Web Design, Murals, Fine Art, Faux Finishing

Waxing Faux Finishes

Hand made furniture
Waxing furniture and faux finishes

I get a number of questions via email and from time to time I get those that I think that have more importance than others and deserve a post under the category

Ask An Artist

Waxing Furniture and Faux Finishing

“Dear Art, I am trying to write and ask if you could possibly answer a question? Uhg! I just typed an entire page about waxing a table and it just poofed away!! Well here goes it again, I saw your article a while back about the Lost Art of Furniture(I think that was what it was) I also was going to check and see if it was still available, I thought it was fantastic, and wanted to send it to my father.”

“I am fighting a table trying to wax it! It is painted black setcoat, some distressing on the edges with stain and seal and I am using Bison liberon-neutral wax as a top coat, ( someone told me that it would not be cloudy) Everything has been dry for days, so I go to apply the first coat of wax with a cloth sparingly (so I thought) 100% coverage, and let it set up for 20 min. But when I went to wipe it off, it wanted to leave the swirly marks even when I wiped with the grain and I think how I applied it showed as a result.”

“So finally to my question, I left it alone after wiping as much as I could and went to bed. Today I have to face this creature again. I am wondering if this may have just absorbed strangely for the first coat? I have not done wax for topcoats, but I am not sure if doing another coat or two will help, or could ‘seal in’ my swirly marks into the setcoat. I thought about sanding them out-but didn’t know if this is normal? I had someone even recommend using mineral spirits and try to remove the wax before waxing it again, thinking I applied too much and it had no where to go. I emailed the company, however they are located in Australia and am not hearing back, probably because the product typically is not made to be applied over paint.”

“Gosh- I’m sorry to bother you with this, and I completely understand that you are one busy guy, so it’s up to you if you have a thought on this, but my thought was if you don’t know then probably nobody does! Also, thanks for listening and posting your articles! I do not think it’s good to introduce yourself when bothering someone for an answer!
Thanks Again,

Hi Denise, you’re not bothering me at all
I enjoy helping others when I can or if I can. I’ll do my best, but there are many who are far more verse on the art than I, but after 30 years I do know a few things lol. Setcoat is an acrylic base paint which is porous and like all acrylic paints they are meant to “breath” to allow moisture in and out. Most oil base waxes are impermeable meaning they are designed to keep moisture out and are not breathable, like a carnuba car wax for example, but I believe the Bison Liberon is breathable but be sure to check on this. It is very important to know if using any wax or top coat on furniture or wall finishes that it is a breathable or non breathable wax or top coat so as not to trap any moisture within any surface that needs to breathe such as walls so as not to allow mold to grow. When top coating dark finishes that are made of acrylics they will “haze” or “cloud up” if the first topcoat is applied too heavily. What happens is most oil base topcoats will dry too fast or completely seal the surface thus not allowing the humidity or any other kind of moisture to escape from the acrylic or water borne systems because once dry the surface is now impermeable thus trapping any moisture underneath. You really don’t notice this “cloudiness” on lighter finishes. To prevent this, the first coat should be applied very thinly to allow the driers to gradually to pull the moisture out and as you know water and oil don’t mix. In the case with the Setcoat it should have been sealed first with a very thin coat of an acrylic sealer before waxing which not only would have pulled the moisture out of it but would have slowed the drying time and prevented the penetration of the wax into the “thirsty” Set coat. Even though you thought there was ample cure time for the furniture finish you must understand that the acrylics are meant to let moisture not only escape but they also will absorb moisture continuously and how much is determined by the sheen level, the higher the sheen the less absorbent. Setcoat is more like an eggshell finish which is actually very absorbent. You can test this just by touching the surface with a little water and watch how fast it absorbs it. Now the good thing here is you used a wax that is reversible and mineral spirits should “open” up the wax and allow the moisture to escape but it really depends on how heavy of an application you used and how much you can remove without saturating the acrylic paint with the mineral spirits to the point of it penetrating the paint itself thus releasing it from the substrate, so it’s almost a “Catch 22” situation. The bad part about this is once you use an oil over water your pretty much dedicated to oils at this point and can not go back to the water base systems and simply paint over it, especially a waxed surface which is why it drives me nuts to watch other finishers use these waxes on wall finishes without letting the homeowner know or even knowing themselves that they are now dedicated and cannot just simply paint over the finish if they ever decide to change it. The other danger of not knowing the difference in breathable and non breathable top coats or where and when to use them or not use them. It is very important to know these facts when going over wall finishes. A  non breathable top coat is like giving mold a feeding frenzy by trapping moisture within the walls causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. In order to extract and clean the contaminated areas the home has to be completely gutted to the bare block and studs. I have seen this on more than one occasion where I have been called in for my expert analysis and have had write up reports unfortunately.  The same also applies to using artists oils for color washes and the dangers of the linseed oils. They do have beautiful results and are the easiest medium to use when doing this kind of technique  but once you use this system and want to go back to a solid painted wall you would have to strip the waxes and linseed oils from the substrate before you can “seal prime” the walls with an oilbase stain blocking primer such as Kilz and trust me no one wants to have to experience this nightmare.

When it comes to

Waxing Faux Finishes

you should always have at least two samples to work out any discrepancies.

I believe the article you speak of was a blog entry of mine and here’s a link you can send to your father

Ask An Artist Re: Hand Made Furniture

Although I do get carried away with my answers I hope this helps remedy the waxing issue and if you need more help feel free to ask.


3 thoughts on “Waxing Faux Finishes”

  1. Art, I had the same problem and finally after doing a few boards I came to the conclusion that it was the wax being put over the stain and seal, it was the sealer in the stain.
    so I did it again only this time I just used a stain w/o sealeer in it and the wax came out great.
    Just my 2cents, hope this works

    • PJ,
      You are right, the stain and seal is a water base product which is the same as an acrylic top coat and will absorb moisture like an acrylic paint. I assumed when you switched to a regular stain that it was an oil base product which sealed the surface enough to not allow moisture through it because as we know oil and water doesn’t mix and the oil repels the moisture until it is fully cured thus if top coated with an oil base wax a 24 hour dry time for the stain is good timing to wax or use a sanding sealer without any issues, providing that your not fighting any humidity issues which can be remedied with a reducer to slow the dry time down giving ample time for the moisture to be pushed out by the solvents.

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