Bare wood furniture and decor pieces are in trend these days, but you may want to give them a nice shine using a finishing agent like hard carnauba wax.
Carnauba wax (also called Brazil wax and palm wax) is derived from the leaves of the Copernicia prunifera palm tree, which only grows in northern Brazil.
While finishing wood with carnauba wax is possible, the application process can be tricky because of how hard the wax is and the melting point it has to reach before it can be applied to your bare wood furniture.
So, in this quick step-by-step guide, I will be showing you how you can exactly use hard carnauba wax on bare wood furniture the right way.
Later I will also discuss the pros and cons of using carnauba wax and why to use it when there are so many other different waxes present on the market for applying it to your piece of furniture.
Using Carnauba Wax on Bare Wood
Bare wood furniture, cabinetry, floors, or other decor pieces (like turned bowls and vases) offer a multitude of benefits that can contribute to the overall look and functionality of any space.
One of the biggest advantages is that it gives you the freedom to choose a natural finish that suits your individual style by getting it customized with ease – they are versatile enough that they can even be used in outdoor settings.
However, if you’re looking for furniture and accessories with timeless style and natural beauty consider using carnauba wax as your go-to solution to add a layer of glossy shine and protection. Here are the simple steps you will need to follow…
Step 1- Prepare the carnauba wax
Chisel off or use a utility knife to break the carnauba wax into pieces. Then, melt it until it completely turns into liquid.
Let it cool down while making sure it doesn’t harden too much – it should only be cooled to the point where you can touch it without burning your hands and skin.
Step 2- Prepare the wood surface
Take a cloth and wipe any dirt or residue off the wood surface. If required, use a dampened cloth in warm soapy water to clear away the dirt and grime.
Then, using a small paintbrush, apply a thin coat of paint thinner to the wood to remove any remaining residues which will also help the wax to adhere better to the surface. Let the thinner dry completely before moving on to step three.
Step 3- Apply the carnauba wax to the bare wood
Take a clean cloth and dip it into the melted carnauba wax. Wring out any excess and start rubbing it into the bare wood surface in small circular motions.
Make sure your coverage is even, and you apply only a thin coat of carnauba wax on the wood to avoid making it look greasy. Also, don’t forget to apply the wax on the underside of the wood furniture as well as any crevices or cracks.
Step 4- Allow the carnauba wax coating to dry and buff
Let the carnauba wax dry for about 15 minutes, and then buff the furniture using a clean, dry cloth. Do this several times to get a nice, even shine.
Once you’re done buffing, stand back and admire your newly-coated furniture. If it looks nice, you are good to go; if the shine is somewhat dull and not as to your liking, move on to the next step.
Step 5- Apply a second coat of carnauba wax and buff again
To achieve a dazzling, mirror-like shine along with added protection, apply an extra layer of carnauba wax and buff it for the perfect finish.
After allowing sufficient drying time, you can then consider applying pure tung oil or other high-gloss finishes to preserve its sheen and protect the carnauba wax on your piece.
Carnauba Wax As Wood Finish – Pros and Cons
You probably have heard – there is wood for every mood. From chestnut to maple, teak, birch, walnut, mahogany, or cherry, you can find the perfect type of wood to match your style in your living room or bedroom.
Not only is it important to choose the right kind of wood for a project, but it’s also important to know how to care for and maintain your investment. And that’s where using hard carnauba wax on your new piece of furniture can be a great choice.
Why? Simply because there are numerous pros to doing so.
First and foremost, carnauba wax does offer extreme physical protection from heavy wear and scratching because it’s highly resistant to water, oil, and heat.
So, think of a scenario when you accidentally spill any liquid on your newly-waxed furniture. Since there is a protective layer of carnauba wax on the wood, the liquid will not cause any damage or leave a watermark – it can be wiped off without causing any damage.
Unlike other waxes (like Candelilla wax), carnauba wax also benefits because it’s great at repelling dust and dirt. This means if you live in a dusty environment or have pets that constantly shed hair, using this wood wax can be a great idea on your floors and furniture.
There are several VOC-free products from brands like Real Milk Paint Co. available on the market, and you can get them in different forms like paste or flakes. Wax flakes are especially useful to buy if you want to create your own wax blend for buffing bare wood.
Challenges and Drawbacks
The primary reason why many DIYers and wood turners steer clear of carnauba wax is the time and effort it takes to apply.
Pure carnauba wax is the hardest known wax to mankind. It’s very thick, challenging to apply, and won’t soak into wood easily. Consequently, more effort must be put into rubbing it onto your project.
Also, manufacturers who make this wax paste need to mix it with oils so that it will absorb better into the grain. Although carnauba oil is natural and food-safe, the added ingredients to make it easier to apply often mean that it isn’t suitable for use around food surfaces.
Carnauba wax also has a high melting point of around 185 degrees Fahrenheit (85 °C). Now, this can be beneficial as well as disadvantageous.
It can be beneficial because it means that the wax is much more durable and won’t wear away as quickly as other types of wax under high temperatures.
On the other hand, it can be disadvantageous because you need to melt it down before you can apply it to your furniture and also because if you accidentally spill any hot beverages/liquid on your newly-waxed furniture, it can cause the wax to melt and run.
Carnauba Wax or Beeswax for Bare Wood – What’s Better?
While many people swear by carnauba wax for its glossy shine, others prefer to use beeswax for their bare wood projects. If you are considering both options and confused about which one to choose, it’s essential to know what’s the difference between both, and which one is a better option based on your project.
Well, the basic distinction between them is carnauba wax is made from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree, while beeswax is made by bees in their beehive.
Carnauba wax is also harder and has a higher melting point than beeswax because of which it also produces a deeper shine and a more durable finish on the surface.
Beeswax on the contrary is more pliable and easier to work with. It’s also less likely to cause allergies compared to carnauba wax.
So, which one should you use?
Well, it all comes down to personal preference. If you want a deep, glossy shine on your bare wood surface, go for carnauba wax. But if you want something easier to work with and less likely to cause allergies during the application process, then beeswax can be a much better option.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.