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Posts Tagged ‘beeswax’

The cupboard I bought at Mt Buffalo last month is now restored. It took quite a bit of effort for a piece of furniture that is – honestly – not the most brilliant example of cabinetmaking.


It’s hard to imagine what this cupboard would have looked like when it was originally built. There are tell-tale signs that it wasn’t ever intended to be a fine woodworking piece. The cabinet top has a narrow strip of joined wood running across the back edge, as though someone ran out of the right timber, and the whole top has been nailed straight onto the carcass. There are odd gaps and bad joins around the base of the cabinet and the interior varnish has been applied sloppily.

At some stage at least one of the shelves must have been refitted. And the door looks like it got opened back too far one day and it split – it was repaired with glue and nails. Still, the cupboard is part of the Mt Buffalo Chalet story and that makes me happy.

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About 20 years ago I did an 8-part French polishing course. The instructor was a real craftsman, and he covered more ground than just ‘Applying Shellac for Dummies’. Most of the techniques I use for stripping and finishing furniture are ones I learned from him. This is what he taught me about applying beeswax. 


Beeswax gives a more sympathetic, though slightly duller finish than French polishing – and it makes the surface a bit more waterproof.

beeswax, turps, steelwool and old towellingIt’s best to make up your own beeswax to ensure its purity. Avoid any commercial products that aren’t pure (for example, ones that have paraffin added to them).

What you need:

  • a lump of beeswax
  • pure turpentine (or mineral turps will do)
  • a container to put the wax in
  • fine steelwool (000 grade)
  • old cotton towelling (not flat-weave cloth) cut up into rags

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It’s been a nice change working on a piece of furniture that didn’t need pulling apart and rebuilding. The bench seat I bought in Inverloch just needed sanding, oiling and waxing. Although, really, a lot of sanding, followed by a sore neck and sore shoulders.

The seat was superficially weathered but it was really sturdy. It had come from a deceased estate down Inverloch way and, given that there were a number of homemade pieces among the contents, the owner must have been into making furniture out of second-hand timbers.

The timber’s definitely blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) – the colour and the grain are wonderful. (Here’s some info on blackwood on the Victorian Department of Primary Industries website.)

bench seat in its original state

Then …

bench seat after restoring

… and now


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