• A panel of coachwood was sanded back and each finish applied to sections that were left overnight with substances and objects likely to stain or mark.
    A panel of coachwood was sanded back and each finish applied to sections that were left overnight with substances and objects likely to stain or mark.

Reviewed by Raf Nathan

For a wood finish we all want to use the safest materials without compromising on trying to get that perfect result. Hand rubbed finishes can seem to offer a natural solution.

We were sent four samples of ‘hardwax oils’ to test. These products are brought in from Germany by Whittle Waxes, one under their own brand, the other as Treatex.

According to the tech sheets these finishes are made from renewable raw materials such as linseed, soya, rapeseed, safflower, sunflower, carnauba, candelilla, shellac, micro wax, isoaliphates and lead‐free drying agents, water, and oil alkyd.

They are not grain fillers and therefore (within reason) the finish is only as good as the prepared surface. According to the tech sheet, as long as the surface is smooth you will have no problems.

For floors, sanding to 120 grit is recommended however fine woodwork always needs more than that. These products are available in various sheen levels and colours however the samples I tried were Treatex Lustre and Gloss Hardwax Oils, and Whittle Object Oil and Classic Hardwax Oil.

Treatex is claimed to be highly durable, water repellant and safe for use on children’s toys. The Whittle branded waxes are apparently not quite as durable but claimed to be even safer, and from the discussion I had with a rep, are almost 100% ‘green’.

As a trial I prepared a large panel of coachwood and divided it into four sections. The wood panel was sanded up to 320 grit and clean individual rags were always used. For floors you can apply and wait 24 hours and then buff. However out of habit I applied the finishes and waited 20 minutes before buffing all of them. Another coat of each was applied 24 hours later, and again wiped and buffed.

Two more coats went on over a few more days. The Object Oil was of course the easiest to apply. It is promoted as a general purpose wood oil that does not seal the wood so it’s not really suitable as a finish alone.

All waxes were easy to apply. For buffing, the gloss was the hardest to work. It became stiff and slightly thicker in some areas with elbow grease needed to get it smooth. The Lustre and Classic both demanded work to buff up, but no more than a traditional wax.

As a test, small pieces of beetroot, teaspoons of Southern Comfort and cups of boiling water were placed on each section and left overnight.

The next day the testers were removed and the sections wiped and buffed. There were small marks on all the sections with the object oil the least affected and the gloss the worst. All the finishes were still highly serviceable but there were discernable marks. The sections were re-oiled and waxed and set aside.

About four days later something happened, the finishes changed. They looked different and had become more lustrous. The Object oil was much the same but the hardwax oils were all looking slightly shiny with a soft glow. Buffing them now with a rag gave them all a good hand rubbed look. Pretty well all the marks disappeared after this final buff, the Gloss still showing a small area where part of the finish had been removed by the Southern Comfort. A week later the finishes looked even better.

Overall I found the Gloss was hardest to apply and least resistant to marking. The Treatex Lustre offered the best balance between ease of application and resulting finish quality. The Whittle Classic with its supposed enviro 100% clean bill was my next choice. Both will give most woodwork a protective hand finished look. The Object Oil seems a good alternative to similar oil finishes I have used.

Note: Despite the enviro-friendly creds you must, as with most wood finishing oils, wash and dispose carefully of rags after use to avoid the risk of spontaneous combustion.

Products supplied by www.whittlewaxes.com.au, phone (03) 9873 8484.

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