Today I applied the finish to my latest Welsh stick chair and opted for a blend of linseed oil and beeswax made by Swede Paint Enterprises. During the last year it has become one of my favorite finishes for traditional pieces.
I had considered using a soap finish for the chair but opted for the linseed oil and wax blend because it will darken with exposure to light and oxygen. A soap finish would have preserved the light color – almost ghostliness – of the sycamore.
Note: Before you read another word, know that Swede Paint distributes our books in Canada. We got involved with them because of their fantastic finishing products and business philosophy. We do not benefit in any way from sales of their finishing products. But we do love their products.
The linseed oil and beeswax mix is a joy to use. It has the consistency of something between mayonnaise and peanut butter, but is surprisingly not sticky. It absorbs readily into bare wood and forms a matte and smooth surface that is superior to linseed oil alone.
Like all finishes that involve linseed oil and wax, it is not a permanent or highly protective finish. You will need to apply more finish in a few years. But it is easily maintained and repaired. I prefer this quality (repair-ability) over film finishes such as varnish or urethane that can be difficult to repair.
Two thin coats of finish produced a beautiful and touchable luster. It is an excellent finish for beginners who are inexperienced with finishing. Even though I’ve used everything from high-performance film finishes, shellac, pine tar, asphaltum, pre-cat lacquer, to you name it, this finish suits me. It’s simple, natural and easily renewed. Check it out.
— Christopher Schwarz
29 thoughts on “Linseed Oil & Wax – Another Fine Finish”
Interesting finish, have you ever made your own, like the soft wax your daughter sells?
This article suggests 3:1 oil to wax:
A US source for 4:1 mix:
(she also sells a mineral oil & wax mix)
Discussion on beekeepers site:
Discussion on blacksmith site:
A recipe here suggests adding a bit of carnuba for a harder finish:
(there are many other interesting recipes here)
Isn’t this what Sam Maloof used for his finish–a couple coats of linseed and tung oil mixed with beeswax? Of course he put this on top of several coats of another mixture: equal parts linseed oil, tung oil and urethane varnish.
Personally I don’t like the matt look, a soft lustre is more my thing. I have used a natural oil made in germany called Kunos natural oil sealer clear. It’s 100% natural they claim even a baby can put a coated timber of this stuff in it’s mouth. Another method I also prefer is Tung oil with a hint of shellac over it, no need to apply a wax it would just ruin the look.
Dang it sir. You do really good work. Both on the keyboard and with tools. That chair and the table it’s sitting on are both very inspiring.
Have you ever used the stain shown on the same linked page?
Another great linseed oil/pigment finish is made by Alback Linseed Oil Paint. This is linseed oil paint with natural earth pigments. The paint comes in an array of earth tones. It is made in Sweden from a recipe that is more than 200 years old and thus is truly a traditional finish. The composition is very close to what Peter Follansbee describes in his book. The paint is available from a US distributor (Viking Sales, Inc., 1-585-924-8070). Check out the color chart at http://www.solventfreepaint.com/linseed_paint.htm. The paint has no VOCs, and is all pigment. The coverage is phenomenal. Apply the paint as thin as possible (I warm the paint up in a pan of hot water to thin it out). The paint goes on very opaque. Haardly a second coat is needed, with no intermediate sanding. The finish is satin. The drying time is temperature dependent and is better with thinner coats. You can purchase a vial of siccative (part number 50484) which is a natural drying agent to speed the drying time (I believe this is a divalent cation salt, probably magnesium sulfate). The paint is expensive but you can purchase a 7 oz sample of any of the paints for $18.95. This is enough to paint about 5 of the tool boxes that Roy and I do a class on, with multiple coats.
Thanks for the tip, Bill! Looks like something fun to experiment with.
This is a wonderful post…and I encourage anyone that hasn’t really tried in earnest to use Flax Oil and Beeswax finish, to really give them a shot…Simple, straightforward and comparatively durable.
Traditional paints and finishes was one of my mothers primary focuses. What I learned over the years is that it is a never ending and vast subject from temperas and casein to oils, shellacs and pigment collection/selection, and far beyond. That is just a tip of a very huge subject in traditional finishing arts.
Since it seems to be permissible to share sources, I would also offer Dwayne Siever (owner) of the Real Milk Paint Company and Autumn Peterson (owner) of Heritages Finises as excellent resources that love to share information on this topic. I fully disclosure that I have loved their materials to make my many finishes for decades. I still prefer mixing my own, or speaking directly to the Artisan like Autumn or Dwayne that blends the finish, if I don’t have time to do so…be it pigment, oil-wax, or other. Most often it is a Tung Oil, Flax Oil, Beeswax, Pine Rosin, and Citrus Oil blend that I use, with a final coat of mainly the same materials but very heavy on the Beeswax that is a paste similar to what we see in this post. They can provided specified blends or the raw materials.
Beautiful Chair and great post!
Thanks for this report. I use linseed oil on ironwork and my wife uses it on her mountain dulcimers. I’ll try this wax when I get a chance.
Looks nice. Those legs look a little skinny up top considering there’s no stretchers. Best put a weight rating on it. 🙂
The tenon size is the same as on all my chairs: 1-1/16″ diameter. So it will hold just like the others.
The chair is self-limiting in that the seat is smaller than a modern chair. So very large people won’t be able to get between the arms.
Good call. I have more than one family member that’s 250+ so it’s a real watch out.
I hear you. I think the legs could take 250. But the arms won’t let you in…. (or won’t let you out – how embarrassing).
I may build one like that as a social experiment. I’ve never seen someone stuck in a chair before.
If it’s not you, it’s fairly amusing.
I have made my own furniture wax for 45 years , along with reviver oils . I started work beside an old french polisher in 1970 and he taught me the skills he’d learned as an apprentice in England in the 1920s. We both worked for Melbourne’s premier antique dealers . I spent three years in the workshop before being let loose on the showroom floor to learn the art of dealing , the buying , the conservation or restoration , the selling , the rapport with wealthy clients, always grounded by my workshop years .He , then myself , always added a little carnuba to the finishing wax polish . Just seems a little harder and gave a better shine . Depends a bit on the look you are after . I also make a much harder wax with carnuba I use for stopping holes .Old Jim always applied this by melting with a match , dripping it in and rubbing with a little hard wooden stick like a thick icypole stick, slightly flattened at one end to rub in the wax and smooth off afterward . He called it a quirk stick and I do still but haven’t really heard anyone use that term .Love this blog .Paul Huckett, Victoria , Australia .
What would you characterize your style to be? Your furniture always has the familiar distinct look? I think it is unique to you – what do you call it?
Thanks. I tried to come up with a funny answer. (I call it “Fred.”) But that didn’t work.
My aesthetic is about elevating vernacular pieces – the furniture of the 99 percent. If you strip away the grime, abuse and years of wear, many vernacular pieces have strikingly modern forms.
I don’t have a good name for it, but perhaps I should work on that.
About your legs and spindles….did you turn them, use dowels, or shave them? Did you use kiln dried lumber?
Actually I’m asking about the chair’s legs and spindles…
All the wood is kiln-dried on this particular chair. The legs were turned on a lathe and the conical tenons were made with a Lee Valley tenon cutter.
The spindles began as 5/8″ hickory dowels that were then tenoned with a tenon cutter and shaped a wee bit on the lathe.
Thanks for responding. Beautifully done. I want to try making some Welsh stick chairs.
Don Weber’s video on the chair is a good place to start. This chair is even simpler: No saddling, no steam bending, no undercarriage.
You do great justice to this stick furniture. It could come out looking not only plain but boring. Your examples come out looking natural and elegant.
Thanks Jack! It is one of my great design passions.
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