Which Waxes Work Best?
A close look at price, performance, appearance, and smell
Synopsis: We test 21 brands of wax to see which ones are best for furniture makers. Mark Schofield used the waxes to get a moderate sheen on cherry test boards finished with a washcoat of shellac and three coats of wiped-on polyurethane. He also tested the waxes on a mirror to see how easily they spread and buffed out. There wasn’t a substantial difference in the final appearance of the test boards in the end, but there were significant differences in the elbow-grease required, the odor, and the price.
On almost every piece of furniture I’ve made, the final step has been to apply a coat or two of wax. Nothing beats its slippery feel, the luster is just right, it hides minor imperfections in the finish, and hands down it is the easiest finish to work with. So when Fine Woodworking asked if I was interested in testing more than 20 different brands of wax, you’d think I’d have jumped at the chance. Instead I was a little skeptical. You see, although I’ve used a number of different clear and colored waxes, they never struck me as varying greatly in quality or ease of use, so I feared it would be as exciting as testing bottled water.
How wrong I was. After testing 21 brands of wax, I found that while the majority produce a good result, the effort required varies enormously. You can get excellent waxes for a modest cost, but there are a few that I wouldn’t use again at any price.
Testing the waxes: While you can use wax on bare wood or wood that has only a thin penetrating finish, you must apply several coats before you begin to get a modest sheen. At the other extreme, on a very high-gloss finish…