The great British wax off: How to apply wax to chalk paint.

No-prep chalk paint.

[Photos and more text to be added......]

Sure, chalk paint can be applied to any surface with no preparation at all. Get straight in there! That old chest of drawers inherited from your Nan, or that ugly mirror, just paint it and be done. How cool is that?

Except then you discover that for durability, chalk paint needs a wax coating before you can use it.

"Sorry? A wax coat? You said it was no-prep! I do not want to wax.

.....what! There are different types of wax?"

Hence although preparation free, it is not finish free. Your choice really. Do you want to clean, and sand a piece, then use eggshell? Or do you just want to slap some paint on, then wax? There really isn't too much time difference. The difference is in the final effect, as you can play with the texture of chalk paint.

[You could of course apply dark wax to an eggshell finish, and combine the two methods. Eggshell generally being tougher than chalk paint.]

The wax.

Yes, that's correct; for durability your freshly painted piece now requires you to slap some yucky, sloppy wax all over it. Not all the time, sure, but most.

Further; there are lots of different types of wax. From clear through to literally black. And it smells, especially if you thin it down with turpentine.

What are the differences between the waxes, and how does it work?

For simplicity, I'm going with the routine that clear protects, and the coloured waxes give the artistic effects. Hence here I'm going to spend a few minutes telling you about clear wax, and then a lot more on the darker colours. Sound fair?

A word from my sponsor: Meldon House & Home.

Firstly, a word from my paint supplier. I kind of work here, at Meldon. If a piece needs repairing, painting and waxing, that's my job. The piece can either be for the shop, or a commission item brought in by a customer. Both are fun to do, and all are painted using Annie Sloan chalk paints.

If you live in the Oxted area, and need something painting or waxing, give Judie a call on 01883 716005

In 2017 we intend on running short, two hour courses on waxing, specifically the dark waxes and artistic, aging effects.

Please note that these are my personal views on the use of waxes, and paint, and may not tie in with the corporate view of Annie Sloan. Or even Judie.

Clear wax.

The stuff you put on to chalk painted furniture. Apply at room temperature, ideally using a waxing brush in circular motions. Once applied smooth out with a lint free cloth, then leave to dry for 24 hours. Polish up with a clean, lint free cloth.

See? Couple of minutes at most. That's all I'm going to say about clear wax. It's just wax; it's no fun. [Unless you mix paint into it, or overpaint straight into wet wax.....]

Just painted = Clear wax on first.

Dark waxes.

Now, this is where the fun begins. You can turn something perfectly acceptable, yet plain and frankly a bit dull, into something a little more interesting, with an aged patina look.

Aged patina effect from diluted dark wax

This was a drab, varnished brown dresser. The mirror was binned, and the back filled in to hide the holes. I painted on gold highlights, Annie Sloan Cocoa, then diluted the Cocoa with white. Clear wax, then dilute brown. Hardly polished this one; left a lot of the streaks in.

There is no need to fear the dark wax, yet at the same time you really need to let go of decorating inhibitions, and accept that there will be a huge random element to how things turn out. Once you do this, and stop being tied to colour charts and "cream is good" ideology for interior decorating, then you are on to a winner.

What is dark wax though? Essentially an aging cream for furniture. When applied, and polished off - or left well alone - a piece takes on an age worn look. Sure, it is artificial and so only works on pieces that have a bit of age to begin with, or a certain style. Your new IKEA wardrobe may look a bit odd, whilst that dresser from your Auntie will be perfect.

Colours and dark wax.

Best use it only with dark colours, eh?

Nope, wrong. I've always found that it works really rather well with the light colours. That cream dresser you have? The one that is so plain it borders on offensive? try a dark wax on it, I dare you.

Pink? Orange? Yellow? You bet!

Poor light, apologies for that. This is a table I did. Bright pink, bright orange, dark wax straight from the tin, then polished up using clear wax. The drips are intentional!

How to use it.

Gosh, lots of ways. Make it your own, experiment. Lots of people are afraid of using it straight from the tin, so tend to dilute it. I can fully understand this; applying neat, dark wax to something on a hot day is a work out indeed. The wax tends to harden very quickly, and can be a nightmare to shift. A piece looks horrid, you get into a panic, and hate the stuff forever.

Bit of understanding and it is fine. Just don't let it set before wiping it down.

Diluting the wax.

The wax mixes happily with clear wax or turpentine spirits. Clear wax is far less smelly, whilst spirits means speed; you can wax a whole piece in minutes and have time to polish without panic.

Mixing with turpentine is easy. Use an old waxing can that you've saved just for this. Big spoonful of dark wax into the can, splash of turpentine, lid on, shake a bit. I don't go too mad here; just shake enough to get a bit of a mix on. I like it so that only some of the wax has dissolved into the turps, and there are soft, big lumps left. When applied with the flat brush, this produces some really cool effects. Some clever people exploit these to make interesting effects....

Oh look! One I did earlier. This is Annie Sloan Cocoa over-brushed with dilute dark wax. I quite like the streaky look here. Again this was intentional; at Ardingly etc. you see French style furniture done this way. With care it looks really cool.

Polishing off.

I'm assuming here you've not missed the bit where I told you to apply clear wax first....

With the dark wax, polishing the piece to remove the colour produces the most interesting effects. You can be subtle, or pretty blunt. Again by now all painting inhibitions would have been trashed - well, those or the piece is now in a big skip waiting to be recycled!

If you've applied the wax raw, straight from the can, then you really need to start polishing now! Do no more area than the size of a magazine before polishing, especially in the summer.

Wax applied raw = Mess.

Diluted with turpentine? You have ages. Cover the whole piece using an old flat brush, walk away, have a cup of tea. Indeed you may well want to, as it will stink. Do not do this indoors.....

Wax + Turpentine = Smell

The dark wax needs to come off pretty quickly. Wipe it down with a used cloth as it all gets pretty messy. You're trying to bring back the paint colours, whilst leaving wax in the crevices. Sometimes it helps to over brush with clear wax, as this softens the dark.