Waxing Feature

The Case for Waxing Antique Wood

You’ve done the tricky part already; you’ve found an authentic, quality antique that speaks to you and looks great in your home. Now, move one step further and learn to care for your prized piece. When you buy from Fireside Antiques, your antique is already waxed and in stellar shape. We want to guide you in the maintenance involved to keep it “showroom ready” in your own home.

Regular waxing will maintain your piece’s visual gravitas as well as its value. Antiques are an investment; the only time you see them not appreciate is when they aren’t preserved properly. An authentic patina can be sniffed out by dealers, as they know the result of years of care and not. We at Fireside- and antique dealers and designers everywhere -search high and low for a great patina on furniture. Should you decide to part with your antique, you’ll have the peace of mind to know that it will retain its worth.

 When premier New Orleans designer Melissa Rufty was asked what her most indispensable design element was, she replied, “A good French polish!”

We could not agree with you more, Melissa!

At Fireside, we like to use Pate Dugay French paste wax. It’s our uncontested opinion that this is the finest wax available, but you can use any beeswax-based, paste waxes if in a pinch. Restorers and antique dealers alike use Pate Dugay, as it is the original French paste wax. In this way, we aren’t disrupting the course of the antique’s trajectory but merely carrying on its traditional maintenance routine. Pate Dugay paste wax also dries harder than other waxes, so you aren’t working with a goopy mess. We recommend clear wax for lighter woods like pine and maple. Richer-hued woods like walnut or even mahogany will take a wax with a bit of pigment. It won’t stain the wood but rather magnify the grain’s complexity. The only time you may want to use a colored wax on a light wood (like pine or maple) is if the piece is faded or sun bleached. In this case, a colored wax can really bring the wood back to life with minimal effort. At Fireside we typically use the shade Brune Rustic for richer shades of walnut and mahogany, but we find it works beautifully on lesser pigmented woods on occasion.

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The car buffers are optional of course, but can they make quick work of larger flat surfaces like the top of an enfilades or the surface of a dining table. For best value, find them on Amazon.

The first thing you will use is your 4-ought (#0000) steel wool, the finest steel wool available. Only on a very rare occasion, like if the piece has a lot of grit on it, would you use 3-ought (#000) steel wool.  This is rare, and you typically must use 4-ought steel wool. Apply a dollop of wax to your wool and gently start brushing it onto the wood, keeping the layers as thin as you can. Start and complete a small section first before moving on. Stay with the grain as you brush on the paste wax. The thought that “if a little is good, then a lot is better” does not apply to waxing furniture! You will want to use very little wax on your antique.

After the wax is applied with your steel wool, you will start buffing with your lint-free rag. We also use the short haired and burnishing brushes for the detailed or carved pieces. Again, work with the grain and just in one specific section at a time. The key is not to let the wax dry before properly buffing into the grain. For large surface areas, you can choose to use the car buffer in place of the lint-free rag; you will follow the same instructions with this tool as well. Once you’ve buffed the wax into your working section, the wax should gleam and be soft to the touch.

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Once-a-year waxing is typically sufficient, but furniture that sits in direct sunlight may require more frequent touch ups. Regular waxing and occasional touch ups can protect the wood from drying effects of the sun and artificial heat. That’s right: if you have a cold-natured person in your home who likes to run the heat, be prepared for additional waxing. You will know it’s time to wax again when you notice that your antique is starting to lose its color.


A warning: most commercial spray ingredients include alcohol, which will dry out the wood. We would, however, recommend Orange Oil, which we use but only very sparingly to dust and to clean the insides of drawers.

Lastly, always remember to dust! Dust collected on your wood furniture can dry it out as well. You can dust with a cotton cloth, either product-free and dry or sprayed with a minuscule amount of Orange Oil. Again, less is more! We recommend dusting every 1-2 weeks.

 Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the care of your antiques. We aim to be your top resource for your antiques and welcome all of your questions!

Designer Spotlight: Rebecca Vizard
Designer Spotlight: Melissa Rufty
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