Paste wax (also referred to as paste polish), has been used since at least the 16th century to give a smooth, painless finish to woodworking projects.
For some, these finishing waxes work to protect their woodworking hand tools and table saws. But for many others, it provides a lovely sheen and a protective covering on finished woodwork.
But if you plan to buy one, with a range of different varieties, brands, and options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which is best for your needs.
Minwax and Briwax are two of the most popular finishing wax brands on the market. Johnson Paste Wax was also a common option, though it has been discontinued by the company, and they do not make the product any further.
I have used all three products for my different projects, and I can say that Minwax was the best substance that worked for me. It was easy to use and was nearly maintenance-free.
Briwax and Johnson’s paste wax both wasn’t so impressive to me, although they got the job done. The former one was a bit more work to maintain because it lost its shine pretty soon and l need to reapply it more often. Johnson’s, in particular, left the surface tacky for me, and it also attracted dust quickly.
So, that’s the quick lowdown on the three most popular types of finishing waxes. Below in this guide, I will provide a more detailed analysis of each product so that you can make an informed decision for your needs. Also, I will discuss what to look for when you are on the market to buy a good quality finishing wax.
Minwax Paste Wax
This is the best type of paste wax that I have used – it’s a synthetic polymer-based product that goes on smoothly and leaves a painless finish.
Each can contain one pound of product and provides great coverage at an unbeatable price, and you’ll be able to use it for several projects before needing to buy more.
Minwax in general is a paste wax that is thick and simple to use. To spread and apply this hefty product evenly on your wood surfaces, I recommend using a rag and some elbow work. It sinks deep into the grain and dries in about 15 minutes.
I discovered that buffing the surface (after the wax had dried) provided an exquisite, professional-looking finish that was clear. This means if you are a fan of the natural beauty of wood without darkening it, then taking the time to buff it is the best option for you.
The benefits of using Minwax are that it is easy to use and apply. When used correctly, the wax will adhere to the wood and seal in any moisture, preventing small scratches and scuffs.
The wax’s oils naturally repel water, so your item will also be protected from liquids and dampness when you take the time to rub this in with the grain of the wood.
The slightly darker surface makes the grain stand out more too. Just be careful if you’re using this on white paint- it may result in yellowing over time.
Also, it won’t protect your wood from UV damage or extreme heat, so it’s best for furniture and other items that aren’t going to be exposed to direct sunlight.
Because this finishing wax has some hazardous compounds, you must always use proper safety equipment. At the absolute least, a respirator should be worn since you should not breathe in the chemicals in vapors. But because the scent isn’t too strong, it’s unlikely to permeate more than a modest distance.
The other downside of the product is it yellows the surface slightly, especially over white paint. This usually happens because it cannot defend against UV radiation very well.
So if you want to use this paste wax on an item that will receive direct sunlight, be aware that it may not stay as bright and white as you would like.
Briwax Original Furniture Wax
For over a century, Briwax has been the go-to brand for furniture finishing supplies. This is a thick paste wax that keeps its suppleness and makes it simple to apply.
It’s straightforward to spread out of the can and onto a towel, and it rubs in nicely. You only need to rub this wax onto your woodwork once, and a few minutes later, it will dry, and you can start buffing.
To help it sink nicely into your wood grain, you’ll need to apply some pressure during the rubbing and buffing, but the end result is well worth the effort.
Another great quality about this product is that one 16-ounce can provide excellent coverage for many projects, so though it may be pricey, it will last long.
That said, the product was not so impressive for me (at least when we compared it to Minwax). And so here are the few pros and cons to consider if you want to go with it.
Briwax is an excellent choice for rescanning older furniture since it completely covers or reduces scratches.
This is a type of finish that seems to change the color of your wood in addition to giving it a smooth, wet look. And also because it includes wood conditioners in it, the old wood appears brand new when finished with this paste wax.
Briwax comes in a variety of hues, but you’ll want to choose the right one, or else you risk spoiling your project’s color as well. For me, I used the product’s hue which provided me with an industrial look that I find quite appealing. It also left an elegant satin sheen on my surface.
Although Briwax adds some moisture resistance to your projects, it doesn’t provide the best physical protection that’s mostly required. This means it isn’t an appropriate product for tabletops or other surfaces that will be subjected to a lot of physical abuse.
Furthermore, the product will require some extra force to apply due to its texture. Once you start rubbing it in, there is no turning back. You either have to keep going or scrap the whole project in case you left in middle due to some reason.
Overall, Briwax won’t prevent your work from fading over time, but it may help keep your wood looking young if you reapply occasionally.
SC Johnson’s General-Purpose Paste Wax
No need to be too concerned about this product, as it is no longer being produced. However, if you happen to stumble on one (in second-hand stores or on online platforms like eBay), then certainly you may think of purchasing one. But I doubt if it would totally be worth your while.
Sitting in my garage was a can of Johnson’s Paste Wax, and it ended up serving me well on two not-very-important projects.
First, I used the wax to protect an indoor cabinet – the results were exemplary and my furniture piece was successfully shielded from harmful elements.
Unfortunately, when applied to an outdoor coffee table not long after; this time round wasn’t as successful as the weather had taken its toll and I found myself reapplying twice over within two weeks.
Johnson’s Paste Wax may not be my number one recommendation, but it’s still a remarkable product that can be applied quickly to leave behind an even finish. If you are looking for something to polish your tools or equipment, this should definitely be the go-to choice.
Furthermore, it also serves as a great rust inhibitor alternative too. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the paste wax covered surfaces and dried rapidly – allowing me to apply extra coats much faster than usual without worrying about incomplete drying of previous layers.
It’s not the longest-lasting product, and, as I said, it’s not very impressive when used outdoors and when it comes to offering protection from UV radiation.
In addition, it can be quite difficult to buff, and you may need to put some elbow grease into it after it dries.
Many users also claimed that in extremely hot conditions, the product would simply melt and run off the surface in a liquid form, making it a bit messy to work with.
Overall, I think there are definitely better options out there when it comes to pasting waxes. If you’re looking for a phenomenon product that will offer long-lasting protection and a great shine, I would recommend going with something else.
Factors to Look for When Buying Paste Wax
When it comes to choosing a finishing wax, there are a few key factors you should keep in mind. Here are some of them…
a) Wood type
The first is the type of wood you’re working with. If you’re working with a softer wood, for example, you’ll want to make sure the wax you choose is compatible. Some waxes are only good to use on hardwoods and can actually cause more damage to softer woods.
Another factor to consider is the purpose of the wax. Are you looking for something to simply shine your wood, or are you looking for something that will also protect it?
If you’re looking for protection from the elements, you’ll want to ensure the wax you choose is durable and will last a long time.
When it comes to applying the wax, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to apply. The last thing you want is a wax that’s difficult to work with and will take forever to dry. Also, do not choose a product that’s too sensitive to high temperatures. They can melt if you apply them in direct sunlight.
Besides that, also ensure that the wax you choose is compatible with the other products you’re using such as paint, stain, or primer.
d) Price and Safety
Of course, price is always a factor when it comes to choosing any product. Paste waxes can range in price from around $5 to $50, depending on the brand and quality. So, you’ll want to choose a wax that’s affordable and also does the job you need it to do.
Also, you’ll want to make sure it’s safe to use. Some wood waxes contain chemicals that can be too dangerous, so you’ll want to make sure you choose a safe option especially if it’s meant to be used indoors.
e) Brand that provides protection against water
Finally, consider the brand of the wax. There are a lot of different brands out there, and they all offer different benefits.
Choose a brand that’s known for its quality and durability, as well as one that’s resistant to water and snow without leaving a sticky residue or making your wood look artificial.
Effective water resistance is especially important if you live in a wet climate, as the wax can help protect your wood from water damage and make it last longer.
A word of caution
Remember that certain wood wax can be hazardous to food safety if you intend to apply it to cutting boards, cups, plates, or other objects that come in contact with food.
Many waxes also include VOCs, petroleum products, and unappetizing oils. On any project that comes into touch with meals or beverages, you should typically avoid these substances.
Overall, which one should you choose between Minwax, Briwax, and Johnson
I’ve tried a lot of different waxes in my lifetime, including the above three.
So, according to me when it comes to deciding between Minwax vs. Briwax vs. Johnson Paste Wax, you should generally decide on your purpose and budget.
Minwax is my top pick for pasting waxes because it’s easy to use and doesn’t leave a tacky surface. It’s also a maintenance-free, affordable option, costing around $25 for a can.
Briwax and Johnson Paste Wax are also great but lack in some areas like durability and after-maintenance. Although the price difference isn’t much, I would still recommend going with Minwax.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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