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Graphite/Beeswax Punching Lube

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Randy Stoltz used a ratio was 6 grams graphite to 2 cups of melted paraffin.

The beeswax graphite was an old time lubricant for leaf springs.  The mix reduce the squeaks and improve their performance of the springs. 

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The wax is just the carrier for the lubricant. The graphite does the lubricating job but you need something to hold it onto a wet and possibly warm punch.

The proportion of graphite to carrier is largely irrelevant. You want as much graphite as possible...the carrier just melts, burns or evaporates away.

I used Renaissance wax as the carrier for many years, and it works fine...nice smell as it burns away. Last few years I have been using Molyslip brand MWF (metalworking fluid) as the carrier.

MWF is a high temperature high pressure lubricant in its own right, but I haven't noticed that it is any more effective than the wax. It doesn't smell as good! It's big advantage though is that in the pot beside the press it does not dry out like the white spirit from the Renaissance wax, you have to keep thinning the wax/graphite pot down every month or so. The MWF/graphite pot just stays gloopy almost indefinitely.

I have tried just using water with the graphite but it was not anything like as good for my punch and drift tools in the press.

Basically anything that will hold some graphite onto the punch/drift surface will do, but be aware you are going to be breathing the fumes of whatever the carrier as it fries.

Alan Knight, the smith I trained with, always used to sprinkle some coal dust in the hole which he reckoned helped the punch release. I found that the easy release was much more to do with the profile of punch and technique. The coal dust was not effective for me.

I have done some empirical experimenting with lubricants and can confirm that graphite lubrication requires about half the tonnage to punch and drift when compared with no lubricant. Nothing clever, I just watch the pressure gauge on the press.

The difference can mean a successful hole or getting the punch stuck...or running out of oomph on a larger hole....


Ps just reread your OP. I use flake graphite. Bought in bulk from a graphite dealer. Rocol sell flake graphite in (expensive) kilo size tubs as industrial lubricant they call it Foliac. I use the same flake graphite mixed with paint for the burnished paint finish, so it is fine enough to go through the spray gun nozzle, but it is not the fine powder that locksmiths use.

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  • 1 year later...

Beeswax sounds way less toxic than Molyslip brand MWF (metalworking fluid).

Exposure to organic solvent vapours may result in adverse health effects on the renal and central nervous
systems. Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, fatigue, muscular weakness, drowsiness and in 
extreme cases, loss of consciousness. Repeated or prolonged contact with the product may lead to the 
removal of natural fats from the skin resulting in non-allergic contact dermatitis and absorption through the 
skin. Splashes in the eyes may cause irritation and reversible local damage.
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Welcome aboard svBlue, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many of the IFI gang live within visiting distance.

Where do you get your information regarding low yield hydrocarbon solvent exposure, what's your expertise? 

Have you read the MSDS regarding beeswax smoke? 

Toxicity is a matter of dosage NOT kind. The amount of white spirit a person is exposed to lubing a punch is on a par with shining your Dad's shoes with old school shoe polish.  Being able to smell the shoe polish while you shine up your shoes exposes you to more white spirit vapor than the wisp generated by an appropriately lubed punch, chisel, drift, etc. 

I was surprised to find out beeswax smoke sounded more dangerous, still it's a matter of dosage. Don't take nose hits off the smoke and if you feel any effect stop and move to fresh air. Your punch, drift, slitter, etc. shouldn't be dripping with lube, just a light coat is plenty.

If you don't want to mix your own buy a graphite crayon at the art store, they also carry small quantities of graphite powder and in cool colors if you want a little wow :o factor. Just JOKING! Stick with black there's no telling what the mineral used for pigment might do when HOT and we don't want to breath more junk than we already do. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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  • 1 month later...

Frosty hi. Sorry for delay responding. Info I provided was found online. Good point that I hadn't check out relative toxicity of beeswax smoke. I often fall into the natural is safe trap. Yes to minimizing dosage... I have a breathecool alternate air supply system for the worst exposures but should probably use it more.

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No sweat, we're not punching time clocks here. It was a good post, I hadn't thought of looking up the MSDS for beeswax till then. Made me ask myself, "Self smoke's smoke, don't breath it right? So I went looking. Generating a good question is as good as asking one. 

spectators at demos LOVE the smell of turps when I finish a piece. I just don't inhale till I step clear and the piece smells like turps for a while afterwards. I used to call it blacksmith's cologne, not to be confused with blacksmith's incense, for the crowd. (don't make me tell anybody here it's coal smoke, I'll have to make fun of you or something) 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I have used powderd plumbago graphite in water which coats and cools punches (the graphite floats on the top of the water.). the farrier punch lube has citronella candles as a carrier. I now use a low smoke press tooling lube which is good. it all works well and better than coke dust.

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  • 2 years later...
On 9/1/2018 at 8:43 PM, Frosty said:

(don't make me tell anybody here it's coal smoke, I'll have to make fun of you or something) 

Frosty The Lucky.

Well, now I don't have to ask.   From the section on perfect forge welding I figured it was some mystical mix of sage,  beeswax,  graphite,  and cat hair. 

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Mr. Chad J,

I strongly suggest that you omit the addition of cat hair in your "mystical mix".

Burning sk9in cells and/or hair produces a foul odor smoke. (yeh it stinks, big time).

Why? Because the major constituent of both of the above is made of keratin.

Keratin. of higher  animals,  is composed of alpha-protein strands. And those strands have sulfur amino acid* cross links. (disulfides), for strength.

Sulfur compounds smell when heated or broken down.

Just sayyin,


* the majority sulfurous amino acids are cysteine units.

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Just because you've never had to load a rotting moose into a dump truck with a loader. The office was getting calls about maggots leaking out of the dump truck on the way to the dump. I don't know how they could've seen the maggots, nobody was following me closer than a good 1/4 mile. They wouldn't take it at the dump either so we had to take it back to our yard and using the loader put it in the dumpster and of course THEY took it to the dump. 

I spent a good hour with the fire hose rinsing the truck bed and nobody wanted to drive it for close to a year.   

Frosty The Lucky.

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