posted 15 Feb 2010, 22:08 by Patrick Robinson
Beeswax as a timber polish has probably been in use for thousands of years.
Gathered from beehives and mixed with a little turps or oil it has made a simple furniture protector and beautifier over the centuries.
Before the widespread use of shellac in the early 1800's, it was de rigeur. The special lustre of a wax polished piece is difficult to better. See, for instance, this late 1700's gateleg table.
Trouble is, it takes a long time to build up a decent shine. Many applications are necessary to build up a protective layer and even when there is a good coating, moisture from drinks and vases permeate the timber below and leave ring marks.
Modern waxes are more versatile than the traditional beeswax and turps combo. They have additives which make them harder, more colourful, and thiner. They  can be applied over the top of the shellac to impart a softer lustre without losing the more resilient beetlejuice finish.
Waxing alone is a beautiful option, but only if you are prepared to do plenty of revival work.