Friday, March 8, 2013

Furniture Topcoats and Waxes - Australian Edition

I get so many emails from you all asking about furniture painting, waxes, and  other top coat products. I'm slowly working my way through the list of questions in a DIY Tips tutorial series. I know for some of you this has been a long time coming.  Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, has done several wonderful posts on finishing painted furniture but I constantly get emails asking for what I use in Australia as a lot of the American products are not available here. So here is my list for topcoats and furniture waxes that are readily available in this fine land of ours down under.

My one disclaimer is please don't solely rely on me though as I have been using various top coats for many years now and I have found the best thing is to experiment with different products and find out what works for you and your own style of painting.



what top coats to use on painted furniture australia wax

Furniture Waxes

When applying wax to a timber or painted surface, you need to rub it vigorously into the surface. The friction of the rubbing melts the wax and works it into surface to create adhesion and durability.  Wax will result in a soft lustrous sheen, but it can be buffed to a high gloss. With all the rubbing and buffing, applying wax can be a tedious process but I find that it is worth the effort for a traditional, hand rubbed finish.

My hands down favourite wax is Feast & Watson Mastertouch Carnauba Wax. Man, I adore this stuff. Feast & Watson, the company have a great history and success story - starting out in Sydney, Australia as a small family owned business in 1922, they are now part of the DuluxGroup.  The wax comes in brown or natural - I have only ever used the natural. It costs around $31  for a 500ml tin that will cover many many pieces of furniture.  Carnauba is a hard wax with a high melting point and I brush it in using a circular motion with the round bristled brush in the above photo. After letting it dry for about 15 minutes you can either buff it off with a dry cloth or to achieve a soft lustre you can sand the wax into the surface with very fine sandpaper or fine steel wool, rubbing with the direction of the grain.

It has a mild and very pleasant smell. I love the velvety smoothness that I can achieve with this wax.   This works very well with both Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and home made Chalk paint as well as any other porous paint - flat acrylic, milk paint or even natural timber.  You can even use this on your floors - it is extremely durable.  I adore everything about this wax, especially that I can buy a product manufactured and developed in Australia.  I use this product on 90% of my furniture these days. I can not recommend it highly enough.



what top coats to use on painted furniture australia wax

Another wax I really like, and one that has been recommended to me by several professional furniture painters, is Howard Feed n Wax Carnauba Beeswax and Orange Oil mix. This is a fairly runny mixture that you squirt out of the bottle onto the furniture directly or onto a clean lint free rag and buff into the surface. It is very nourishing and super easy to apply.  It works beautifully over latex/acrylic paint as a top coat. It is also great to use on very ornate pieces as it's easy to get into all the nooks and crannies and polishes up well with a rag. I also often use it to give a quick shine to previously waxed surfaces. Once you rub it on you need to wait around 20 minutes and then wipe dry and polish.  The orange oil in it gives this a divine smell.


what top coats to use on painted furniture australia wax

For polishing or buffing wax, I will often get an old sock and ball it up and then put it inside an old pair of pantyhose and then use this for buffing. It works very well. I actually learnt this from my days of being an Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and spit polishing shoes for parades. We used to be able to achieve a super high gloss from finishing off with a pair of pantyhose. Hilarious to see all these macho pilots with a pair of stockings rolled up polishing their shoes. 

Soft wax - It is still not possible to buy Annie Sloan Soft Wax or Miss Mustard Seed's soft wax in Australia, although ASCP products should be here within a month. I have a few different soft waxes available in Australia that I will use for different finishes. I really like using (and the smell of) Organoil Natural Wax and Polish. It is actually very similar to Miss Mustard Seeds Soft Wax in texture. It states on the can that it shouldn't be used over painted surfaces but I have been using it on and off for 2 years and have never had trouble or negative feedback so I think it's fine.


Personally I do not like using pure beeswax mainly due to the smell. Never apply beeswax just before you sell a piece as it will definitely put off potential buyers! 


Water based Sealers

For table tops and other surfaces that are going to have a lot of wear and tear I tend to use a sealer than is more durable than wax.  Wax can get water marks in it quite easily and most people don't want to take care of their tables as much as a waxed surface would require. You can either spray or brush these on (I don't have a spray gun or any where to spray so I always brush on).

what top coats to use on painted furniture australia wax

I have tried many different sealers over the years. I personally steer clear of oil based products mainly due to yellowing, the hassle of clean up and environmental issues.  All my furniture and my house is painted with water based products - I will write a blog post on this in depth sometime in the future. The only exception I make to this is, I very occasionally use a Zinsser oil based primer. 

I really like using the Porters range of sealers. They are Australian made, low VOC and are very easy to apply. Porters have two sealers : Clearcote and the All purpose Clear Sealer. These two products are almost the only non-yellowing (over white paint) products I have found. Never use an oil based top coat over white paint as it will literally yellow your paint work within months - sometime sooner. 

what top coats to use on painted furniture australia wax

Be aware Clearcote can NOT be used on milk paint, or chalk paint. It will literally "eat up" your paint work and your hard work will disappear before your eyes - I have not had this happen to me as I knew about this incompatibility before using it but it has happened to other people that I know.  I still really love the Clearcote and would chose it every time for sealing timber table tops. It is extremely fast drying and doesn't show much brushmarks. 

If you are using paint with organic compounds (eg milk/chalk paints) then buy the Clear Sealer.  

I have also used (as a cheaper option to Porters) Cabot's Cabothane water based sealer. However this is meant to be non-yellowing over white paint but I had trouble with it on a desk painted in Dulux Fair Bianca. It literally yellowed the desk within a week. Luckily the yellowing was very uniform and the desk just looked as though it was a creamy antiqued effect but I won't trust it over white paint again. I use this now over coloured paint such as my turquoise/peacock blue pieces.


what top coats to use on painted furniture australia wax


Wipe on Poly

I used to use Minwax Wipe on Poly over coloured or natural timber surface (never white as this will really yellow white paint, yep it's oil based) but I found it a lot of work to achieve the particular finish that I'm after and I now prefer the other products mentioned above. However I would not discount this as I think it can be easier to apply than the brush on sealers when you are first starting out.


Nude : No Top Coat

If you use a quality primer (I always use Zinsser) and a good quality satin or gloss paint it is also possible to not use any top coat. The glossiest paint finish I ever choose is "satin" as I prefer a matte low sheen look. My French buffet in my dining room has no top coat over the painted body. The walnut top surface is waxed. Admittedly the buffet is in a safe place behind the dining table and doesn't get touched much but the paint work is still perfect and clean bright white after 2 years.


what top coats to use on painted furniture australia wax

I hope that helps you with your painting journey. I'd love to hear your feedback or any other products you use and can recommend.

See here for all my DIY tutorials in one place

cheers 
Fiona xx

39 comments:

  1. Thank you Fiona for sharing your knowledge once again so generously. I have been waiting for this guide in the hope to paint beautiful furniture like you do! You have inspired me to give it a try on the weekend.
    What a great blog you have.
    Jane x

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  2. AWESOME stuff. Thanks for sharing. Great to know that you support Australian made.

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  3. Interesting post Fiona :)

    I've recently switched to Porter's Clearcote after only using Cabothane and I like the Porters one better. I believe the difference between the two Porters products is that Clearcote is for interior and exterior, with the clear sealer for interior use only. I think the price is great, particularly since I used to buy the tiny tins of Cabothane for $27, ouch!

    I haven't actually used any of the waxes you recommend. Agree totally with you on the smell of beeswax, blerk! I'd also recommend that no-one use Briwax, it stinks and I had it eat into my paintwork a few years ago (even though you are meant to be able to use it on painted surfaces).

    Have a good weekend :)
    Karen

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  4. Wow-what great information! Will definatly have too keep this post in mind. Thanks so much!

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  5. Thank you for the info!!! I am in canada so the products are not what I find here except for Minwax. But I do have ASCP available and that's what I use. It is a bit smelly but I get more shine with it than with my favourite: Cece Caldwell wax. Cece's doesn't shine as much as ASCP, but doesn't smell... and I paint right in my living room. There are no VOCs. I have not used Poly yet, and I am about to refinish a tabletop.
    Thank you so much for the post!

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  6. Wow! Lots of valuable information. Thank you for sharing. My daughter just purchased a sideboard that we will be refinishing, so this post was very timely for us. Thanks!

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  7. Thanks for the info. I have got to try a sock in pantyhose trick!

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  8. This is such a great post and I thank you for sharing your expience. I use the same wax but I apply direct with 000 steel wool and give it a really firm with the grain rub. I then buff off with a soft rag. I have used the brown but it has to be used carefully. It's great for helping conceal scratches on oak or darker timbers. Will be playing around with your techniques xxthanks again

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    1. thanks so much Kathryn for your input. i also use the brown wax (or even a brown crayon) on scratches.

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  9. Hi,

    Just saw your blog while looking for top coats and sealers for my table and absolutely love the detail you provide!!! I painted my dining table a few months back. It was originally a dark brown and I used Taubmans Acrylic paint to give it a matte white color and then topped it off with Cabot's Top coat. Not boasting but the paint job turned out amazing for a first timer but only a few months down and the edges of my table have started looking dirty. You know like walls get dirty around switch boards? Plus I dropped a bit of coffee on it the other day and there's a stain. I wasn't expecting this after a top coat. What do you suppose is the problem? And what do you suggest I do since i'm actually considering repainting the entire thing.

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    1. hi Ayesha - thanks for the feedback. happy to help. I am not sure why your top coat may not be working - how many coats of it did you put on.. I would always recommend doing at least 2 coats and for something like a dining room table that gets a lot of wear and tear even three coats with sanding in between. You can probably just use a product like gumption or jif to clean where it is dirty. Don't scrub too hard but just like you would clean your lightswitch. It's just grime and oils from our bodies - it should clean off relatively very easily. The coffee stain may need more effort and if it doesn't come off with a cleaning product then perhaps you do need to repaint but i would think it should clean off.
      hope that helps. can you just let me know if you get this reply.
      cheers Fiona

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  10. Hi there! Thankyou for sharing! One tiny question please...do you mean put a clear sealer on AFTER waxing or Instead of? Seems from what you say that clear seal alone will either wreck the paint job or not give it that worn look. Sorry for my confusion!
    Oh I read AS waxes are now available in Au, have you tried them yet?
    Wish I had a Melbourne stockist of ASCP! I will order butam impatient!!
    Cheers, Mez

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    1. hi Mez, yes if you read my blog posts more recently you will see that i now use ASCP chalk paints and waxes a lot. I mean clear sealer instead of waxing if you should so choose to use that. for example I just painted a bed in ASCP Graphite and sued a wipe on poly instead of wax so the wax wouldn't rub on the sheets (this might happen even after the wax cures.) or if you are doing a table top and want extra durability. Wax is not extremely durable like a poly or sealer and you need to be careful about putting a glass of liquid or vases etc on your waxed furniture.
      hope that helps
      Fiona

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  11. Hi Fiona, I have been reading your blogs for a while now, and I am about to tackle my first project. I bought an old picture frame for the 2nd hand shop for $15 and after painting it will convert to a mirror. Hoping all goes well. So thanks for the tips, and if it works out I will post a photo. Thanks again, Helen

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  12. Any advice for reprinting furniture for a baby nursery? I have some new shelving units in white melamine. I'd like to paint over a lilac painted chest of wooden drawers and repaint a white vintage wooden cot.

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    1. *repainting (sorry autocorrect)

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    2. hi Esta - are you in australia? (my answer will include brands so just want to give you local products if applicable) can you email me please on lilyfieldlife@bigpond.com
      cheers Fiona

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  13. Thankyou so so much for your info on this blog. I was just down at my local Bunnings for the 5th time asking for info on Australian avalible products to wax over chalk paint and they have no idea. I have spent a small fortune over the last few months taking their unsure advice on products only to be dissapointed yet again and more out of pocket.
    Do you have any advice on using the "Gilly Stephenson's" wax products? As I have purchased them but Im unsure on how exactly how to use them.
    I have a chalk painted chair that I need to top coat with a wax product but im unsure if it will work and wich product to use? The cabinet makers wax or carnauba polish? Or neither???

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    1. I looked at these also but decided on the Feast Watson instead. Worked well and has a nice smell. Cost wise it is cheaper than the other also (quantity vs price).

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  14. Thank you so much for this post. I have been trying to work out which wax I could use on DIY chalk paint and just wasn't sure. Unable to locate the SC Johnson Wax that I seen used on other sites. I had seen the Feast Watson wax at Bunnings but wasn't sure if it could be used over chalk paint. Went and purchased it today and it worked easily and smells great to.

    I also looked at the Gilly Stephenson's waxes but after your post decided to go with the Feast Watson brand and it also works out cheaper (price vs quantity.

    Once again. """Thank you"""

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  15. Hi, I was pointed in your direction and am over the moon at the feast of information here, as I am in the process of refinishing our timber dining table! I was wondering if you knew where I might find an Australian stockist of the howards beeswax orange oil/wax, one that will post? I live in rural Qld and sadly popping into Bunnings just doesn't happen (I wish!). Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge!!

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  16. Hi!
    I don't normally post comments as I am a bit of a blog lurker, however I just had to let you know how much I appreciate the effort you have put into writing this post! It is so hard to find information and products that are relevant to us Aussies, especially on the DIY front, so thank you for the time you have put into this piece. I have yet to try the waxes but have used Porter's All Purpose Sealer on a Dining table setting that I did in Porter's Milk Paint. I have been really happy with it so far as it's not "sticky" when it dries like a lot of sealers. Have you any experience with dark wax? I am interested to know what it looks like on a light coloured piece. Also, if you haven't already tried it, I suggest giving Porter's Woolwash a go when glazing or refinishing a wooden top. :)

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  17. This is a great post, Fiona. I have been too scared to use wax coz I have no idea what I am doing. I thought I would mention that I have used minwax Polycrylic over dulux hogs bristle quarter and there has been no yellowing at all. It has only been 6 months but the finish is really good. Hard wearing too. I have purchased it online but I have seen online that masters carry minwax products too, so thats a bonus if u r near one. Thanks again

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  18. Great post, I just have a small question. I managed to paint an old buffet with taubmans gloss finish, but as a sealant I decided to use spray clear acrylic but it has left blotches all over my piece. I am devasted as all my hard work looks terrible, what can I do to correct this? And should I use brush on, instead?

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    Replies
    1. hi - over a gloss finish you will not need a top coat - just paint it and let it dry for a couple of weeks beofre using it. With your spray you've probably not sprayed evenly. but just repaint and don't top coat.

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  19. Hi, I just came across your post and wanted to comment on the Cabot's water-based varnish. Ages ago I used it over turquiose and even that went a bit yellow, so I contacted Cabots directly and they said this product is definitely only meant for raw or stained timber, not over paint. They said none of their products are designed to go over paint, so Porter's is the best option (I use that). Thanks for your great post.

    Lauren

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    1. hi Lauren - that's interesting as I've had it yellow over white paint also so stopped using it. i'll amend my post soon. much appreciated for the update. cheers fiona

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  20. Hi Fiona, my husband and I recently purchased a second hand stokke tripp trapp trapp for our soon arriving baby. My grandfather kindly painted it in a beautiful matte grey. However now I'm really worried it will scratch. What do you suggest I top coat it in for the wear and tear it's sure to endure? Thanks, Charde

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    1. hi Charde
      if you top coat with a poly acrylic sealer such as the porters one then that is the best chance. good luck with it
      cheers fiona

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  21. I have tried the Intergrain range of clear sealers on timber furniture. It doesn't yellow and can be used on outdoor pieces as well as indoor furniture. It is available at Bunnings.

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  22. Hi Fiona, what would you recommend as a replacement for Annie Sloane dark wax. I bought a dark brown wax and makes the white chalk paint look cream, so I'm looking for a black wax? Thanks JO

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    1. Yes that's right Jo it does turn the paint brown (as it's a brown wax). miss mustard seed has a black wax and I think so does porters paints

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  23. Hi Fiona, have just painted a side table with two coats of homemade chalk paint (plaster of paris recipe). Last coat was 24 hours ago. I have just applied some Feast and Watson wax and it has made the paint do soft I can easily scratch it off with my finger nail. It is extremely humid here at the moment so am thinking the paint is not dry enough?

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    1. hi Kevin
      yes I've had that happen before. As you say, t's too humid and your paint wasn't dry enough. Don't scratch off the paint, wax, let it harden and cure. good luck
      Fiona

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  24. Hi Fiona, I am a new devotee of painting vintage furniture and have been furiously studying your tutorials! My question is regarding the Feast Watson wax which appeals to me as you say it is easily applied and Australian made. Now that you have had a chance to use the ASCP wax, which do you prefer? Also what is the difference between soft and hard wax? I have never waxed anything and am a bit put off by many newbies experiences of streakiness and difficulty of applying the ASCP wax, especially on white/cream surfaces. I have an old sideboard to paint and trying to decide between wax or clear sealer...
    PS. Looking forward to sending my hubby to pick up my own 'Fiona' creation this Saturday!

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    1. thanks so much Debbie - firstly you are going to love the little armoire. it seriously is one of my favourite pieces!I'm getting the shelf cut tomorrow for it. The difference between hard wax and soft wax is littlerally the melting point. Annie sloan's wax is more like soft butter whereas Feast and Watson master touch is harder in the tin and probably gives a more durable top coat but when you rub it in is melts and is just as easy to apply as Annie Sloan.the hard wax is pure carnuaba wax and soft wax will be a mix of waxes. I probably use ASCP more but just because i buy it with the paint so it's handier for me. If your wax is streaky you are probably applying either too much or perhaps not enough. what does it feel like - chalky or tacky? thanks fiona xx

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    2. You are right - I do love the little armoire! I can't believe I've got something so pretty and unique - I'm getting up just to go stare at it! I have another wax question for you... I bought the Feast Watson wax and as you say it smells nice (big plus) and it's hard. I'm wondering then what brush(es) I need to use to apply it? Are the Annie Sloan ones only good for her soft wax? I also notice from your picture that your Feast Watson wax seems to be melted? Do you melt it first (and if so, how??). Thanks heaps xx

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  25. Hi Fiona, I just want to say that I am a follower of yours and love reading all your posts.. I learn so much from them. I want to ask however have you ever used Annie Sloans clear lacquer and what your thoughts are on that. I am going to paint my dining table and chairs with Annie's chalk paint in old white and was going to use Porters all purpose clear coat after reading your post but today found out the Annie has a clear lacquer as well. So I'm thinking of using this as I don't think wax will be durable enough with my family.. lol. I'm assuming her lacquer is non yellowing. Have you ever used her lacquer? Thanks in advance, regards, Maryann

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  26. Hi Fiona, I plan to revive my dining table with wood stain and a topcoat of Porters clear, once this is done would applying a wax enhance it's appearance?

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Thanks for taking the time to comment! (Sorry if you have trouble commenting, I'm trying to sort it out)