Renaissance Wax

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Renaissance Wax 200ml tub

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. 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.[1]

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.[2]

Use[edit]

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 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.

Formulation[edit]

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

Earlier wax polishes based on beeswax and carnauba wax either contained acids or became acidic over time. Renaissance Wax is 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, 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 that the rest of the wax.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chinese Swords Guide: Restoration". 
  2. ^ a b 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. 
  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.