When you are putting the finishing touches on your restored or new piece of furniture you need to make a decision about whether you are going to lacquer it with a modern finish or you are going to go the traditional pathway of waxing or oiling.
It is best to decide on which finish you will proceed with at the beginning because you may not be able to change your finish easily later. Each have their advantages and disadvantages and it is very much a personal choice.
The Three R’s of Waxing
- Reversible — If you do not like the look of wax you can remove it using the solvent it generally was made with. Generally this will be natural turpentine or mineral turpentine. With most timbers this will work but where the wax was a penetrating wax and the timber particularly absorbent, then there may be residual wax in the timber and lacquer may not adhere to this.
- Repairable — Re-waxing your furniture will often repair minor scratches and marks and there are no issues with the next coat not bonding as the solvents in the new coat reactivate with the original wax on the piece. Wax does not crack, flake, peel or blister.
- Renewable — Lastly it is renewable and just needs a reapplication when it starts to look a little flat or dull. Adding a new coat will help it to regain its original look. Another advantage of waxing is the benefit of immediate use as there is no waiting for it to dry.
Although ideally with waxing it is best to do several ‘light coats’ (rather than a couple or heavy coats - this can lead to a soft finish) you can use the piece straight away with care and ‘build’ the patina over time as you enjoy your furniture.
It is important to take a little more care of furniture with a ‘natural finish’ but whilst there is a little more maintenance the biggest advantage is that it never needs to be sanded back again and most minor scratches and marks can be treated with another coat of wax. Wax also helps prevent a lot of scratches occurring as it has a more slick surface. It will build the patina for your antique of tomorrow.
Lacquering requires less maintenance but if it becomes scratched or worn, it can only be repaired by having the surface sanded back and re-lacquered (this can be inconvenient as this may take a few days). It is more resistant to moisture than wax but once the lacquered surface is worn, water can penetrate quite easily.