Hard Carnauba Wax vs Alfie Shine vs Paste Wax

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custard

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It's been many years since a proper hard wax has been available commercially in the UK, so I was interested when Workshop Heaven announced a product called Alfie Shine,

https://www.workshopheaven.com/alfie-shine.html

A couple of weeks ago someone called Mr Day sent me a sample of Alfie Shine, there was no covering note so I'm a bit stumped, but I'm grateful he did and it gives me a chance to run a little evaluation of paste wax (such Briwax or Black Bison) versus Alfie Shine versus the traditional hard wax that I brew myself. There's no magic in making a hard wax, it's just one part carnauba to four parts beeswax with an equal volume of turps. I blend it together in an electric glue pot but any sort of bain marie type arrangement will work fine,

Wax-Test-001.jpg


There are some safety considerations, and endless tweaks you can make to the recipe. You can read more about all this here,

soft-beeswax-polish-recipe-t109073.html

Wax can be applied over many different finishes, but I decided to look at wax over sanding sealer.

A decade or two ago this was a very popular combination, used with hard wax it's a bit too glossy for modern tastes so it seems to have fallen out of favour amongst furniture makers, although I believe turners still use it. I guess it's worth saying a little more about sanding sealers as this is the base coat I'll be using. There are several different types, Cellulose, Shellac, and even a water based Acrylic sanding sealer (although I've never used this so I won't comment on it). Cellulose has the advantage of ultra quick drying, only about 5 or 10 minutes between coats, plus it can take a very wide range of different top coats. The down sides are it's a bit pongy in an enclosed space and I'm always slightly suspicious of cellulose over the very long term because of both yellowing and flaking.

Shellac sanding sealer is slower drying, 10-20 minutes, but has a slightly longer shelf life than cellulose (although neither last all that long). You may also come across something called "Spirit Sanding Sealer", this doesn't have a great reputation in the trade and no one I've spoken to is quite sure what's actually in it! There's a suspicion that the name is designed to gull the unwary into believing it's shellac based despite the cheap price, but it doesn't function well as a knotting and warns on the tin that only wax can be used on top of it, which suggests there really isn't much if any actual shellac inside!

The next question was what timber to test it all on? The sanding sealer/wax combination is quite good at grain filling, plus it tends not to darken pale timbers too much. So an obvious candidate would be Ash, a timber which is normally quite problematic to finish. I found some boards of nicely rippled Ash with an Olive Ash streak, which would add some further elements into the test. So I took an offcut from these and set to.

I sanded the board down through the grits, 80/120/180/220. And then gave two brushed coats of Morrells Shellac Sanding Sealer, which I knocked back with 320 grit on a hard sanding pad before blowing off the dust with an air line.

Wax-Test-03.jpg


Actually I'm going to take a little break here, but I'll be back later to finish this off.
 

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MartinCox

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I would gladly bow to a lot of people critiquing various sander sealers but we have used a spirit sanding sealer and it did not impress. We had to produce a COSHH Assessment and used the manufacturers MSDS as the basis. That MSDS lists the main ingredients as

Ethanol
Resin acids and Rosin Acids, Fumarated, Esters with Glycerol

Plus small parts of Octadecanoic Acid, Zinc Salt, Butyl Diglycol Acetate

So that neatly clears up the question about what is in this Spirit Sander.

No, we couldn’t work it out either. Thankfully, the risk codes were not too fierce
 

sunnybob

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Its not hard to achieve, but I am now officially confused. I thought sanding sealer was for end grain?

I would love to be able to get a really good gloss finish on my stuff, so I'm paying close attention custard.
 

custard

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It's probably worth a few additional words here on techniques. Even though this is about as simple as finishing ever gets, there are still plenty of ways of cocking it up!

The first is with poor sanding. I've seen hobbyists dive straight into sanding at something daft like 400 grit. That's never going to work. Even the very best machine planer/thicknesser will need plenty of sanding at 80 grit to remove machine marks. In fact for bare wood sanding the majority of your time should be spent with 80 grit paper, don't be in any hurry to see the effect of higher grits, just keep working at 80 grit until you've got a perfectly clear surface. After that remove all sanding residue. My favourite is an air line, but commercial workshops increasingly frown on this for obvious H&S reasons, so use a tack rag or a vac. Better than nothing is a clean rag, but it won't get everything off. The problem with sanding residue is it can cause loads of problems later, from coarser grit scratching your work to bits of sanding dust getting trapped in finish layers and wicking in moisture. Another thing to bear in mind is that sanding to excessively fine grits will reduce the amount of finish penetration into the timber. If I'm using an oil based finish to pop some spectacular grain I'll generally stop at 180 grit. And always work through the grits, never skip a stage or you'll make more work for yourself.

Okay, time to look at the different waxes.
Wax-Test-04.jpg


First here's Alfie Shine next to Black Bison paste wax,
Wax-Test-02-BB-&-Alfie.jpg


And here's Alfie Shine next to my home brewed hard wax,
Wax-Test-01-Carn-&-Alfie.jpg


The differences are immediately clear. Black Bison stinks like a petrol station and is super soft and slushy. Alfie Shine is much stiffer but still soft enough to be used with a rag, plus it smells quite fragrant. My hard wax is hard and flinty by comparison, it simply snaps and crumbles if you rub a rag on it, it doesn't smell of much besides wax!

I divided the test board into three and applied the waxes.
Wax-Test-05.jpg


Don't fret too much about coarse rags versus fine rags versus brushes, they all work. But try and avoid towelling as the little loops can catch on the work piece and tear out splinters.

It was abundantly clear why paste wax has won out commercially, it's just so mushy and easy to apply. Alfie Shine is about as hard as you can go and still be labelled "user friendly" My hard wax though is well past this line, you need a rag faintly moistened with white spirit, plus an awful lot of elbow grease, to even get it onto the board. Using a genuine hard wax on a large piece of furniture will definitely raise a sweat!

Here's what they looked like after 20 minutes drying and buffing.
Wax-Test-06.jpg


In close up you can see bigger differences. Here's the Black Bison,
Wax-Test-07-Blck-Bsn.jpg


As you can see it's satin at best, some would describe it as satin/matt. And you can buff or apply additional coats as much as you like, it won't change things much. In fact additional coats are largely a waste of time with paste waxes, there's so much solvent that you dissolve previous coats as much as add anything new.

Next is Alfie Shine,
Wax-Test-08-Alfie-Shine.jpg


There's a definite gloss here, let's call it satin/gloss. And I suspect additional coats and more buffing will take this even higher.

Finally here's my hard wax,
Wax-Test-09-Carn-Hrd-Wx.jpg


It may be the most effort but it's also the highest gloss, and I know from previous experience that more coats and more buffing will definitely add to the shine.

In summary my personal view is this. Alfie Shine is a genuinely useful new product that fills a gaping hole in the market. It's much closer to a traditional hard wax than a paste wax, but it's still very easy to use and the pleasant fragrance makes it even more agreeable in a small workshop. However, if you're chasing every last scrap of shine then there's still no alternative to a home brewed hard wax.

One last point, there's a real difference in "handleability" between these three. Paste wax just feels slightly sticky even after many hours or even days. The waxes used have a lower melting point, but more significantly they have a lower "softening" point, so fingerprints may become apparent. Both Alfie Shine and the hard wax are far better choices for something that's likely to be handled.
 

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Phil Pascoe

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... Shellac sanding sealer is slower drying, 10-20 minutes, but has a slightly longer shelf life than cellulose (although neither last all that long) ...

That's good to know - I was wondering how long mine would last, I've still got a gallon left. It's still fine ................. but I bought several gallons thirty years ago and I don't know how old it was when I bought it. :D
 

sunnybob

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I'm even more confused. I have liberon black bison wax. Its white, no colour at all, and it smells like furniture polish. Its soft but crumbly rather than slushy. Nothing like your picture or description.
 

custard

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sunnybob":377luuso said:
I'm even more confused. I have liberon black bison wax. Its white, no colour at all, and it smells like furniture polish. Its soft but crumbly rather than slushy. Nothing like your picture or description.

The solvent has largely evaporated Bob.

If you want to try some hard wax PM me with a UK address and I'll send you a chunk. I don't advise posting it abroad as it looks for all the world like it belongs in a spliff!

Sanding sealer is not just for end grain. It contains additives, I think they're called stearates, they make sanding easier and won't clog the abrasive paper. It gives a silky smooth finish. I use Morrells shellac sanding sealer, but only because a mate nearby runs a spray and finishing workshop so he gives me a jam jar full from a 25l container when I need some. All the big brands do sanding sealers, just avoid the "spirit based" stuff and you won't go far wrong.
 

sunnybob

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When I bought the tin of black bison wax about a year ago I was concerned as there was a tiny pin hole dead centre of the lid. The metal was pushed in like a small panel pin had been hammered through.
I didnt notice this till I got home, so I stuck a piece of pvc tape across it and thought no more about it.
Just last week I went back to that shop and saw that all the other tins on the shelf had a tiny hole in the lid, all dead centre.
Remember I have no previous experience to go on, but I have used the wax for quite a while now and it does polish wood, but not as good as I thought it should. Why would someone along the supply chain perforate every lid?
I now have a tub of renaissance wax from the UK and it looks and smells exactly the same as the black bison.
 

custard

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sunnybob":19lvg7ua said:
When I bought the tin of black bison wax about a year ago I was concerned as there was a tiny pin hole dead centre of the lid. The metal was pushed in like a small panel pin had been hammered through.
I didnt notice this till I got home, so I stuck a piece of pvc tape across it and thought no more about it.

I was told the answer to this some time ago. From memory I seem to recall it's because the contents are poured into the tin while hot, and they contract while cooling and unless air can enter the tin will collapse.

Regarding Renaissance Wax, I've talked about this before but as it's you I'll run through it again! Virtually all natural waxes are slightly acidic, just enough to tarnish metal work over time. Museums wanted a non acidic wax that could be applied both the furniture and any metal fittings on that furniture. Hence Renaissance and it's "museum endorsement". Lots of woodworkers have looked at the endorsement and concluded it's the best wax money can buy. It's not, it's just that microcrystalline waxes are PH neutral. It's not particularly glossy, and therefore it's probably not the wax you need.

Incidentally, I'll leave all these waxes for a couple of days and buff some more. I bet you'll see more gloss from both Alfie shine and the hard wax, but hardly any from the paste wax.
 

sunnybob

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How bizarre. To think the factory makes holes in the tins. But if it should not be white but smell rancid, I shall just dump it.

I'm trying most things as far as "easy fix" finishes are concerned, but like everything else, the "easy fix" doesnt.

I think i need a few things bought out to me. The mrs. is going back to the Uk in July, I shall have to get up a shopping list for her. If that fails memzey will be around in august, but he's already loaded down with that wadkin table saw, so it wouldnt be fair to him to ask for some shellac as well, would it?.

I admit that the renaissance wax was a disappointment from the start, shant be buying any more of that. So far the wipe on poly is still my best gloss finish
 

CHJ

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sunnybob":3m3b0hhk said:
…….I admit that the renaissance wax was a disappointment from the start, shant be buying any more of that. So far the wipe on poly is still my best gloss finish
I'm suprised, I use Microcrystalinne paste wax (Chestnuts) all the time and get a high shine level, unfortunately I don't have a current item to photograph but I never have any difficulty with matching that obtained when using pure Carnuba wax as seen in this old thread, most of the stuff in my Gallery is finished with microcrystalline these days, I usually have problems defusing the reflections for photography.
walnut bowl.JPG
 

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sunnybob

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I have to keep reminding you all that I have no experience in this, so dont really know f I'm doing anything right or wrong, but the best I achieve with the waxes I have used is a "wet look" that is slightly dull.
Apparently I am old fashioned (who'da thunk it?) but I like glossy finish, real mirror surface.
I finished off a box with renaissance wax, gave it two coats, looked at it for a few days, and went back and sanded it down to put wipe on poly on it. made it look like new, rather than old.
 

sunnybob

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I hope youre not asking me, cos I can prove I know nothing.
I sanded it untill it looked like wood again, although slightly shinier than bare wood. Not a long job actually.
This is the offending item. This pic is the wet look wax. reasonable, but no gloss.
http://www.pbase.com/john_cooper/image/167403090
I dont have a pic of the new look.
 

memzey

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sunnybob":2npqqi52 said:
memzey will be around in august, but he's already loaded down with that wadkin table saw, so it wouldnt be fair to him to ask for some shellac as well, would it?.
LOL! I told you bob - there's a big void in the saw under the table, I'm sure I can get a few tubs of something or other in there :D

Quick question for Custard if I may; is there any good reason (other than perhaps price) for using white spirit over turps? I much prefer the smell of the latter over the former.

Edit- scratch that Custard I've reread your OP and it is turps you use. I assume turps could also be used to charge the rag for application as well?
 

custard

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memzey":3punzi3k said:
is there any good reason (other than perhaps price) for using white spirit over turps? I much prefer the smell of the latter over the former.

I mainly use wax inside cabinets for things like drawer runners, so low odour white spirit is the best for this application. Other than that, no reason at all to favour one over the other.

Memzey, if you PM me with your address I'll send a couple of chunks of hard wax for you and Bob.
 

custard

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I finished off this quick test by adding two more coats of each wax allowing longer drying times.

End result is all three are useful and acceptable in their different ways.
Wax-Test-10-three-coats.jpg


The paste wax (the one on the left) dries really quickly between coats, which if you're in a hurry is a big advantage. It gives a decent level of gloss. The problem is the high level of volatile solvents that deliver fast drying also means it shrinks, which reduces its ability to fill the grain on an open timber like Ash, which in turn limits the level of gloss you can expect. If you look at the top left hand corner of this photo (the only bit that's in focus) you can see the open and unfilled grain pores. Used on a tight grained timber, like Beech or Maple, I think the results would be better.
Wax-Test-11-Grain-Filling-BB.jpg


The Alfie Shine (the one in the middle of the first photo) and the Hard Wax (the one on the right) were better at grain filling, so gave a higher level of gloss, with Hard Wax retaining the edge in terms of absolute shine. Alfie Shine has by far the most pleasant odour, but it's by far the slowest drying, it really needs several hours to truly harden before buffing which would make it a royal pain to use in some applications.

If you've made something that doesn't need a lot of protection, and if you're looking for a simple, non-yellowing gloss finish, then there's a lot to be said for the old favourite of wax over sanding sealer.
 

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memzey

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custard":1ejl7c4z said:
memzey":1ejl7c4z said:
is there any good reason (other than perhaps price) for using white spirit over turps? I much prefer the smell of the latter over the former.

I mainly use wax inside cabinets for things like drawer runners, so low odour white spirit is the best for this application. Other than that, no reason at all to favour one over the other.

Memzey, if you PM me with your address I'll send a couple of chunks of hard wax for you and Bob.
Thank you for the generous offer Custard, which is entirely in keeping with your MO on these boards. I have another alternative that I’d like to propose however; I have a stash of carnauba, bees wax and plenty of turps in my shed. Why don’t you PM me your address so I can send you a block that I make up to your recipe (1 part to 3 parts to 4 if that’s correct)? You could then let us know whether I’m on the right track or if my brew needs tweaking - teaching a man to fish and all that. I’ll then bring bob a healthy chunk to Cyprus in the summer once my cooking has been passed. Does that seem ok to you?
 

Racers

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I use Wood silk furniture polish for a flat finish, squirt a coat or two on and buff, but don't get and over spray on the floor as it mucho slippy.


Pete
 
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