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Wax finishes for forged metal.

You can use bees wax uncut if you warm the metal either in the fire or with a propane torch and rub the block on. You can get it on almost clear for armour bright steel if you keep the temperature low; you can get a black wax finish if you get the metal hot enough to make the beeswax smoke.

The disadvantage of beeswax is that it has a low melting point and remains sticky even at room temperature and then attracts dust. It can also contain organic compounds that break down and form acidic corrosion

If you want the best performing wax finish it would be Renaissance Wax. Unfortunately it is fossil fuel derived but as it is extremely thinly applied does have economies of quantity! You can buy it ready made from a company called Picreator (very very expensive) or make it up yourself (very very cheap). The one I make is a blend of Microcrystalline and polythene “A” wax melted together and poured into White Spirit, about 10 or 15 times as much White Spirit as wax off the top of my head. I make it so thin that you can put it on with a paint brush and then buff when dry. It is much harder and has a higher melting point than beeswax (85ºC versus 60ºC) so you don’t get the stickiness or dust sticking to it. It still has a bit of creep to repair abraded areas, though not as much creep as beeswax.

I use it on everything from copper, brass, stainless steel to leather, furniture and wooden and tiled floors. It works great on the aluminium shower curtain pole as a lubricant...positively glides along!

Having said all that any wax will do as an interior metal finish. Furniture polish or car wax for instance. We have a very elegant mirror made by my friend Peter Parkinson who used shoe polish. That one was black but you can use green or blue to give some really subtle patinas on forged metal. I used red shoe polish on a forged copper sculpture recently. It was Peter who gave me the Renaissance recipe and told me about the museum supplies place where I bought my initial wax supplies.

The recipe for our Renaissance wax is four parts Microcrystalline to one part Polythene “A” wax. The “A” wax has a higher melting point (+/-100ºC) so that should be melted first and then the microcrystalline (MP86ºC) added to it bit by bit. I melt it in an old pressure cooker on top of a Rayburn hot plate. When all melted and mixed it is poured into white spirit (taking precautions against fire risk, I do this outdoors) stirring vigorously until mixed to a smooth paste. I decant it into screw top glass jars.

I use between 10 to 15 litres of white spirit per 1kg batch of combined wax. 2 or 3 gallons per 2lbs.

I bought my lifetimes supply of wax (25kg of microcrystalline) @ £3.56 per kilo plus carriage and tax back in 1995 from Poth Hille. They have moved but are still in business with a good website and product information. I bought their Microcrystalline wax type 3749 in slab form and the “A” wax as powder. They had a fairly high minimum order so I asked how much wax I could have for the minimum invoice!

Alan

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that is very useful alan -  i love beeswax as a general product, but not really when its sticky and dusty ...  :( yuk... i like your other domestic applications for your witch doctor brew - very inspirational! i have used shoe polish for lots of things myself, although not VERY often shoes, and not on metal either -  i am intrigued as to what a coloured one would look like as a finish... 

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Thank you Beth.

 

For some reason I cannot go back and edit the initial post, I managed to lose a sentence or two off the second paragraph which listed the advantages of beeswax...

 

An advantage of beeswax is that it is a sustainable product, provided that the bees survive and hopefully now they have stopped spraying neo-nicotinoids over here they will come back. Another advantage is that it has a really nice smell when you melt it on.

 

To put its protective abilities in perspective, it has a pretty good track record. A lot of Mediaeval church ironwork, door furniture and etc. has survived because of it. They use it at the Tower of London on the suits of armour, they warm them up in a big oven...

 

In use it is very efficient, I had a large frying pan (skillet?) which caught all the drips as I rubbed the block over the hot metal, every now and then I would heat up the pan and pour the wax into a block mould and start again.

 

Alan

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yes - an amazing renewable product, and its potential future demise is YET another reason for people to wake up to the bee issues... im sure it is absolutely as good as any man made replica product at protecting the metal, i guess the thing also with the med churches etc is that the room temperature is/was naturally quite low, big stone rooms no heating draughty doors and windows etc - all the reasons we love those places, and it would not in the least have been a problem. it cannot be beaten for smell, ease of use and magical origin :) there is nothing whatsoever bad to say about bees, except the ginormously awful prospect of them disappearing........

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The bees in my house can away any day, Africanized bees are the pits, nasty tempered brutes, stung a rock climber and his dog to death near Tucson, AZ this past month. But yes, bees are certainly more beneficial than an oil refinery, never heard of an oil refinery pollinating and apple orchard now have you? I guess that I have just been cheap, bees wax is expensive and I don't take the time to mix up home brew so I just buy Johnson's Paste Wax. I've used it for years on my bronze castings and it seems to hold up well on them, yeah,I know not quite the standards of the British Museum who I'm told is the inventor of Renaissance Wax to preserve their collections. Next time I need to coat something really large I'll give your formula a try, sounds good.

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Hello!

I have a question on this (4 years old) topic about the materials we need to make rennaisance wax. What you call "Microcrystalline"  is Microcrystalline cellulose ? And polythene "A" wax? Do you have some links for the actual materials so that i can find them here in Greece? The terminology in different languages is a pain... 

ps: the same question is also made by others as i found out reading the forum but i did not manage to find answers, sorry if i ask something that is already answered

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On 8/23/2017 at 3:23 AM, kuzuzu said:

we need to make rennaisance wax. What you call "Microcrystalline"  is Microcrystalline cellulose ? And polythene "A" wax? Do you have some links for the actual materials so that i can find them here in Greece? The terminology in different languages is a pain...

Just clarifying some chemistry.  Ethylene is a pretty simple molecule which can chain together and give you all sorts of goodies.  It's generally 2 carbons molecules and 4 hydrogen but the basic building block is a carbon and 2 hydrogen.

Put 3 of those building blocks together and you get propane.  Put 4 together and you get butane.  Put about 31 together and you get...paraffin wax.  But it gets better.  Put about 300,000 together in a jumble and you get low density polyethylene (milk jugs).  Do the same in an organized fashion and you get high density polyethylene (the caps on soda and milk jugs).  Put about 4 million together and you get UHMW polyethylene, a super tough plastic used for all sorts of things including "warm" ice rinks and liners for artificial joints.  Darned useful stuff all from one simple molecule.

Note that in some areas of the world they call Kerosene (US nomenclature) "paraffin" and that's not the same--so there is a nomenclature difference that can get in the way sometimes. Also, Polythene and polyethylene are different nomenclatures between the US and other areas that can cause some web-search issues.

So basically, microcrystalline polyethylene [polythene] wax is just a bit of a jumble of the molecule of paraffin wax which encourages very small crystal structures.  

You can actually make oil/wax blends to play with pretty easily.  Grate wax (bee's or paraffin) and melt in a microwave carefully--then drizzle in a little of your oil of choice while vigorously stirring.  By varying the amount of oil, you can vary the final thickness of the product from soft "stick" to lotion.  Bee's wax and a good olive oil make great lip balm when you get the mix the right consistency (add a drop of mint or camphor if you like).  Paraffin and a drying oil like boiled linseed can make a great metal coating akin to some of the expensive stuff you buy in the store.

Whip air into the thinner versions with a stick blender and you get  a lotion that would be easy to apply to complex areas and wipe excess off (or use bee's and olive/avocado/cocoanut oil plus a little bit of essential oil scent and amaze your wife with a gift of a far better hand lotion than one can generally buy at the store.)

Anyway---just tossing out there that one can experiment to make their own favorite metal-protecting witches-brew pretty easily.  Winter is coming in the Northern Hemisphere so it might make a good rainy day experiment.

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Thanks a bunch Kozzy for your clarifying some chemistry! I've copied your post to my personal notes to give a try to. My flowers and plant stuff, inside decorations get a good coat of future floor finish that seems to last a long time. Again- Thank you. 

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while mixing a batch of Microcrystalline and Poly A Wax , I am running into a challenge. I melted the waxes together in a microwave and when thoroughly melted added thinner at the correct proportion. The challenge is that when adding the room temperature thinner, the wax immediately started to cool and not mix evenly with the thinner.  I am hesitant to reheat the thinned solution , or preheat the thinner, because of the increased volatility and flammability of the thinner. Any suggestions?

another note, while mixing it as it cooled it did smooth out but I cannot tell how well it is mixed because both waxes are white. What the significance of an improper mix is I cannot say. My understanding is that the Poly A adds hardness to the wax finish. I have not tried just the Microcrystalline by itself. It still might be a big improvement over the stickiness of beeswax.

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That is how I am doing it but took it off the heat when I added the thinner,  this is really my question. Is it too dangerous to have the volatile thinner/wax mix heating on the stovetop in the double boiler. Is there a safer/better way to do this?

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How are you simultaneously melting the wax in a double boiler and in the microwave? Is this a porcelain double boiler or something?

If this were me, I would put the waxes in the double boiler on the stove, melt them together, give them a stir, remove from heat and immediately (while the boiling water in the lower pot of the double boiler is keeping the whole thing warm) stir in the thinner. 

The last time I made up a batch of wax finish (linseed oil, beeswax, and turpentine), I put the tin I use to store the stuff into a pan of boiling water, melted the wax, removed the pan from the heat, and stirred into the pre-mixed liquids. Worked great.

In general, this is one time where an electric stove is better than gas, as you don't have as much concern about open flames.

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On 30/01/2018 at 2:44 AM, Steven Bronstein said:

while mixing a batch of Microcrystalline and Poly A Wax , I am running into a challenge. I melted the waxes together in a microwave and when thoroughly melted added thinner at the correct proportion. The challenge is that when adding the room temperature thinner, the wax immediately started to cool and not mix evenly with the thinner.  I am hesitant to reheat the thinned solution , or preheat the thinner, because of the increased volatility and flammability of the thinner. Any suggestions?

another note, while mixing it as it cooled it did smooth out but I cannot tell how well it is mixed because both waxes are white. What the significance of an improper mix is I cannot say. My understanding is that the Poly A adds hardness to the wax finish. I have not tried just the Microcrystalline by itself. It still might be a big improvement over the stickiness of beeswax.

Is there any particular reason why you are not following the recipe I posted at the start of the thread?

Twice in the OP I wrote that you melt the wax then pour it into the White Spirit. 

You describe trying to add the thinners to the molten wax...For reasons of safety using a similar logic to always adding acid to water...I aways add the hot wax to the volatile White Spirit in order to ensure that a small amount of of the White Spirit is not heated immediately to the temperature of the wax....a small amount of hot wax is added to the cooler body of White Spirit thus the volatile thinner is warmed very gradually and kept well below its flash point.

I have always poured and mixed on my own but with an assistant you could easily use a paint stirrer in an electric drill to blend smoothly.

Once the initial blending is done it is perfectly possible to thin the wax further with more White Spirit at room temperature with no further heating required. I have often found the wax is too thick when it is cooled so have diluted it down with more White Spirit. A paint stirrer would help that as well.

Alan

On 01/02/2018 at 2:03 PM, Daninghram said:

Steve,

Did you buy the wax locally? I live in NH and was wondering where you got it?

Just research for wax manufacturers or suppliers. Contact the company I mentioned in the original post Poth Hille. They are in London but may well either ship to your country or have agents or colleagues there. Alternatively do a search for Museum/conservation supply businesses...

Alan

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A "crock pot" type slow cooker is another safe enough alternative to melt your wax. You have to keep the wax molten on the side while you're mixing it INTO the thinner, "White Spirits". The idea is to DISSOLVE  the wax to soften it to a paste wax consistency. It's how they make shoe polish though we're not adding pigments.

There is a recipe and method in, "The Art of Blacksmithing," by Alex Bealer. The only significant difference being his preference for bee's wax and the addition of soot to make a black finish. I'm pretty sure he mentions bees wax because it's "traditional." The recipe and method in "The Complete Modern Blacksmith," by Alexander Weygers, isn't different in any significant way including bees wax. I'm pretty sure it's universally available and he was a world traveler so that's what he used.

Early on I made a batch using paraffin  wax and it's stood up well outside. I don't recommend it but it's working well on non ware pieces.

Frosty The Lucky.

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