I thought it might be nice to take a break from the restoration posts and star an new section on furniture care. This post and other posts can be accessed at any time by clicking on the label to the right entitled "Furniture Care".
When customers ask me how to care for their newly restored furniture, thew first thing I tell them is that they can wax their furniture on occasion. When I return a restored piece to a customer I almost always apply paste wax to it. This helps to protect the finish and also evens out the look of the piece. Paste wax only needs to be applied every year or so. I have several pieces that I waxed four or five years ago now that still look great! Even if you never apply paste wax to a piece that I have restored for you this is valuable knowledge because you can preform this procedure on any piece of furniture, no matter what the finish is. It will improve the overall look of a piece dramatically.
The first step is to assemble the right materials. Below are photos and descriptions of the products I use:
1) Minwax Special Dark Paste Wax Minwax makes two different types of paste wax, Special Dark and Natural. For most furniture I use Special Dark because it will darken crevasses and scratches that might otherwise jump out. I use Natural paste wax on plank bottom seats because if there is any wax build up it might rub off on someones pants and natural is better than dark brown! Here is a link to a supplier: www.rockler.com
For those who have a little extra money to invest in wax there is also Harrel's Paste Wax.
Harrels is a blend of different waxes and is applied a little easier than the Minwax and also buffs easier. It is also more than twice the price. Here is a link to a supplier:
2) Steel Wool
As for steel wool. The most widely available is Rhodes American. Steel wool comes in grades from coarse to fine. Below is a chart of the grades and their uses:
The grade you need to by is #0000 this is the finest of steel wool and will abrade the finish without cutting through. below is a photo of the product:
3) Cheese Cloth
You will need cheese cloth or a fine cotton cloth to apply and to buff the wax. you can pick up cheesecloth at the grocery store or use an old T-shirt.
Now that you have all of the Materials necessary lets get started!
A good piece to start on would be a chest of drawers. you can start wit the top because it is a smaller flat surface.
1) Abrading the finish.
Take a piece of #0000 steel wool out of the package and unroll it. Then fold it so that the steel wool is about the size of your hand. Once this is done you take the steel wool and rub the finish WITH THE GRAIN!! If you are not sure about grain orientation give me a call and I can explain it. You can apply a fair amount of pressure as you rub the finish. the finish can be abraded in short strokes (especially on the edges) but I usually finish with long strokes.
Once you have abraded the finish with the steel wool it should have an even dullness to it. There will also be dust on the piece. You should remove this dust with a clean piece of cheese cloth before applying the wax.
2) Applying the wax.
Take a piece of cheese cloth and ball it up so that there is a flat side to it. dip the cloth in the wax and get a fair amount on the rag. you should avoid having clumps of wax on the rag. The idea is to apply a thin even coat of wax onto your furniture, not to smear it on.
When you have the wax on the rag begin on the side of the furniture farthest from you. apply the wax in 3" to 4" circles. as you circle on the wax move from one side to the other. The result is that you will have a band of circles that goes from one side to the other. When you have achieved this, go back over the band moving from side to side with the grain to straighten the band into one long band versus a series of circles. Once this is done repeat this process until the whole piece is covered. Do not wait until the end to straighten your circles, because the wax dries and you will see the circles after buffing.
the reason to apply the wax in a circular motion versus straight with the grain is that if you miss a spot you have a dull area. Applying in a circular motion gives better coverage and also fills any pore or scratch better.
Once you have applied the wax wait about 5 minutes for the wax to dry. Once the wax has dried you can start to buff with a clean piece of cheese cloth. buff from side to side with the grain and buff until a sheen starts to develop. You might turn your cheese cloth over periodically to expose a clean surface. the idea with buffing is to remove any excess wax. Once you do this you should see a difference in your finish.
If you see a dull spot that you missed, repeat the the procedure in that area only. It should go away.
After the wax is applied it will be streaky for a little while. the Harrels wax is better at being less streaky. Once the wax has had further time to dry you can buff it again.
In terms of dusting you can remove dust by wiping the finish (and the wax) with a clean cheese cloth.
That is all there is to it. If you run into problems please feel free to contact me with questions.