How to lime a frame using liming wax paste

Written by chris pink on March 13, 2014 in Picture Framing

If you’ve found an old wooden frame lurking in the garage, it can be tempting to throw it out and buy a new one (we have plenty of options if you do want to start again). That needn’t be the case, of course – providing the frame and its corners are reasonably sound and the frame is worth keeping.

Last week we showed you how to wax a frame, and this week we’re showing you how to apply liming wax to frames to give a unique and distinctive finish. Particularly suited to open-grain woods such as Oak, liming wax has been used by framers for centuries with excellent results. The best part is, liming wax is readily available, affordable and simple to apply at home. As with anything, it’s all about learning the process and the pitfalls.

Liming wax application

Ideally, you want to start with a raw wood frame, minus any wax (as one would expect, any left-over wax residue will prevent the new liming wax from penetrating the depths of the grain. Some people like to use a wire brushbefore starting with the wax, to open-up the grain even further).

You can use liming wax on frames without any grain, resulting in a deep white finish, or you can use it to highlight the signature grain found in Oak, as we mentioned before (the more common way of doing it). In the case of the latter, a large amount of the liming wax will often be removed from the surface, leaving a translucent coat of wax and stark bright lines of white throughout the wood.

Apply a fair amount of liming wax as you go, and rub deep into the grain. Spend some time on this, until you’re confident that the wax has got into all the small spaces where you wanted it to. If your frame has been damaged at some point in the past, you’ll now also stumble upon another attribute possessed by this wax: the ability to fill unwelcome holes and gaps, making the frame more attractive and hiding any problems with the finish.


Figure A shows the frame early on. Figure B shows the same frame nearing completion.

Feel free to let time do all the work

The great thing about liming wax is its diverse application value. You can rub a light layer over a frame to give just a subtle white hint, or you can apply a thicker layer – or several layers, if you like – leave it for several hours and then buff it up. The latter will produce a glass-smooth finish of surprising brightness, and this can be done as many times as is needed.

Careful with those finger-prints

The only real thing you have to be careful of with liming wax is finger-prints and marks. If you’re leaving the wax to dry for a while, be sure to go over the frame with a rag so as to eliminate any areas where the wax has been applied too thickly or there are discernible marks. These marks will dry into the frame’s finish and may be difficult to remove once the wax has fully hardened.

Applying effects

One of liming wax’s finest attributes is its ability to apply texture to any kind of wood. For example, let’s say you started out with a frame which lacked grain, and you wanted to create the illusion of grain running throughout the wood. This can be simply achieved by applying streaks of liming wax as intended. Just leave it to harden, then buff it up to a fine polish.

Sealing the deal

How you choose to finish your frame is entirely up to you. The options are endless with liming wax. For example, if you wanted to create an antique distressed look, you could simply rub some wire-wool over the newly-waxed surface – preferably in the direction of the grain – or scrape into it with a craft knife, increasing the texture. Alternatively, you could apply several layers of Briwax, further enhancing the smoothness, giving the frame a better level of protection for the future.

Note: sealing the newly-waxed frame at the end of the process is certainly not mandatory – although it will probably increase the longevity of your frame.





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