Last week in the newsletter I mentioned we had been getting quite a few questions about using dark wax. It can definitely be tricky when you’re first starting out, so I wanted to share my tips with you.
1. First, and probably most important, I never apply dark wax to naked paint. I always apply a coat of clear wax first. You’ll have more control over the dark wax if you do this. Without a coat of clear wax, the dark stain will absorb right into the paint and you’ll have very little control over how dark it ends up. A layer of clear wax makes it easier to move the dark wax around the piece too. The longer the clear wax has to cure, the less control you have over the dark wax, so it’s best to dark wax over a fresh coat of clear.
2. To give yourself even more control, I like to mix a little clear wax with the dark. I just mix them together on a paper plate with a plastic spoon. It doesn’t really lighten the color of the dark wax, it simply gives you a bit more control when working the wax around your piece.
3. Work it into all the little crevices and grooves. I hesitate to say this, because to me painting furniture is an art form and there’s no wrong way to do art. But I’ve seen a few beginners put dark wax on the raised surfaces only and not get any in the grooves and it just doesn’t look natural. Dark wax looks best when you work it into all the little details and crevices. It should be darker in the crevices and lighter on the raised areas. I personally like to apply dark wax with a rag, but for the tiny details I usually use a cheap chip brush with the bristles cut down a bit. Which brings me to my next tip…
4. Don’t use the same brush to apply clear wax and dark wax. Waxing brushes are expensive and you want to take care of yours. It’s really difficult to get every bit of that brown stain from the dark wax out of your brush. If there’s still some on your brush and you go to clear wax your next piece, there’s a good chance you’re going to transfer some of the dark wax stain onto your gorgeous new piece that you only intended to clear wax. So to make your life easier, just use separate brushes for clear and dark wax. I do not have a fancy, expensive waxing brush for dark wax. I simply use a rag and a chip brush.
5. If your dark wax is going on a little darker than you prefer, you can “erase” some of it with clear wax. This really only works while the dark wax is fresh, and I’m not even sure erase is the right word for it. It will gently lighten the dark wax, but it definitely won’t remove it completely. Just put a dab of clear wax on a rag and rub it over the area where the dark wax is too dark. If you really went crazy with the dark wax and you need to remove a lot of it, your best bet is probably just to sand it off.
Still feeling a little nervous about using dark wax? Here’s a quick step by step:
First, apply a coat of clear wax to your piece.
While the clear wax is still fresh (you can immediately start dark waxing after clear, but waiting a day or two won’t hurt), start applying the dark. Using a plastic spoon, scoop a little dark wax onto a paper plate (about a tablespoon or two to start). Optional: mix some clear wax into the dark (about the same amount or a little less than the dark).
Use a lint-free rag (old cut up t-shirts are perfect) or a waxing brush. I like to apply it in small circles and I’m careful not to leave tracks. By that I mean if you keep circling over the same spot, when you’re done you’ll probably see a brown circle there on your finished piece. Does that make sense? Keep moving around so you’re not going over the same spot in the same direction multiple times, and make sure you’re getting into all the little details. A chip brush with the bristles cut down a bit works well for pushing wax into all the grooves that you can’t reach with a rag.
Work in sections and use clean rags to remove excess wax as you go. It’s okay to leave a little extra in the grooves if you want, it’ll just take longer to cure. Keep wiping with clean rags until the surface is no longer tacky and a clean rag glides smoothly across the surface.
Want it darker? Apply another coat and/or consider not mixing the clear wax into the dark.
Still lost? Email me and I’ll do my best to help you out.
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