Finishing scales using wax

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Originally posted by OLD_SCHOOL here on SRP. Edited/added to by VeeDubb65

Background[edit | edit source]

I like candles, used to love them in fact. I had a stockpile for a very long time, guess you could say I collected them. Hell I even used to make my own candles when I was young, so I am familiar with how to use the waxes. I used to waterproof my own matches and I did it differently than you buy in shops, mostly by accident. I used hot wax which would absorb right into the wood and into the match head, some brands of matches didn't react well, but others responded very well. You could submerge the matches for long periods of time and you wouldn't have to worry about them going out once they hit wet wood.

Procedure[edit | edit source]

So moving on. I haven't done any of this stuff in a decade or two, and just the other day I had an interesting thought. How about using wax to seal scales. There are all sorts of waxes out there with all sorts of additives to keep it soft and pliable, but I am talking plain old candle wax. So I took a sample wood left over from some scales Floppyshoes made me, and I tested it out.

I heat the wax until it has the consistency of hot oil, then stick the scales in and leave them there until the wood has pretty much stopped bubbling.

You have to be very careful because even when making candles, wax isn't made that hot. If the wax starts smoking, you run the risk of discolouration of the wax. Of course if you spill the wax on yourself, you run the risk of 3rd degree burns.

The wood puts out thousands of tiny bubbles as the wax is absorbed. Lower wax temps won't allow for absorbtion beyond the surface.

Worked well so I thought cool, I will wax some scales. First attempt worked very well and got me motivated to finish another pair. I have some pictures for you all, coz we all love pictures, and I also will do a list of pro's and cons

Optional[edit | edit source]

Most craft supply stores sell a variety of materials for making candles. One of the most common is pigment for the wax. This usually comes in the form of small wax blocks of the desired color. Using these, the wax can be tinted any colour, or existing tint can be corrected. Be careful, because a little goes a long way.

Also, a variety of options are available for wax. Candle wax produces a good medium finish with medium protection. Bees wax produces a more natural looking finish, but also a softer finish. There are also hard waxes, such as carnuba wax, wich can be used the same way, producing the shiniest and most durable finish, or blended with other waxes.

For best results[edit | edit source]

The process of soaking the wood in hot wax will tend to raise the grain on most woods. If you want a smoother finish, sand the scales lightly with 600 grit or finer sandpaper, or 000 or finer steel wool after they have cooled. Then, dip the scales back into the wax for at least a full minute.

For the best polish, lightly buff the scales with a cloth buffing wheel AFTER they have completely cooled.

For the most 'natural' and unfinished looking scales, wipe the scales down with paper towels immediately when removed from the hot wax.

Pros & Cons[edit | edit source]


  • You can recycle them old candle stubs and that leftover wax.
  • Distributes evenly.
  • Absorbs quickly
  • Dries quickly.
  • Don't need a dozen or so coats.
  • Looks great.
  • Cost effective.
  • Non messy. You don't have to worry about needing solvents to remove wax from fingers or surfaces, which it may come in contact with.
  • No dangerous chemicals.


  • Sometimes the can get grubby. I.e. fingerprints can be seen.
  • Some woods react a little different.
  • Less durable than hard synthetic finishes.

Thats all the pro's and cons that I can come up with for now, but I like those results.

Results[edit | edit source]

First set of scales is bloodwood. Before and after pics, as you can see they look great. One is before is with flash the other without, same with after pics.

Second set, before and after pics. I can't recall if this is cocobolo or bocote, but think it is bocote. This ones didn't respond well with the heat, a sap like substance was secreted and the wax didn't fully absorb, so the final appearance isn't too flash.

SRP forum member Aquinin finished a set of scales using Renaissance Wax:

Did I mention how cost effective this method of sealing scales is? Use your candles to romantasize your wife or girlfriend, then pick up that set wax which pooled at the base of the candle, and use it to seal your scales. See, those candles serve both of the loves in your life. Women and scales for your razors. Mother earth will thank you too.

NOTE: Melting the wax can be potentially dangerous. If you burn the flesh off your body from in proper handling, or burn your house down, don't look at me. I accept no liability.