Food Safe Finishes, Part 2 - Wax Finishes
This will be part two of a three part series we will be doing on food safe finishes. In this article, we will be covering the wax based food safe finishes which are readily available on the market today. In the final part, we will cover blended finishes.
Beeswax is produced by honey bees and is food safe. This wax can be purchased in a number of forms. Raw, unfiltered beeswax is a light orange-brown color, is moderately soft and will slightly darken most woods when applied. Filtered beeswax is usually white in color, is slightly harder than raw beeswax, and will not darken woods when applied. Whichever route you may decide to choose, beeswax is easy to apply, and usually can be buffed to a semi-glossy sheen. Since this wax is softer, occasional reapplication to heavily used items will be necessary.
Carnauba Wax -
Carnauba wax is a palm tree extract. This wax can be purchased in solid, undiluted bars, or in pre-mixed paste forms. The wax has a very slight yellow color, but typically does not darken woods when used as a finish. Carnauba wax which is sold in solid bar form is usually applied to woods with a buffing wheel, which uses the heat and friction of the moving wheel to melt the wax into the wood surface while buffing it to a high gloss sheen at the same time. Diluted carnauba wax can be applied with a cloth, allowed to dry, then buffed to a semi-gloss or high gloss sheen. Either is an excellent choice for items that will see heavy use, as this wax is very hard and durable.
Paraffin Wax -
Paraffin wax is a petroleum extract, but not all paraffin waxes are food safe. Paraffin wax that is used for the canning of foods is a good choice for purchase, as you can know for sure that it is food safe. This wax is white in color, and does not alter to the color of the wood that it is being applied to. This wax can be applied (like carnauba wax) with a buffing wheel, or it can be thinned with mineral oil (usually 5 parts oil to 1 part wax) and applied as a paste, allowed to dry, and then buffed to the desired sheen. This wax is moderately hard, and will need to be reapplied occasionally to maintain a protective surface.
Soy Wax -
Soy wax is an extract of soybean oil, and like paraffin wax, is not always food safe. Since soy wax is naturally soft compared to other waxes, many manufacturers mix in a variety of additives to increase hardness and durability. At this time, there are no regulations requiring that manufacturers of soy wax include any list of blended ingredients, so finding soy wax that is food safe can be difficult. If you are able to find soy wax that is 100% pure, with no additives, then you can be sure that it is safe for use with foods. The wax varies from light yellow to white in color, and is soft, like beeswax. It can be applied with a cloth and buffed to a semi-gloss sheen. Since it is fairly soft, it will require frequent reapplication.
Blended Waxes -
There are a wide variety of blended wax wood finishes available on the market today that are food safe. Usually these are a mixture of beeswax, carnauba or paraffin wax that are thinned down with some type of food safe oil for ease of application. There are literally hundreds of different products sold by a wide variety of companies. In next month's newsletter we will more thoroughly cover these finishes.
If you should decide to use a wax based finish on your project, you will find that you get far greater durability compared to using only an oil based finish (which we covered in last month's newsletter). Next month we will conclude this series on food safe finishes by covering a variety of blended finishes which are commercially available.