Surface Embellishments: Liming Wax and Sandblasting
by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX
Note: Click on any picture to see a larger version.
has been used for hundreds of years to create striking effects on wood. The effects can range from a soft antiqued (pickled) finish to a bold high contrast appearance with significant visual impact. It can be used on unfinished wood or over a stained or painted surface. The white liming wax is rubbed onto the wood and then wiped off leaving wax lodged in the open pores of the wood. Liming wax is fantastic when used on ring porous woods like ash and oak.
Enhancing the Surface
Liming wax has its greatest impact when applied over wood that has strong texture verses a smoothly sanded surface. There are various techniques, such as sandblasting, to accentuate the texture of the wood prior to the application of liming wax. I recently tried sandblasting on a pair of ash bowls.
Sandblasting uses a course media forced under high pressure through a hand held nozzle. The media is sprayed against an object to remove surface imperfections such as old paint, surface rust or in our case the softer grain in the wood. I used this sandblasting booth to texture the bowls and other projects.
Sandblasting ring porous woods, like ash, can dramatically enhance the texture. The process eats away the softer (early) wood leaving the harder (late wood) fibers. Contrary to what the name implies, the surface is not sanded smooth. However, it creates a weathered or rustic appearance.
I realize not everyone has access to a sandblasting booth. So, you have a couple of options. A
can create a textured surface. This is a very tedious process and is best used on very small pieces.
Another option would be to use a rotary tool (
) and small burrs or wire brushes to eat away at the softer surface. This technique can leave a more freeform pattern. Neither of these alternatives have the same effect as sandblasting. However, both can leave a surface with bold textures just perfect for apply liming wax. So, don’t let the lack of a sandblasting booth prevent you from experimenting with this technique.
It took about 20 minutes to sandblast these bowls. I stopped from time to time to check my work and ensure that I was achieving an even texture over the entire surface.
Prepping the Surface
Next I used a small brass brush to clean up any unwanted fuzz and loose wood fibers. Then I vacuumed the entire surface to remove any remaining wood dust. I used the soft brush attachment on my shop vacuum to avoid marring the surface and help brush out any remaining saw dust.
Then the bowls were spray painted a satin black color. Different results can be achieved by using flat or gloss paint. Of course, different colors could also be used.
Caution: Read and follow the safety instructions provided with the product. Liming wax is flammable and has a strong odor and should be used in a well-ventilated area. Protective gloves should be worn. The waste materials should be disposed of in accordance with your local laws or regulations.
After the bowls dried overnight, I was ready to apply the liming wax. I find this step to be the most interesting. I wore protective gloves and used a good quality paper towel (or cloth can be used) and liberally applied wax over the entire surface. The goal was to push wax into the "valleys" of the softer wood. I accomplished this by wiping in a circular motion ensuring even coverage over the bowls. I let the wax dry for just a few minutes. Then I wiped off the wax, concentrating on the "hills" (the harder wood grain). This removed the wax from the high spots leaving the wax lodged in the low spots. This creates the attractive and striking contrast on the surface.
This is not a technique you will use every day, however it is a low cost way to expand your creative horizons. The application is extremely simple yet creates a very unique appearance that will surely bring attention to your work.
CLICK HERE to purchase Briwax Liming Wax
Curtis was a former President of
Central Texas Woodturners
, is a member of the
American Association of Woodturners
, and a member of
Fine Woodworkers of Austin
. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at