One of the themes in “The Anarchist’s Design Book” is about how I have turned my back on modern finishes that – even with precautions – are harmful to your health. During the last four years I’ve moved almost exclusively to using shellac, wax, milk paint and soap.
I’m no evangelist; if you like precat lacquer and other similar finishes stick with them (for as long as they are legal). I’m simply trying to say: There are alternatives to these finishes that work very well in an amateur or professional shop.
One of the recipes I didn’t have room for in the book was “soft wax,” a concoction I got via Derek Jones that originated with Yannick Chastain. I’ve made several batches of this stuff and love it for interiors, especially drawers and cabinets.
It smells fantastic – much more exotic that you would think with these basic ingredients. You can read Derek’s entire method here.
Here’s the recipe converted to Standard American.
Take 7 ounces of shredded beeswax and melt it in a double boiler (a glue pot will work fine). When the wax has melted, take it off heat. Stir in 3.5 ounces of mineral spirits and add 10.5 ounces of turpentine (the real stuff, not the fake).
When the mixture cools it will become a substance that is about the consistency of peanut butter. I keep it in glass jars in the shop.
Apply the wax with a soft, lint-free cloth. Let it absorb for about 15 minutes. Then buff it with a second clean cloth.
Oh, and if you need really good beeswax, see this entry in my gift guide.
— Christopher Schwarz