In a guest blog, Steve Whatling of Cambridge Traditional Products tells us about how to make the perfect beeswax polish. If you are a church that wants to use beeswax polish to restore old pews, choir-stalls and natural wood carvings please see the bottom of this post to find out how you can obtain it free of charge from Cambridge Traditional Products.
Cambridge Traditional Products Ltd. was established in 1979 by Adrian Perkins, a retired teacher, and part time beekeeper. Adrian had discovered an original Victorian recipe for beeswax polish, and when he tried it, he realised he had something special. He started producing polish from home, and within a few years the popularity of his polish necessitated a move to proper premises and full time production.
For more than 35 years we have produced polish to that same recipe. This means that apart from pure filtered beeswax, our polish also contains Pure Gum Turpentine. This is something we are particularly proud of, as most other producers of similar products switched to white spirit a few years ago when the price of turpentine rose dramatically. We made a decision then to stick with the original ingredients – I did not feel we could describe the polish as “traditional” if one of the key ingredients was a modern substitute. My belief was that people would be prepared to pay a little more for real quality. Fortunately this has proven to be the case.
Turpentine is a sustainable organic product, tapped from pine trees, like rubber once was. It has a much more beneficial effect on wood than white spirit, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry. For more on this, see my blog.
Cambridge Traditional polish is a cream, as opposed to a paste polish. Paste polishes tend to come in a tin, and are quite hard, like shoe polish. A cream polish is easier to use, as a little can be applied at a time and, generally, less elbow grease is required to buff it up.
Creating a cream polish presents its own challenges, as it involves making an emulsion. This can be quite tricky to get right, as various factors contribute to the quality of the end product. Firstly, the beeswax has to be of the correct specification, or it will not emulsify properly. The key ingredients are then heated in separate tanks. In one tank the waxes are dissolved in turpentine, and in the other, raw soap is dissolved in water. The two heated mixtures are then mixed into a stirring vat to cool.
Bottling the polish
The following day, we “bottle” the polish into jars, which are then weighed and labelled by hand and packed for shipping.
We produce a neutral beeswax polish, and a brown version. The neutral polish is the most popular, as it can be applied to any kind of bare wood. (I always emphasise “bare” wood, as there is little point in using our polish on something that has been varnished or lacquered; the real purpose of a traditional beeswax polish is to soak in and feed the wood).
The brown polish is great for enhancing the grain on darker woods. It is also useful as a subtle stain on light wood such as pine, and is remarkably effective when used to hide staining damage, such as can be caused by sun bleaching, or the effect of a hot cup being placed onto a table top. View examples
We also produce pure beeswax sticks, which have a remarkable range of uses. One of these is as a traditional protection for zips , particularly in the sub-aqua industry, which led to the development of “Zip-Slip”, our specialist zip lubricant.
Another specialist product, related to the polish, is our “Timber Reviver”. This was developed at the request of a builder working for English Heritage, and is a beeswax and turpentine solution designed to be brushed onto old dried out timber beams, to protect and enhance the wood.
Wood in churches
In an article by the British Antique Furniture Restorers Association about the care of historic furniture and fixed woodwork in churches.it states: “Only use a good quality, unstained beeswax with Turpentine polish”. It is the perfect thing for preserving and enhancing pews, decorative carvings or any other old wood in churches.
Some time ago, Adrian and I travelled to St-Mary-Le-Tower church in Ipswich. An old friend of Adrian’s was using our polish to renovate some amazing 19th century carvings in local oak, by Theodore Pfyffers. The carvings on the choir stalls, of angels playing musical instruments, and the Evangelists in their symbolic animal forms, are particularly impressive, and the effect of the polish is striking. See photos
Seeing the work being done, and feeling proud that our polish is being used to enhance such beautiful carvings inspired an idea. We currently have quite a bit of polish stored that we refer to as “factory seconds”. This polish is every bit as good (in terms of what it does) as the polish we sell, it just doesn’t look as good in the jar, and we have very high standards. So we decided to make this polish available, free, to charity renovation projects. There is more info on this on our website
How to apply for polish
If you would like to apply for some of this polish please contact us at www.cambridgetraditionalproducts.co.uk and tell us about your project.