Renaissance Wax

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Renaissance Wax 200ml tub

Renaissance Wax is a brand of microcrystalline wax polish that is widely encountered in antique restoration and museum curation. Although not appropriate for all materials, it is known to and used by almost every collection. It is also used as a primary finish for cabinetry and furniture. Renaissance wax is also used by reenactors of historic swordsmanship to protect armour and weapons. It is widely recognised that this substance is more protective and longer lasting than oil, especially for swords and helmets that are frequently touched by human hands.[1]

To quote a typical commercial supplier of conservation materials, it is used, to revive and protect valuable furniture, leather, paintings, metals, marble, onyx, ivory etc. Freshens colours and imparts a soft sheen.[2]

Wax coatings for conservation are most widely, and least controversially, applied to metals. This has several objectives: to produce a barrier that excludes moisture and oxygen from the metal surface, to ensure against further introduction of contaminating elements by handling, and to provide a protective layer over anti-corrosion undercoatings.

Waxes should not be applied to materials with deliberately loose or powdery surfaces.


The wax is evenly and lightly applied over the surface, then lightly buffed with a smooth lint-free cloth to give a sheen. Where the shape of the item requires, a brush may be used instead. It is also used in jewelry making to preserve the patina of the metal.

Obviously the application technique and tools must be appropriate to any specific needs of the item being treated.

Application over other coatings[edit]

For retarding further red rot in leather bookbindings, it is common to first consolidate the leather by application of Klucel G or a similar material and then apply a protective coating of Renaissance Wax.

Renaissance Wax is also commonly used in the preservation of Bronze and Copper coins. The wax seals the coins and helps prevent deterioration from moisture and air exposure. It may also help prevent the onset of the chloride-related corrosion commonly called bronze disease, although it won't arrest this once started.

Conservation of metals may also involve theapplication of an undercoat such as Incralac followed by the application of Renaissance Wax.


Renaissance Wax was originally formulated in the British Museum research laboratories in the early 1950s. It is now manufactured solely by Picreator Enterprises Ltd.[3]

Earlier wax polishes based on beeswax and carnauba wax either contained acids or became acidic over time. Renaissance Wax was based on more stable microcrystalline waxes refined from crude oil.[4]

Renaissance Wax also contains polyethylene waxes. Some other microcrystalline waxes intended for conservation use (e.g. Cosmolloid 80H) do not contain these.

The formulation is:[5]

100g Cosmolloid 80H (Astor)
25g Wax A (a polyethylene wax) (BASF)

Melt together and pour into 300ml of a high flash point hydrocarbon solvent, then stir constantly until cool.

Another similar formulation, giving a harder coating, can also be made:[6]

90g Cosmolloid 80H (Astor)
30g Ketone Resin N (BASF)
200ml High flash point hydrocarbon solvent

Melt together and pour into the solvent, then stir while cooling and add further quantities of white spirit to produce a suitable consistency.

Controversy over its use[edit]

Wax coatings are known to be susceptible to accumulations of dust and lint. They may also obscure some fine detail.

Although Renaissance Wax is generally agreed to be a useful and stable material for conservation work, this view is not without some reservations. Owing to the polyethylene wax content, some authors have reported problems in removing it.[7]


  1. ^ "Chinese Swords Guide: Restoration". 
  2. ^ "Conservation By Design Ltd. commercial catalogue". Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  3. ^ "Renaissance Wax". Picreator Enterprises Ltd. (Manufacturer). Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  4. ^ Horie, C V (1996). Materials for Conservation. Elsevier Science and Technology. ISBN 0-7506-0881-1. 
  5. ^ Plenderleith, H.; A. Werner (1971). The conservation of antiquities and works of art (2nd ed.). London: Oxford University Press. 
  6. ^ Larson, J. (1979). "The conservation of alabaster monuments in churches". The Conservator 3: 28–33. 
  7. ^ Moffett, Dana L. (1996). "Wax Coatings on Ethnographic Metal Objects: Justifications for Allowing a Tradition to Wane". JAIC 35 (1): 1–7.