How to wax and polish a wooden picture frame

Written by chris pink on February 28, 2014 in Picture Framing

Waxing and polishing wooden frames is one of those things that comes as second nature to an experienced picture framer – easy if you know how, yet not so easy if you haven’t done it before or aren’t sure how the wax should be applied. That being the case, it seemed like the perfect subject for a how-to this week. So, let’s get stuck in and start with the basics…

 Find some quality wax

 A fine finish begins with buying or acquiring some quality wax. The best kind for polishing wood is often made of beeswax and other natural materials (we’d advise you avoid anything containing heavy amounts of unnatural chemicals). Generally speaking, these are suitable for all types of timber and available in a broad range of different colours.

Your picture framing options

We sell lots of different frames here on this site, but one of the reasons why you might be interested in waxing a frame at home is this one: almost any frame can be stripped down to the wood – or just stripped of paint – and revived with wax. And the results can be spectacular.

Let’s say you’ve found an old wooden frame. Firstly, you’re going to need to remove any existing wax or paint. Even if the frame looks like it’s never been waxed, it’d still be a good idea to take some sandpaper to it (you know you’re there when saw-dust begins to come off in your hands). It’s the best way to create a sound foundation which the wax can adhere to.

First off, something you should know is that there are different levels of waxing. If you’re in a hurry, and only want to protect the frame from the elements and give a subtle sheen to the wood, you might choose to apply just one or two layers of wax with a cloth/rag and then leave it at that (note: clear wax can look initially more yellow in the tin, but dries transparent without affecting the colour beneath).

If you have more time and the inclination, however, applying multiple layers of wax is where this technique really comes in to its own.

Simple steps to a perfect finish

First things first, there’s no need to be shy with the amount of wax you use – providing the layers are reasonably even. Apply your first generous coat, but don’t allow it to be fully rubbed in. In fact, you can feel free to leave it looking wet on the surface. Following this, the key is time. Leave the wax to dry slightly – enough so that you’ll be able to work it, but not so much that it dries hard before it can be polished (drying times will depend on the time of year, but as a guide, 20 minutes in a cool environment should be OK).

At this point, you’ll want to come back to the frame with a new rag or cloth (preferably one which is dry from old wax use or hasn’t been used before). That’s when the buffing and polishing begins. Use long, smooth motions up and down the frame to build up the level of shine you require (try to avoid sharp motions which might tear any thick areas of wax away from the frame, creating a dry spot which is hard to replace). Again, don’t rush this process. The key is to build up the friction and heat that exists between the surface and the cloth, creating a hard, even shine.

Completing the frame is simply a case of repeating the process as many times as you like. After three or four coats, a plain wooden frame will begin to look classy, and after six or seven or more, a frame moves in to a league of its own. As you go, you’ll notice that an impressive amount of heat is generated through the intense polishing process. You’ll also notice that waxing is one of the most satisfying things a person can do when it comes to creating a truly unique picture frame.

Better than leaving that old thing in the garage, right?

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