Williamsburg Snapshot – Wax Finishing

Although I have attended the Colonial Williamsburg Working Wood in the 18th Century conference many times, this year was my first as a speaker.  I was asked to present the topic “Wax Finishes” which I did.  Alas, my time slot was only 45 minutes, which in retrospect pretty much everyone agreed was too short by some logarithmic value.  Still I did my best to rip through the basics at breakneck speed.

As with virtually every finishing talk I give I began by covering my “Six Rules for Perfect Finishing.”


I then blew through the topics of surface prep with a scraper and then a polissoir.  Truly this step has revolutionized my understanding and practice for finishing.

Then came the application of block beeswax as a grain filler and final finish, worked into the surface via vigorous rubbing with the polissoir, followed by scraping to remove any excess, and finally by buffing with a flannel.

I showed, all too quickly, the incorporation of both resin flour and powdered colorants to the beeswax grain fillers to impart either hardness or coloration.

Finally I approached the problem of voluptuous and carved surfaces, employing the boxwood burnishing stick and the polissoir, with impressive results given the few seconds I had in hand.

I got excellent and encouraging feedback, and the CW folks must have liked what they saw because I have been invited to return in the fall for three days of in-house hands-on training for the cabinetmakers, gunsmiths, and housewrights on the topic of historic finishing.