None of your beeswax (homemade wood polish)
Most of us have thought or said it before: “what did I do before the internet?” Instructions for how to make your own homemade beeswax wood polish were more than just a Google search and click away in 1987, so I’m glad I didn’t need to know about it then. I was more concerned with silly things like boys and Whitesnake and big hair in 1987.
But now I’m concerned about how I want to finish my woodburned art goodness, so search I did, and I found good information that I will now share with you. Because science. And technology.
Homemade Beeswax Wood Polish
- 1 cup of oil (jojoba, olive, coconut)
- beeswax (details on amount below)
- essential oil (optional)
Fill a measuring cup with 1 cup of oil. I used jojoba oil. Add beeswax until the oil rises to the 1 1/4 cup line. The beeswax needs to be either in pellets or grated/shaved/chopped/beaten into small pieces to facilitate melting. Oh, facilitate! Fancy.
You can heat the oil and beeswax in a microwave or double broiler. Being One Who Lacks in Domestic Skills, I’m not totally sure what a double broiler is but assume it’s something that there’s two of that is used for heating things. People always seem so skeptical of heating things in a microwave, and I don’t know why unless they have had some bad experience or are totally lacking in common sense. I put my measuring cup with oil and beeswax in it in the microwave and heated at 45 second intervals until the beeswax pellets were completely melted. I think it took about four 45-second whirls in my microwave before the beeswax melted. Just keep an eye on it and don’t let it boil. If it does, you could end up being one of those people who has had a bad experience with microwaving.
I noticed during this process something that I hadn’t realized before: my microwave plate thingy changes rotation each time it stops and is restarted. This is unimportant, but I suppose it’s good to know that my microwave is quite thorough in its intent to heat evenly via clockwise and counterclockwise movements.
I really have had too much coffee today. 😉
If you want to add essential oil, do it after you remove the measuring cup with melted oil/beeswax. Use an oven mitt when you remove the measuring cup from the microwave: the handle is probably hot, and you want to keep cursing to a minimum as this is a family-friendly activity. Luckily, no one heard me when I grabbed the hot handle of my measuring cup.
I don’t know which essential oils are “safe” for use on wood, but I figured that lemon would be okay since it’s a popular flavor of furniture polish. I also decided that tea tree oil would be safe to use, since it has “tree” in the name, and wood comes from trees. If you are skeptical of my reasoning on this type of thing, you could try searching online or ask a hippie friend.
So, with my beeswax melted in jojoba oil, I added several drops of lemon essential oil and stirred. I actually added more than several drops – I lost count. 20 might be a good estimation. Someone much more knowledgeable about this stuff is going to blast me for excessive essential oil use, I just know it.
Pour from the measuring cup into a container that will eventually be sealed air-tight, preferably one with a mouth large enough that you can get a spoon into. I used mason jars, because I’m from Texas, and we always have those around (and because I didn’t have anything cuter). Note that the mixture may still be hot, depending on your microwaving prowess, so putting the receiving container on a hotplate is not a bad idea.
Now just wait a bit, and you’ll notice that when the mixture cools, it starts to thicken around the edges, top and bottom. Stir, being sure to scrape the sides and what-not to keep it creamy.
Over the next hour or so, stir a couple of times. I want to say that the consistency is like pudding, but it’s probably thicker than that. Custard maybe? I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten custard, so I can’t be too sure.
How long will it last? I have read online (so you know it’s true) that jojoba oil-based polish has a shelf life of two years, and olive oil-based polish has a shelf life of one year…double that if you store it in the fridge. It should be stored out of direct sunlight and in an airtight container.
If you are still reading, let me just say that in the amount of time it’s taken you to get through my silliness, you could have probably already made your first batch of this stuff. It really seemed like it took no time at all. It was easy and fun to make!
In fact, I was a little disappointed at how quickly the first batch went, so I made a second batch with what I could find in the pantry. (My planned, first concoction was jojoba oil, beeswax and lemon essential oil. The spontaneous second mix was olive oil, beeswax and tea tree oil. Note: I like the smell of tea tree oil, but you may not.)
Of course the most fun was actually trying the polish on wood, which I did immediately upon deciding that I had waited long enough, dangit! I used my fingers to rub it on and then wiped off the excess with a cloth. Actually I used a paper towel, which is probably not good, but I was all out of soft cloths (needed to do laundry – see disclaimer above about lack of domestication).
I apologize that besides soft cloths, I was also unable to procure a hand model for my photographs, so now you’re painfully aware of my nail-biting habit.
I should note that a couple of the pieces I polished had wood stain on them, and a very slight amount of the stain came off on the paper towel when I “buffed”. This was of little concern to me, as I like to think this sort of thing adds character, but if you are going to get all upset, you should probably go another route and just forget about this tree-huggin’ DIY stuff.
You’ll notice a difference in color between the two jars – the jojoba oil-based polish is more yellow, while the olive oil-based polish has a green tint. I tested each on a small piece of wood and could not distinguish between the two.
One of my pieces (the anatomical heart below) is on really light basswood, and I was concerned that the polish would change the color of the wood. Rightly so! Luckily, I tested first, and I decided to use the polish only on the outline and interior of the heart (and not the background)…which made it a slightly darker shade than the wood, as shown in the photo below.
I really liked the way these pieces looked after adding the polish – especially “Roots“, which is the most colorful and pyrographically busy of them. I had worried that varnishing or spraying this piece would make it too shiny and detract from the aesthetic, so I was pleased to confirm that this homemade polish was a good solution.
The waxy polish gives the wood a more natural sheen than a glossy varnish or spray. As a bonus, there were no harmful fumes to inhale, the materials used are natural (as far as I know), and the whole hands-on process felt as organic as the creation of the art itself.
Plus, I got a lengthy blog post out of it!
2014 totally owns 1987. Sorry, David Coverdale.
Note: I used information from several sites/blogs to determine how to make my own polish, but this recipe is the one I matched most closely (except that I added essential oil.) The author very kindly shares thorough details, including some sources for ingredients and comments on possible allergens (which aren’t a big concern for me since I’m polishing things that will hang on the wall, but if you’re using your polish on furniture or anything that a kid could get in his or her mouth…)