before and after basics: waxing tips


hello friends, and welcome to this week’s edition of before and after basics! today we are going to discuss the process of using wax to add age and character to your painted pieces. i will cover a few basic waxing principles as well, but want to focus on using waxes for more than just wood protection alone. i personally love a good wax finish for its look of authenticity and beautiful matte shine that differs entirely from a poly sheen. are you ready?….let’s do this… barb

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

what you will need:

* wax {fiddes is the only wax i will use}

* lint free rags and a china brush

* disposable gloves

* piece of furniture {painted}

* drop cloth to protect the surface underneath your project

* sanding sponge

* pair of nylon tights or hose

how to:

1. since i’m choosing to focus on wax as an aging technique over painted furniture, have your piece painted and sanded to your personal taste. {please note that if you are waxing an unfinished piece of furniture you will want to use a sealer before applying the wax to ensure even distribution}. make sure that all of the sanding dust has been removed from your piece by vacuuming and wiping it down with a lint free cloth.

2. take a clean cloth or brush and apply wax evenly in the direction of the grain {this is really important!}. now, here is where i will interject that i usually apply with a cloth, but there are times that i do use a brush especially if there is a lot of fine detail on the piece or large flat surfaces. i personally make this decision with each piece, depending on the size and how fast i think i can apply. wax dries very quickly and does not leave a lot of room for error.

3. work on one section at a time, using an even amount of wax. if you feel like you have too much wax in one particular area, take a clean cloth and remove it as quickly as possible . you want the finish to look natural and not forced. apply the wax with your brush , and then immediately work it in and smooth it with a clean rag. this is the very reason i only use fiddes wax, because it is super creamy and easy to apply. no other wax, {and i have used PLENTY!} even comes close.

4. allow the wax to dry. fiddes wax can dry in as little as three minutes, but other waxes may vary. i always wax the entire piece, let it dry for about 20 minutes and then buff it out.

5. i personally use my old pairs of nylon tights that have holes in them for buffing projects. i don’t know where i read that tip at, but i am so glad that i did years ago! you can buff with a lint free rag, but i find that the nylon just gives the finish a great look. i know….go figure right? it’s just one of those things….it works!

6. if you get to the end of your project, and you step back and say “whoa, i went a little crazy on that drawer” and feel like the wax is a little dark or saturated in a particular area….never fear! take a sanding sponge and lightly sand the area that you feel is too dark until you are happy with the color. if you are still not satisfied, you can go back in using a dry brush with just a tiny bit of paint on it and do some blending. it’s just as if you were painting on a canvas, and you didn’t like the particular shading in a certain area….you would take your fingers or a brush and add light or dark to make it appear more natural. same thing with furniture, layers and dimension add character.

i have a story, and as you all get to know me better…. you will learn that i am full of stories! seriously though, i feel like this story will help you understand my love of wax finishes! i painted and finished a massive buffet that was going in the foyer of a clients’ house, and this particular piece was very ornate. in order to stay true to to the period of this piece i used a wax finish over two different colors of paint. i delivered the piece, and all was well. i got a phone call a few months later and my client told me that she just had to find out what i put on her buffet, because she had a plant on the top of it and without thinking had watered the plant and let it sit on top of the piece! when she thought of it a few hours later, she ran back in a panic to find that there was indeed a beaded ring where the plant had been, but once the plant had been removed and the surface wiped…. it dried and disappeared completely! whew! i love me some wax.

have fun with your waxing projects! see you next week…

  1. Chris says:

    Barb…I was curious where you purchase your Fiddes in Greenville? I too am from Greenville and have been looking for this stuff forever locally! Thanks!!

    1. Barb says:

      chris, well hello there my fellow greenvillian!! :) that is so awesome!…. I get my wax at greystone antiques on augusta road. mystery solved!

  2. Chris says:

    Barb…beautiful work! I was curious where you buy your Fiddes in Greenville? I too am from Greenville and have been looking to buy this locally for years. Thanks!!!

  3. InspireMe says:

    I realize this is an old post, so I don’t know if you’ll get this, but …. I’m doing a small chest that has a leather top that’s not in the best shape, but since I’m distressing the piece, it stays in character. Can I rub the Fiddes wax over the leather too? Or should I tape it off and finish the leather top with something else? Thanks, Barb – these guides are fantastic!

  4. Maggie says:

    Just discovered this post in the middle of a furniture rehab – decided the color I painted my secretary was just too yellow for me, and was wondering about how to knock it back and stay true to the piece.
    The answer is clearly right here! Thanks!

  5. Linda Morgan says:

    Have you ever applied the wax over a crackle finish? Would that work? I love the aged look this wax technique creates – do you suggest clear or colored wax to age a cream colored paint? All the information here is great!

  6. Sammie says:

    I am 5 years new to this, started out doing my own stuff. I have my own hair salon but it is just me in my space and I did all my furniture fot the shop from freebies and side of the road, plus my husband made me shelves. I needed it all to match and had all different wood. I painted all black then used shoe polish to match all the wood that showed through. I then painted a piece a of white but hated that it look to new. I then used shoe polish over the whole thing and it was awesome. I then had people ask me to redo some stuff for them. I have just finished a 112 year old vanity I got for $30 bucks. I used shoe polish over a brown then did a black glaze over that, then got a bronze metalic craft paint from Walmart and mixed it with a clear glaze. I am now going to use wax to finish it up ( first time) I think sometimes trying stuff can work well. I found you can paint over shoe polish and it is a cheap alternative. I will add that I do not do this add a profession like Barb, I buy stuff and then redo my way, them sell. So yes shoe polish works well

  7. Kimberly Hottenstein says:

    Could I apply fiddles clear wax over a stained sign or do I need to seal the piece first? You had mentioned that if a piece was unfinished that it would need to be sealed. Is stained considered unfinished? Thanks.

  8. Jean says:

    I would like to use the rugger brown wax on top of a crackle lamp project (red over white) to give some age and character, but the top layer of crackle is flat paint. Does that mean it will not work?

  9. Traci says:

    I used this technique on a standard, 80s issue, oakish bathroom vanity that was really ugly. I painted it black and then used Brie Wax (it was what I had at thee time). With some new drawer pulls and cool matching mirror — it looks great and still fresh 8 years later.


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