Cooking Up a Hot Wax Mixture

Continuing my experiment with heating up finishes in a crock pot double boiler, I came up with a “brilliant idea”.  * This statement might have to be rescinded later, we’ll see.  So far, my bench build has been one odd theory put to the test after another, so why stop now?

When I made the vise chops, my theory was to drill the holes for the guide rods and main screw was tight as possible.  To do this, I ordered 20 and 30mm drill bits , as the nearest sized imperial bits would have left a loser hole.  I explained all of this previously, but briefly, the idea was to prevent or reduce any vertical racking of the vise.  I think that this is a good idea but only time and plenty of use will tell if it really is.  The guide rods can be as tight as anything since they will be fixed in place in the chop.  The main screw won’t move in and out of the chop, but it will have to rotate.  One thing that I noticed when I assembled the vises to install them, was that I would have liked the handles to turn a little more smoothly and easily.

So… my plan is to lubricate the screw holes in the chops.  I don’t want to use oil as it will attract sawdust.  Also, the wood that I used is not as dry and seasoned as I would have liked, but it was what I had.  The holes trough the chops will be a point of exposure for end grain and could cause some uneven drying or warping.  At a minimum, the holes could distort from perfectly round.  So I want to both seal the hole and lubricate the screw.  Sounds like a perfect use of wax to me.

I ordered some beeswax pellets from amazon and decided to mix up my own concoction.

Cooking up a wax mix.

Cooking up a wax mix.

I put an empty jar on the scales and added 1 ½ ounces of beeswax pellets and 1 ½ ounces of mineral spirits.  Why did I use these amounts?  No idea, this is an experiment.  This jar then went into a hot crock pot that was half filled with water.

I heated the mix in a water filled crock pot.

I heated the mix in a water filled crock pot.

The mixture took a long time to melt but eventually ended up like this:

Once melted, it looked like this.

Once melted, it looked like this.

I was curious how hot the mixture was so I checked it with an infra-red thermometer.  It was pretty hot, 170° F.

The crock pot double boiler heated the wax to 170° F.

The crock pot double boiler heated the wax to 170° F.

The next question that arose was how was I going to apply wax to the inside of the vise chop holes without getting wax all over the face of chop.  Back to amazon for more shopping.  I ordered these wool daubers for use in applying the hot wax.  They are small enough to fit inside holes in the chops.

I bought these cotton daubers to apply the hot wax mix.

I bought these wool daubers to apply the hot wax mix.

This is the point in the tale where things break down a little.  I was quite busy with the next steps and wasn’t able to take any pictures.  With the oil ripping hot, I dunked the dauber into the wax and coated the inside of the hole.  The first thing that I noticed was that the wax immediately re-solidified on contact with the wood.  Granted the wood was a little cold, but I have subsequently discovered that this wax mix solidifies even at room temperature.  As the jar cooled, even while I was still trying to apply the wax, it was starting to thicken.  I had to reheat the wax in the crock pot several times.  I wanted the hot wax/mineral spirit mixture to soak into the walls of the hole.  This clearly couldn’t happen if the wax was in solid form.  I needed a way to liquify the mixture while it was on the wood surface long enough for it to soak in.

I got out my paint stripper/heat gun and set it to low.  I blew hot air though the holes being careful not to burn the wood.  As the wax melted, I rotated the chops and kept the hot wax moving around the inside of the hole while it soaked into the wood.

I used a heat gun to re-melt the wax.

I used a heat gun to re-melt the wax.

It came out fairly well, but having to use the heat gun was a challenge.  It was a little tricky trying to rotate the chop around the axis of the hole while blowing hot air through it.

Once re-heated, the wax nicely coated the inside of the holes.

Once re-heated, the wax nicely coated the inside of the holes.

The next morning the wax in the jar had cooled completely.  It is not hard but is about the same consistency and a tin of minwax furniture paste wax.  I’ll save this mixture and try it out in that capacity later.  The wax inside the chop holes seems to have hardened more.  I suppose that this is due to the mineral spirits evaporating.

When it cooled, it re-solidified.

When it cooled, it re-solidified.

I’m not sure how this little experiment is going to play out.  Beeswax is surprisingly hard, I can’t help thinking that perhaps I should have tempered my mixture with a little paraffin wax. I have also though about what would happen if I substituted naphtha for mineral spirits.  This evaporates faster and  might leave you with just the wax sooner. Then again this might not be a good thing.

When I finish applying coats of danish oil to the vise chops and re-assemble everything, I’ll have to write more about whether or not this has smoothed the vise action.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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8 Responses to Cooking Up a Hot Wax Mixture

  1. Jim B says:

    Maybe a greater ratio of MS to wax would allow the mixture to stay fluid longer and penetrate into the wood at lower temperature. Then the MS would evaporate leaving the wax behind.

  2. Paul Bouchard says:

    I’d try graphite. I’ve heard that gunsmiths buy cans of the stuff. I think if you sanded a very soft artist’s pencil it would give you enough for this job.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hello Paul,

      That may have been an option for lubing the holes, but it wouldn’t have helped seal the end grain inside the hole which was my other objective. I like your idea about sanding a pencil to produce small amounts of graphite. I’ll have to remember that for other similar uses. Thanks, I appreciate it.

      Jonathan

  3. Mike says:

    Johnathan

    One of my favorite finishes is 4 parts mineral oil one part beeswax. Heat it to about 145f then stir it a bit as it cools. To keep it from separating. The way this finish seems to work is, the wood soaks up the oil and the beeswax remains on the surface. I use it to finish wood, rust proof steel, and lubricate the sole of wooden planes. It seems to me this might be what you are looking for.

    Mike

    • Jonathan says:

      Hello Mike,

      That’s really interesting! And you used mineral oil and not linseed oil? I’ve never thought of using that as I was of the impression that mineral oil wouldn’t dry/cure. What sort of finish does it end up leaving? It sounds like a great idea for lubing plane soles. I have been thinking making Jim Kingshott style wick oiler and this sounds like it would work well with that.

      Thanks for commenting. All the best,

      Jonathan

  4. Pingback: Applying Wax to the Vise Handles | The Bench Blog

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