Paste wax vs hardwax oils: what's the difference?

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Bojam

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A while back, I made some paste wax following this recipe from Chris Schwarz. Very similar to this from James Wright:



Essentially linseed oil and beeswax in varying ratios depending on the consistency you're looking for. Natural linseed oil can be replaced with boiled linseed oil if you're not worried about it being food safe. And some people also add in solvents - e.g. turpentine or mineral spirits.

I've been very happy with the aesthetic and tactile quality of a simple linseed oil and beeswax finish. It looks and feels great; the grain pops with buffing and there's no plasticy residue on the surface of the finished work. But I appreciate that this offers little in the way of protection (against spills, scratches, etc.). Some people even suggest that this doesn't constitute a finish and is more like a "polish" (purely aesthetic).

What confuses me is that the hardwax oils - made by companies like Osmo, Fiddes, Blanchon, etc. - are essentially mixes of natural oils and waxes. Many claim not to have any solvents and are either VOC free or have low levels of VOCs. They are marketed and widely used for protecting wooden floors, worktops, furniture, etc., and people swear by their durability and longevity. How to reconcile this when the base ingredients seems remarkably similar to the basic paste waxes described above?

Getting the precise ingredients used in these commercially available hardwax oils is not easy given their proprietary nature. Some extensive googling finally yielded this list from a German (I think) brand of hardwax oil: Linseed oil, carnauba wax, tung oil, linseed stand oil, tung stand oil, glycerol ester of wood rosin and manganese drier.

So two things stand out. In this product they use stand oils (i.e. a modified form of oils made by heating natural oils to 300°C in an oxygen-free environment, causing partial polymerisation) as well as raw oils. Also they use a metallic drier (manganese).

So what does the inclusion of stand oils and metallic driers actually do? Are there any chemists or chemically-minded folks out there who can explain why these additions turn simple mixtures of natural oils and waxes into a durable product suitable for protecting wood surfaces that get a lot of abuse (e.g. floors, etc.)?

Secondly, would it be possible to DIY something akin to this at home in a relatively simple process? Put another way, is it possible to make homemade hardwax oil finishes like Osmo?

The answer may well be no. Or not without considerable investment in equipment and materials. Fair enough. But I can't buy these hardwax oils here (in French Guiana) and would be interested to know whether I can make additions to a simple paste wax finish that will improve it's protective capacity while maintaining the aesthetic and tactile qualities. I'm not a fan of varnishes and the like.

Thanks in advance! :)
 

johnnyb

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stand oil is simply thickened oil. its been stood. so put a jar of linseed out and stir it every day. After a while it will get thick.( pre polymerised)

 

Rich C

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When you buy "boiled" linseed oil you're buying a mixture of stand and raw oil (plus chemical driers usually) - the stand oil dries faster since it's partially pre polymerised. What you have in that recipe is basically BLO, tung oil and carnauba wax in varying proportions.

As for why they last better, I'd assume they're more of a modified oil than a wax, so have more of the properties of an oil finish.
 

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