Renaissance Wax is a brand of microcrystalline wax polish that is encountered in antique restoration and museum curation. It is not appropriate for all materials, and is most safely used on metal objects. However, it is also used for the polish and conservation of organic materials such as wood, ivory, tortoiseshell, and gemstones. Renaissance Wax is sometimes used by reenactors of historic swordsmanship to protect armor and weapons. Waxes are more protective and longer-lasting than oil, especially for swords and helmets that are frequently touched by human hands. It has recently been introduced in the world of guitar building, as a finish that protects and gives colour to the wood.
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 are not permanent, though, and will attract dust and lint over time, necessitating removal of the dirty wax.
Microcrystalline waxes used on ethnographic metal objects are discouraged, as they may require extensive treatment for removal.
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
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 a microcrystalline wax. When Renaissance Wax is used for this protective coating, it can create a white residue if applied too heavily. This white residue cannot be removed. Use of a different wax, such as SC6000, is recommended for leather.
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 the application of an undercoat such as Incralac followed by the application of Renaissance Wax.
Renaissance Wax was developed in the British Museum research laboratories in the early 1950s. It is now manufactured by Picreator Enterprises Ltd.
Renaissance Wax contains polyethylene waxes. Some other microcrystalline waxes intended for conservation use do not contain these.
Controversy over its use
Wax coatings, in general, may accumulate dust and lint.
In one example where a Benin bust made from a copper-iron alloy had been coated with multiple materials including this wax, the polyethylene component required a higher-temperature solvent for removal than the rest of the wax.
- "Chinese Swords Guide: Restoration".
- Moffett, Dana L. (1996). "Wax Coatings on Ethnographic Metal Objects: Justifications for Allowing a Tradition to Wane". JAIC. 35 (1): 1–7. doi:10.2307/3179934. JSTOR 3179934.
- "Renaissance Wax". Picreator Enterprises Ltd. (Manufacturer). Retrieved 2007-04-27.
- Horie, C V (1996). Materials for Conservation. Elsevier Science and Technology. ISBN 0-7506-0881-1.