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Orphaned Oak

Beeswax and olive oil polish

I like to use a polish that would have been used in the 15th Century, and I found a medieval recipe for wood polish, using only beeswax and olive oil.   

I use this exclusively on the things I make, for a number of reasons.   Primarily, it is because some of my items are used by medieval reenactors, who like to keep things as authentic as they can.   I do particularly like the deep golden sheen it imparts to the oak I use, which deepens with age into a lovely warm, mellow richness.  It seems to bring out the best in the grain patterns and the figuring, enhancing the beauty of the wood.

Another of the advantages of this polish, is ease of maintenance.   For normal use, an occasional rub over with a similar polish is all that is needed to keep it in good condition and looking its best.  Should you get any marks on it, from liquid or heat damage for example, you can usually remedy or at least reduce the effects of the damage by rubbing the affected area lightly with fine sandpaper or wire wool, cleaning with spirit, and re-applying a new coat of wax.   

Here's how I make it

It is not rocket science.  Or even Trebuchet science.

All you need is a double saucepan, some beeswax and olive oil.  And a heat source (stove).  I use a wonderful vintage "Beatrice" paraffin double burner cooker, but you could even make it on a kitchen hob if you wanted.  It might be a bit risky using a gas ring, as any drips might catch fire.   The flames in my stove are well contained and I have not had any incidents.  I do also tend to do it outside, or in the workshop near an open door (see below).


OK so I've filled the stove with paraffin, and got everything ready. Note a selection of small tins to pour the melted polish into.  As an aside, you can see in the background here quite a collection of nice pieces of oak salvaged from orphans, ready to be made into new items of furniture.


With water in the bottom saucepan, put it on to boil.  Add the beeswax and olive oil to the upper pan.  You may need to experiment with proportions, but I use about 3:1 oil to wax.  I think.   I did weigh it out a long time ago, but I now use an old shoe-polish tin that I found, and I've discovered that three shoe-polish tins of oil to one 2oz stick of beeswax, works just fine.


Here you can see the oil and wax bars heating up and mixing together.

Don't let the water boil too fiercely - once it is boiling, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.

Note:  be patient!  You can't hurry this part.  It will melt in time.


Once the wax has all melted,give it a good stir to make sure it is mixed well with the oil.

WARNING!  This is Hot!    Yes, I know... it's been on a hot stove, so of course it's hot, but hot wax and oil can give you a nasty burn.  So be careful.


With water in the bottom saucepan, put it on to boil.  Add the beeswax and olive oil to the upper pan.


Pour into the tins, and leave in a cool place to set.  Once set, you can replace the tin lids.

Store in a cool dry place until needed.

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