Dark Wax: Everything You’ll Ever Need To Know



 Dark Wax ComboIn the Shabby Chic lovers toolkit there are few things that make a project look aged and time worn more than a bit of dark wax.
It takes a pristine looking newly painted piece of furniture and instantly adds years of wear and tear, bags of charm and a country antique look that can really make a piece stand out.

So why are so many furniture up-cyclers so bemused and frustrated by the use of the dark wax finish? Is it because they are afraid that they are going to spoil all the hard work they just did by coating their project in dark wax?

Maybe it’s because they aren’t sure that once the wax is on they will ever be able to get it off enough again to get the look that they are really after. Or maybe it’s just that they really have never considered the benefits of creating a dark waxed finish and the extra dimension that it can bring to some pieces of shabby Chic furniture.

Either way, whatever it is, we’re going to cover it all in this article so hopefully it will encourage those that have been a bit apprehensive about giving dark waxing  a go the chance to experiment with confidence.

Afraid Of The Dark Wax? Don’t Be, We’re Gonna Make It Simple.

Over the years I have done countless Shabby Chic projects and I always loved the pieces that had that time worn look, you know…the one with the dark areas in the corners and that lovely old patina that made it look like it had really been around for years.

I’d say to myself ‘how hard can it be to get that look?’. So off I’d go and look it up and find out that it was created using dark wax. Eureka! That’s what I’m gonna do!
I’d get my dark wax and brush it onto my nice newly painted Shabby Chic piece of furniture only to find out that I put too much on and can’t get it off again, or it’s set like granite and I’d have to scrub like an inmate to get the darned stuff off again along with most of my paint! Disaster!!

Not being one to give up I would try a few different approaches to this process to find the easiest and most user friendly way of completing this process. Now I have to say that these are techniques that have worked for me, and whilst I am more than happy to share, please don’t hold me accountable if they don’t work for you. Just keep playing with the process until you find your dark wax zen!

Ok the first thing to say is that dark waxing will work over pretty much any paint, even oil paints. It will be easier to remove from some than others as some paints are more robust. In my experience it will darken the base colour of pretty much any paint (yes even oil paints) and give it a more aged look, which isn’t a problem as that’s exactly what we’re after.

I say this because if you’ve spent a lot of time and money searching for exactly the right shade of paint and you absolutely love it, then it may be best not to dark wax over it. Not only will dark wax add buildup in the nooks and crannies of your project, it will almost always change the tint of your paint and add a patina.

The two paints that I generally go to and use with my projects are Farrow and Ball or Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. If you are using Farrow and Ball or other similar types of finish I would say go ahead and apply your dark wax straight on top of your painted finish (make sure it is completely dry, obviously).

If you’re using Annie Sloan paint you will need to add a coat of clear wax to the piece first in order to seal it. This will make removing the dark wax much easier.

When applying the dark wax to a project you will want to work in small manageable areas a few inches in diameter at a time. Don’t go painting a great big area as the wax will have hardened by the time you get around to removing it.

The Conventional Dark Wax Way

How you apply the wax is pretty much up to you. I have a large round Annie Sloan brush that I personally use and I tend to apply the wax with a bit of a stabbing motion and the occasional twist just to make sure that the dark wax has got into the very deepest parts of any patterns on the furniture. There’s no real right or wrong way here, just make sure you get good coverage.

Once you have applied the wax and before it has a chance to dry for too long, add a little clear wax to a soft cloth and  buff the dark wax off starting in a circular motion and finishing going with the grain. If it still looks a little dark, add some more clear wax and hit it again until you are happy with the look.




To me the conventional way is a bit long winded and it can take a little practice to get each  area that you work on looking exactly the same. Anyone who knows me knows I like to get the job done lickety split!:)

The White Spirit Dark Wax Removal System

One way to speed up the removal of the dark wax is to add a little white spirit to a soft cloth and wipe the wax off with it. The white spirit helps to break the wax down and makes it more liquid, which makes it easier to wipe off. Go easy though, if you use too much you will have to re-wax the area, so start slow and add more spirit if the wax isn’t coming off as you’d like it to.

The White Spirit Dark Wax Application System.

If the piece I’m working on is a larger piece with bigger plain sections I will generally take a teaspoon of wax from the tin and put it into another container. Then  I will add some white spirit to thin it down so that it is still brushable but easier to spread around a large area. This helps me to work faster without such a stodgy mass that I need to really work to get good coverage.

You can even thin it so that it’s almost a wash in consistency by adding more white spirit and dark wax into a cup.

If I do this I will apply it all over the cupboard and then wipe gently with a clean, lint free cloth until I’m happy with the finish. Then, to get the authentic time worn, aged feel, I go back over the nooks and crannies with some  wax straight from the tin & a thin paintbrush to add a bit of a darker finish over the detailed areas. Gently wipe with a cloth, leaving behind the dark wax in the crevices.

I found that using these techniques made me a lot faster at getting the dark waxing done. Another way to go is to add a little white spirit to your brush before you dip it into your dark wax. Start with a little dab and add more if needed, better to start off slow in case you add too much spirit to start. You may want to do this in a place with a bit of ventilation as the white spirit can kick up a bit of a smell!

Dark-Wax-Cup-&-Spoon

Heated Wax

One other way that you might like to try is to heat the wax to make it runnier and therefore easier to apply. You can read about my trials with this in my previous blog post
http://www.chicmouldings.com/youve-never-done-shabby-chic-waxing-like-this-before 

Glazing

One other technique that I’ve used quite a few times is not to use the dark wax at all. Instead I may use some acrylic glaze with a colourant added from Polyvine. This brushes on like a varnish and stays workable for around an hour.
Once the area I’m working on is covered I use a soft damp cloth to wipe off the excess until I get the finish that I’m after. I still leave a heavier mixture in the nooks and crannies just to bring out the details and I find this method a nice speedy way to add both the colour effect that I want as well as a protective finish as this negates the waxing step completely.

Just FYI, the wax that I generally use is Wax Polish Dark Oak 400g. The Annie Sloan dark wax is just as good as are many other brands, it’s just that these waxes are the ones that I am used to.
I hope this helps you with your next project.

I really hope that you have found this post useful, please leave comments to let me know what you think of my blog and any suggestions you may have for future posts.
If you would like further details on other paint transformations, I can recommend Quick and Easy Paint Transformations it’s full of great information that will help you the get the best from your projects, and above all earn more money!

Talk soon



 

17 Responses to Dark Wax: Everything You’ll Ever Need To Know

  1. Sharon September 27, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Hi Sam,

    Great info…wish I’d had this before I started on my first shabby chic project with my dark wax at the ready. It really does stick like glue but I learned by my mistakes and now adopt ‘less is more’ approach which goes totally against the grain!! Haha

    Thanks so much
    Sharon

    • admin September 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Hi Sharon, I think we have all attacked the dark waxing with a ‘Gung Ho’ attitude, and thought ‘Oops, what have I done!’ lol! I hope my methods are helpful to you!
      Thanks again for your lovely comments! Sam x

  2. Amy Watson October 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Hey Sam,

    Great information as usual…I really learned a lot and think I might be up for trying another project with dark wax..( My first one wasn’t very good) Thanks for inspiring me and teaching me the correct way….I will send you a pic when I finish…Thanks again :)

    p.s. I need to find my piece now :))))

  3. Bobbi October 21, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    Thanks,Sam for all the extremely important info! You’ve inspired me so much! And given me quite a bit of confidence to get going! Hugs from Bobbi in California,USA!

    • admin October 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      Hi Bobbi!
      Thanks for taking the time to let me know how you are getting on! So glad you’ve been inspired by some of the things you’ve read, thats great! Would love to see your projects when you have done them! Getting started is always the hard bit, after that, you’ll be hooked! Sending you lots of hugs back from Rainy old UK! Sam x

  4. patrick November 21, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    thank you. x

  5. Deb November 21, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    That was a good read I will be experimenting in the very near future loving your Diary Sam x

    • admin November 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

      Thanks Deb, Glad you enjoyed it :) Sam x

  6. Lou Moore January 20, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    I can’t tell you how glad I am that I came across your site!!! I tried the dark wax on a project and am very dissappointed in it! I used Fiddes & Son – rugger brown. I am about ready to try again after having found YOU!! I have been so anxious to get started painting – the piece I did actually just looked dirty after I finished! I thought the wax would be softer – I bought the AS round brush but I ended up heating it up a bit (not knowing if that was alright to do or not) but it did go on better. Just didn’t get the look I was after at all – I knew the trick about putting clear on to move it and take some off but it still didn’t look good!! Any other pointers I would really appreciate!! I LOVE your stuff! Lou

    • admin January 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Hi Lou, Thanks for your great comments! I was having the same problems as you! I was never 100% happy with my dark wax finish. Now I always use a white spirit & wax mix (All of the details are in my free ebook) It goes on so much easier, I love the result, and a lot quicker than traditional dark waxing! If you need any more help, please feel free to email me at sam@chicmouldings.com Thanks again! Sam x

  7. Barbara January 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Thank you so much for this advice, I am about to dark wax my first piece and appreciate all the recommendations I can get. Wondering what you mean by white spirits? Thanks B

    • Sam January 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      Hi, thanks for taking the time to comment. Sorry for the confusion, I should have expanded my comments for the benefit of those not familiar with our UK terminology. I believe white spirit in the UK is referred to as mineral spirit in the US. I hope this helps.

      Sam X

  8. Bernadette Rosenquest June 24, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Hi . I just want to let u know how much I appreciate your blog.. full of brilliant hints n tips.. a massive help to me as im just starting out crafting and selling beautiful furniture on fb and similar sites and I have also used quite a lot of ur stunning mouldings. THANK YOU ♥♥♥ Vintage Unique Chic Plymouth

  9. Janet Harris July 4, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Hello Sam, thankyou so much for giving us such a wonderful tutorial on Dark Waxing! I have been painting with Annie Sloan products since they became available to us in Canada and LOVE them! Like you, I have had many “Trials & Tribulations” with the Dark Wax! I have yet to take any courses as they are not available in my area and have to travel a 3 hour round trip just to buy the products. My first experience with Dark Wax was absolutely Horrible!!!! I painted an old Desk in Old White then decided to make it look even more old by adding a bit of dark wax…… Oh My! It looked so dirty and Aweful! I could have cried! There was so much wax on that piece that even the clear wax would not take it off. I realized that there really was no going back, and what did I have to lose? I got out my mineral spirits and applied a bit on a clean cloth to see if it would remove some of the extra dark wax and YES. It sure did. I kept up with the mineral spirits until most of the dark wax was removed, let it cure for a couple of days and then thinned my dark wax with the mineral spirits as you have mentioned. What a Difference that had made, I am still a little shy with using the dark wax on the whiter colours, but just love it on the darker ones! Since then I have done many pieces with the dark wax and am teaching my 9 yr old grandson the ropes! He loves painting! Thanks again for your great advice and will keep posted for more of your interesting comments!

  10. Fiona August 2, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Insecurity and lack of confidence in dark waxing has held up so many projects I am keen to finish. Il be giving the white spirit a go now.thank you

  11. Julie October 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Finally found the information I’ve been searching for all day and from the uk, I knew there would be a way to add wax that was easier, thank you so much. just waiting for my bookcase to dry then I’ll be giving this a go. Fingers crossed.

  12. elaine hessey November 12, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Hi Sam,

    You have answered all my questions and more about using dark wax. Great advice as always.

    Really excited about using dark wax for the first time and thats all thanks to you Sam.

    Xxx

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Grab a copy of my free E-book '20 ways to make more profit with your shabby chic projects'

I'm glad you found us! As a thank you for visiting my site I want you to have a free copy of my e-book.
It's full of hints and tips to help you with your up-cycling projects. I wish someone had told me this info when I was starting out so I hope you find it helpful.
Inside you'll find;

  • Lots of time saving tips
  • Suggestions on where to find project pieces
  • Practical suggestions on how to get the highest profits for your pieces
  • A 15% discount code for ordering your mouldings

Grab a copy of my free E-book '20 ways to make more profit with your shabby chic projects'

I'm glad you found us! As a thank you for visiting my site I want you to have a free copy of my e-book.
It's full of hints and tips to help you with your up-cycling projects. I wish someone had told me this info when I was starting out so I hope you find it helpful.
Inside you'll find;

  • Lots of time saving tips
  • Suggestions on where to find project pieces
  • Practical suggestions on how to get the highest profits for your pieces
  • A 15% discount code for ordering your mouldings