How to Make Historic Beeswax Furniture Polish

5 Steps to Make Historic Beeswax Furniture Polish Finish with Beeswax, Oil & Turpentine

Joshua Farnsworth Portrait  By Joshua Farnsworth  |  Updated Mar 14, 2022

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How to Make Historic Beeswax Furniture Polish

5 Steps to Make Historic Beeswax Furniture Polish Finish with Beeswax, Oil & Turpentine

Joshua Farnsworth Portrait  By Joshua Farnsworth  |  Updated Mar 14, 2022

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In this article (and the video above) I teach how to mix melted wood seasoning beeswax, boiled linseed oil, and turpentine to create a lovely historic wood finish and beeswax furniture polish.

Beeswax Furniture Polish With Wood Seasoning Beeswax, Turpentine, And Boiled Linseed Oil On A Walnut Board

This beeswax polish leaves your furniture looking and feeling silky smooth. This beeswax furniture polish recipe was taught to me by the woodworking furniture makers at Colonial Williamsburg and also the Frontier Culture Museum.

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Step 1: Melt the Refined Beeswax

Melting Beeswax On A Double Boiler For Beeswax Furniture Polish

The first step to make this historical beeswax furniture polish is to start melting some refined pure beeswax in a double boiler setup. There’s no special beeswax for wood, just normal refined beeswax. And this is the most affordable beeswax I have purchased, though it comes in a 10 pound package. You can also find refined beeswax here at Ebay. And you can alternatively buy raw beeswax from local beekeepers and refine it yourself.

Langstroth Beehive For Beeswax Furniture Polish

Simply break up pieces of the pure refined beeswax and place them in a clear glass bowl (like a Pyrex bowl). There’s no need to use a cheese grater as some people suggest. That’s messy. Then place the glass bowl on top of a pot of boiling water and let the beeswax melt.

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It is important that you use refined beeswax so particles of debris won’t scratch your furniture. In one of my recent videos, Don Williams (retired Senior Furniture Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution) shared a tutorial on his simple method for refining raw beeswax (watch it here). This is more-or-less the method that I now use.

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Step 2: Mix Turpentine and Boiled Linseed Oil in a Jar

Ball Canning Jar Boiled Linseed Oil And Turpentine For Mixing Beeswax Furniture Polish

While the beeswax is melting you can mix the turpentine and boiled linseed oil. You will not be heating the boiled linseed oil or turpentine in my method, as I prefer to keep my face intact. Please don’t try methods that recommend heating the entire mixture. There is no need. Get a small canning jar, and mix equal amounts of turpentine and boiled linseed oil.

Ball Canning Jar For Mixing Beeswax Finish

I like the small 6 ounce canning jars because the jars have a 2 ounce mark, 4 ounce mark, and 6 ounce mark. This is perfect for adding an equal mixture of all three ingredients (1/3 of each).

Pouring Boiled Linseed Oil For A Beeswax Furniture Polish

The boil linseed oil acts as a penetrating agent to bring out depth and enhance the figure of the wood. That’s the secret ingredient that makes this a wood seasoning beeswax finish. But oil is optional. Some historical recipes use just beeswax and turpentine. Turpentine is a solvent derived from pine tree sap, and is used to keep the beeswax from hardening too much.

Pouring Turpentine For A Beeswax Furniture Polish

As I just mentioned, some of the historic beeswax furniture polish recipes use just beeswax and turpentine, when surface penetration is not desired. But I like the addition of boiled linseed oil because I use this as more of a wood finish than just a furniture polish. I like how the oil darkens the wood over time.

Applying Beeswax Furniture Polish To A Moravian Footstool

But don’t use raw linseed oil, because your finish will take weeks to dry. Modern boiled linseed oil isn’t actually boiled, but uses chemical dryers to accelerate the drying process of the oil. Go ahead and use a clean stick or spoon to mix the boiled linseed oil and turpentine.

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Step 3: Add the Melted Beeswax

Double Boiler For Making Beeswax Furniture Polish

Next you will use hot pads to carefully pour the melted beeswax from the hot glass bowl into the jar that contains the turpentine and boiled linseed oil. You can add the same amount of beeswax as the other ingredients (1/3 oil, 1/3 turpentine, 1/3 beeswax) or you can add slightly less or more beeswax. This just depends on how you prefer your finish. There really are so many variations, so that’s why it’s good to just start off with this simple recipe of three equal parts.

Pouring Melted Beeswax From Glass Bowl Into Mixture Of Turpentine And Boiled Linseed Oil For Beeswax Furniture Polish

I’ve found that adding 1/3 beeswax (or less) will give you a softer beeswax polish, which gives you more time before you have to buff the finish out. But it also gives you less sheen after buffing. If you add more than 1/3 beeswax you’ll get a higher sheen. But be sure to buff the finish out in about 10-15 minutes or else you’ll have a difficult time getting it buffed. It’ll be sticky instead of smooth. Just experiment. You can always add more beeswax later if you want the polish to be harder. You can also add more turpentine later, if the polish is too hard.

Mixing A Beeswax Furniture Polish With Pure Beeswax, Boiled Linseed Oil, And Turpentine

Stir the beeswax wood polish mixture together immediately after pouring in the hot wax, and then put the jar lid on. The beeswax will clump up a bit and look cloudy, which is normal for wax hitting cool liquid. The turpentine will eventually dissolve the beeswax clumps.

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Step 4: Set the Beeswax Furniture Polish Near a Window

Jar Of Beeswax Polish Finish Melting Next To A Sunny Window

Place the jar of freshly mixed beeswax furniture polish near a warm sunny window and let it sit for at least a day to dissolve the beeswax and thicken the polish. This is what the equal parts mixture looks like when it’s dissolved and ready to use:

Beeswax, Turpentine, And Boiled Linseed Oil Wax Furniture Polish Finish On A Walnut Board With Wiping Cloth

Step 5: Apply and Buff the Beeswax Furniture Polish

Of course, the beeswax furniture polish finish will be thin and creamy at first because it has been sitting near a warm window, but it gets more solid when it’s stored out of the warm sunlight. In the winter months it will be hard and you’ll have to soften it up in a heated room before using it.

Turpentine, Boiled Linseed Oil, And Beeswax Furniture Polish Finish Applied On A Walnut Board

Apply the beeswax wood polish with a clean cloth (like an old T-shirt), and then buff it out with a clean cloth after 10-15 minutes, or else the wax may become too hard. This will be even more important if you use more beeswax in your mixture. Another application method is to use a French Polissoir. I created another video of Don Williams teaching how to use a French Polissoir to burnish a beeswax finish (watch it here).

French Polisher Polissoir Used By Don Williams To Apply Beeswax Furniture Polish

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Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on making historical beeswax furniture polish! At the bottom of this page you can ask questions or tell me how you like this polish. You can also subscribe to receive more free woodworking articles and videos like this: