oil to the mixture. I use linseed oil, and I use all natural polymerized linseed oil from Tried and True brand. It’s their natural danish oil that has been partially dried, so it contains more solids and dries faster. You can use raw linseed oil, but I figure the more dry, the better. If you want to stay non-toxic, don’t use boiled linseed oil, it has heavy metals in it. And don’t use mineral/baby oil, it’s made from petroleum. But walnut oil, almond oil…other oils are fine. I’ve stayed away from orange oils because I’m not sure how skin friendly they are. They are used as a degreaser, so they might irritate the skin. Or they might be fine, I’m not sure.
*Side Note: If you have time, you can also “polymerize” your own linseed oil. Start with raw oil, which is greenish in color and will take ages to dry on your wood. Leave it sitting out in a wide container like a 9x13x3 baking pan, so that it can air dry. You have to leave it out for like a year, people, this takes a long time. But you don’t have to do anything with it. After a while, the oil will change from greenish to light honey brown. It is ready to use now and will dry faster when applied to your wood. I use one 32 oz. jar for one year while my next jar is drying for the next year, so I never run out. Or I just order Tried and True polymerized linseed oil that’s ready to go.
Ok, so, pour in enough oil into the jar with the melted wax to reach the 6 oz. mark, so you’re adding 4 oz of oil, creating a 1:2 ratio of 2 oz. wax to 4 oz. oil (right? that’s how ratios work, isn’t it?).
The mixture will be cloudy at this point because of the cold oil, and it isn’t fully mixed. You will need to heat everything together so that it is uniformly incorporated.
You can add more water to heat it faster, just keep it out of the jar. Here you see the solids are just small pieces. Keep stirring till everything is completely liquid.
Once you have liquid, you’re done! Just take it out to cool, and the whole jar will become solid again. It has the consistency of hard butter. A soft solid you can still scoop out from the jar. You shouldn’t need a knife, I usually just scoop it out with my finger and a rag.
How to use an oil and wax finish
So this is just what I’ve found to be quickest, and most effective against wood cracking. First apply 1 to 3 coats of oil to your wood piece. Again, I use a natural, polymerized linseed oil. Allow each coat to dry 24 hrs and wipe away any excess after an hour, or 10 minutes if you are impatient like me.
After those oil coats, scoop out some wax mixture and wipe it generously into the wood. (I’ve done this immediately after applying one coat of oil, with good results, but more oil will be more protection). It will look like goopy clear butter, and you should see some excess built up on the wood. I used to try to wipe everything in really well, and wait for it to dry naturally. This doesn’t work! It will take like a year for this to dry, and you will have a tacky, icky waxy finish. What I learned was to wipe it on heavily, like I said. Just be messy. Then, here’s the trick: Use a hair drier to warm the wax and melt it into the wood. The heat will draw it into the wood, I think, and also thin everything out to a uniform covering and dry it. While it’s hot and liquid, wipe off any excess with a dry cloth and buff rapidly for several seconds, by hand, until you feel the surface become slick and dry. That’s it! It should be dry and soft to the touch. I think this heating process just makes the wax thin enough so that it will actually dry quickly.
This finish has worked well for me in preventing the wood from drying out, cracking, or getting moisture damage. You can use a few more coats of wax if you want more protection. You can also rub more oil in each year to maintain the finish, though I’m not sure the oil makes it through the wax into the wood. You hopefully are just building up beautiful natural layers of oil to your natural finish. I’ve been thinking of using more wax in the mixture, just curious what that would be like. Experiment for yourself!
The best thing about all this is it is safe, you can just use your bare hands and apply everything inside the house if you want. No fumes, no sprayer, easy!
I hope this works well for you! This has been a long post, but really this is a super fast process. It takes about 10 min to create the mixture, and about 1 minute to apply. Besides waiting between coats of oil, the whole thing is super fast and super effective! Let me know how it works for you!