The material you choose to finish your project with is one of the primary factors in deciding your project’s aesthetics and durability, making knowing the right finish for every situation a vital woodworking skill.
To perfect such a skill, you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of all the finishes and their compatibility with different surfaces, which can be tremendously challenging, with many different finish and surface types.
While not as popular as finishes such as polyurethane or shellac, beeswax is a fantastic addition to the repertoire of any woodworker as it can easily shine in the right situation.
So, what are the disadvantages and advantages of beeswax finish?
Here is a list of the disadvantages of beeswax finishes.
- Beeswax is very hard to remove from wood.
- Beeswax isn’t as durable as a finish such as polyurethane.
- Beeswax barely offers any protection against scratches.
- Beeswax finishes require frequent maintenance and re-application.
- Heat can easily damage beeswax finishes and cause them to melt.
- Beeswax finishes repel any other type of coating.
With the disadvantages out of the way, let’s talk advantages.
- Beeswax is very easy to apply and re-apply to wood.
- Beeswax finishes can make the wood water-resistant for a while.
- Beeswax finishes are aesthetically pleasing.
- Beeswax nourishes the wood.
- Beeswax dries quickly.
- It’s possible to find non-toxic and food-safe beeswax.
- Beeswax does not have a use-by-date.
As you can see, there is plenty to consider when deciding on whether you use a beeswax finish for your next project, as the aim is to benefit from as many advantages as possible while avoiding the disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Beeswax Finish
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of the disadvantages of beeswax finishes to ensure that we cover everything there is to know about the possible impact of these disadvantages on your project.
Repels Any Other Coating
Once you use beeswax on a surface, you can’t apply another finish on it, as beeswax will repel it. If you plan on using another finish alongside beeswax, apply the other finish first and the beeswax as the last coat.
Consider using beeswax in your project carefully, as it’s no easy task to remove it from a surface either.
Hard to Remove
Beeswax is practically impossible to remove from a wood surface without entirely scraping it or sanding it off, which can be highly frustrating if you were planning on replacing it with a different finish.
While this does not sound like a big problem, it is. As a beeswax finish prevents you from applying any other finish on top, you have to remove it no matter how hard it is before applying a new finish.
Not Very Durable
Perhaps one of the crucial flaws of a beeswax finish is that it’s not durable at all, making it highly unsuitable for usage in projects that will be under heavy use.
If you are looking for durability, you are better off with finishes such as oil-based polyurethane, catalyzed lacquer, or varnish.
Does Not Offer Protection Against Wear and Scratches
As beeswax is a soft material, it barely offers protection against physical damage such as wear and scratches, which makes it especially unsuitable for outdoor furniture.
While you can “fix” the scratches by re-applying beeswax, it can get slightly tedious to do that over and over if your project is getting scratched way too often.
Can Be Easily Damaged by Heat
Another thing that can quickly ruin a beeswax finish is heat. Even small amounts of heat can cause the beeswax to melt, requiring you to repair the damage.
Tabletops are a great example of an area where you shouldn’t use a beeswax finish as they are constantly exposed to hot glasses and plates.
Requires Frequent Maintenance and Re-application
A beeswax finish requires frequent re-application as it wears off quickly, which can quickly become a chore if you were looking to use the finish for years to come without any maintenance.
While re-applying beeswax is straightforward, having to deal with it all the time can be annoying.
Advantages of Beeswax Finish
The advantages of a finish are what make a finish the correct option for a project, which is why it’s equally important to know them alongside the disadvantages.
Easy to Apply and Re-apply
One of the primary advantages of beeswax finish is that it’s pretty easy to apply and re-apply.
While it may take some effort, applying a beeswax finish to a surface is as simple as cleaning the surface, sanding it, and rubbing it evenly on the wood a piece of cotton rag.
To ensure that you’re applying the beeswax evenly, apply straight lines from one end of the wood to the other until you cover the whole surface.
While beeswax does not make the wood waterproof, it does bring some level of water resistance to the table.
After applying beeswax, your wood will have better resistance against moisture, and minor accidents such as water spills won’t cause any damage to the wood.
As you may expect, the level of water resistance granted by a beeswax finish won’t protect the wood from heavy water contact, such as rainfall.
The shine that comes with a beeswax finish is very aesthetically pleasing as it really brings out the natural look of the wood in an enhanced way.
As it’s possible to find different colors of beeswax, make sure to pick one that matches the color of your wood to avoid the color of the surface becoming darker or lighter after applying the finish.
Nourishes the Wood
You can use beeswax to fill the cracks and scratches on your wood, reverse sun damage, and turn dull surfaces into smooth ones.
While it may take a few applications for the nourishing effects of beeswax to become apparent, we can ensure you that it will be worth your time and effort.
Beeswax is one of the faster-drying finishes, with an average drying time of roughly 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the environment.
Compared to other natural finishes, such as polymerized linseed oil, which can take up to 3 days to reasonably dry, the drying time of beeswax is hardly anything.
Can Be Found In Non-Toxic and Food-Safe Form
The existence of beeswax in a non-toxic and food-safe form is another major plus, as it makes beeswax a fantastic finish for health-sensitive projects such as a cutting board.
Combined with its fast drying times, beeswax can be a great alternative to natural oils for a wide variety of projects.
Does Not Expire
While more of a side advantage, it’s worth noting that beeswax does not expire when stored properly, meaning that you can keep the unused beeswax around for later as long as you wish to.
What Does Beeswax Do to Wood?
While beeswax is not exactly known for its protective capabilities, it can restore the wood by filling the imperfections such as cracks and scratches and even reverse the effects of sun damage on the wood.
If you are looking for a natural finish that can enhance the natural look of your wood and bring the best out of it, especially if your wood looks dull and scratched, beeswax finish is a fantastic option.
Does Wax Protect Wood from Scratches?
As wax is a very soft finish, it barely offers any protection against wear and scratches.
If you need high amounts of scratch resistance for your project, we recommend considering an oil-based polyurethane or a catalyzed lacquer instead of wax.
Does Wax Make Wood Waterproof?
While wax does not make wood completely waterproof, it does add water-resistance capabilities to the wood for a while.
A piece of wood you have finished with wax will be more resistant to moisture, with the wax preventing small water spills from causing damage to the wood.
On the other hand, a wax finish won’t be helpful to protect the wood from heavy contact with water, such as rainfall.
Can You Use Beeswax on Varnished Wood?
You can safely use beeswax on varnished wood to bring the beautiful shine that comes with it to your project, as long as you ensure that the varnish has completely cured.
Varnished wood isn’t the only thing you can use beeswax on, as it’s also entirely safe to apply beeswax over finishes such as stains, paints, oils, polyurethane, shellac, lacquer, and anything else that comes to your mind.
While beeswax is a fantastic finish for some projects, such as a cutting board, as it can be entirely food-safe and non-toxic, it’s also a poor one for a project such as a piece of outdoor furniture due to its weakness against heat and scratches.
Leveraging the advantages of a finish while avoiding the effects of its disadvantages is one of the most vital skills in woodworking, and correctly applying this skill will always affect your project positively.