your choice of toppings.

I can still remember that ‘eureka moment’ when I realized it was possible to strip the old finish from furniture and then just use wax to refinish it.  Prior to that I had no idea that it could be just that simple.

I thought that you had to stain wood and also then finish it with some sort of poly topcoat, but I was wrong.  You don’t have to do it that way.  You can choose to just strip off the old finish and then wax it.  If you use a colored wax, the wax itself will give a beautiful color to the wood, so there’s no need for stain.

This is pretty much the most fool-proof method for refinishing a wood top that I’ve found.  No need to worry about your stain not taking evenly, or your poly topcoat looking streaky.  Anyone can wax.

And it doesn’t matter if your piece is solid wood or a wood veneer, this technique works beautifully for both.

Solid oak:

Burled walnut veneer:

Step 1:  Strip off the old varnish using Citristrip (or your stripper of choice).  Clean the piece well and sand it smooth using 220 grit sandpaper.

Step 2:  Apply the wax using a brush or a lint free cloth.  Remove any excess wax using a clean cloth.

Step 3:  Wait 10 or 15 minutes and then buff to bring out some shine.  If you prefer a more matte or rustic look, you can do very little buffing or even skip it altogether.

Are you wondering which wax product to use?  Here are my favorite dark waxes …

As you can see, they are all very well loved.  They are also all non-stinky and safe for indoor use (to read more about wax safety, be sure to check out this post).

All of the various wax brands that I use have dark and/or brown versions and they are all just slightly different in color.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you some options so you can compare.

First up, Miss Mustard Seed Antiquing Wax.

MMS Antiquing Wax is the color of dark chocolate.  I’m not a fan of eating dark chocolate (give me milk chocolate or white chocolate every time), but I love this wax.  It’s very creamy, has almost no smell, and it works beautifully.

Fusion also sells wax under their brand name.  Keep in mind that Fusion and Miss Mustard Seed are both from Homestead House Paint Company, so their waxes come from the same wax manufacturer.  As does the Homestead House brand wax.  It’s all museum quality, safe for you and the environment, non-smelly and I think it’s the creamiest wax out there.  It’s a bit softer than some of the others which makes it much easier to apply.

I’ve included the Cece Caldwell Aging Cream in my line up today because that was one of the first dark waxes I used over stripped wood.  I don’t tend to use it anymore mainly because the local shop where I used to buy it went out of business.  It has a bit more of a reddish tone than the others, so if you’re looking for that color this wax is a great choice for you.  Here it is on a dresser top …

I’ve only recently started using the Dixie Belle Best Dang Wax.  Their Brown wax is perfect for finishing bare wood tops.

It is just a bit harder (more firm, less soft and creamy) than the others.  So it takes a little more elbow grease to apply.  However, I think I’m also less prone to wasting product because I don’t accidentally get too much on my brush.  I also think it buffs up to more of a shine than the others.  I have a feeling that there is a relationship between how soft/hard the wax is and how much shine you can get out of it, but that might just be my own perception.

  One caveat regarding wax, it should be reapplied periodically to maintain the finish.  The good news is that wax is super easy to refresh, simply clean the surface and then apply more wax.  If you get a water ring or a scratch or two, just spot sand lightly, clean and re-wax.  It couldn’t be easier.

Personally I would not choose to use wax on a surface that is going to get a lot of wear, be exposed to a lot of moisture or require regular scrubbing such as kitchen cabinets or a bathroom vanity.  For those surfaces I would opt for something more durable like a poly finish or Fusion paint (which is very durable and washable once cured, even without a top coat).  However, I think wax is quite durable enough for a dresser or desk top.  I even have a wax finish on my dining table that has held up very well (although we do use coasters for sweaty glasses).

So if you haven’t already tried refinishing some pretty wood with wax, give it a go next time.  I’ll add a link for this post to my ‘how to‘ page so you can always find it for future reference.

And in the meantime, be sure to check back on Wednesday to learn about more choices in toppings!

30 thoughts on “your choice of toppings.

  1. How do you take off wax? Had a very difficult time trying to get clear wax off. I applied it with a wax brush and it just balled up on me. I buffed and buffed it looks terrible. I bought some Valspar clear wax yesterday. It’s much thinner than the Annie Sloan. HELP


      1. No, it wasn’t. It was wax over a wood seat that had been stripped of any finish. I’m really not sure what the mineral spirits would do to chalk paint. I think you’d likely have to re-paint your piece too, at least one touch up coat anyway. But I want to re-iterate that I have not tried this, so don’t take my word for it.


  2. Appreciate this information. For the infrequent DIY groupies of your work it’s nice to have this all in one post. I also have enjoyed perusing the how to section. Thanks Quandie.


  3. WoW! I wish I had known about using wax ages ago! Ive refinished a lot of pieces and it would have saved me a lot of steps (and smell/angst) using the wax. Your tops look great. Thank you for another terrific tutorial!


    1. I’m not sure what you mean by streaks. Are you saying that using black wax over bare wood leaves streaks? Or black wax over black paint? Or black wax over other colors of paint?


      1. OK, I think I know what you mean. I think the streaky-ness is more in the sheen rather than color. In other words, some parts are more shiny than others making the finish look streaky. Does that sound right to you? I’m not sure what causes that, maybe just uneven application of the wax. I’d try applying a second light coat of wax next time and see if that helps.


  4. Thanks for this post today, great information! I am considering stripping an antique oak table and just waxing, so I appreciate the narrative on the different waxes.


  5. You always go far beyond with your tutorials than I ever expect! I’ve used wax to refinish a wood top or 3 since I read and saw the results from the first time you posted about doing it. I love the look and how easy it is to do and maintain. It actually looks more natural than stain and poly. Since I’d done it before I thought I knew how, but then you post a tutorial that gives me even more info to use! I appreciate the extra information on the waxes you use and the colors you’re able to obtain from each brand. The photos of your end results are incredibly helpful. I’m always learning from you. Thank you for teaching all of us. (I’m really in awe of how you’re always able to come up with just the right information to help out!)


  6. Your timing is impeccable! I was staining the top of a dresser, and the stain was way to “orange/red” for me….took your advice, and used Dixie Belle Best Dang Wax in Black over the stain, worked perfectly to tone down the orange/red shades! Thank you 🙂


  7. I just came across your website today while researching some staining techniques. Love this article on waxing antiques! Can you tell me the color you used on the burled walnut dresser? (I know it’s been a few years!!). It looks like my dining room table top that unfortunately has a glass ring in the finish.


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