waxing period pieces


Well-known member
I am seeking a consensus from the professional conservators/restorers regarding the use of wax on period pieces.
I have a piece in the shop for a repair where I reglued a clean break using hot hide glue, removed traces of white glue and replaced some modern nails with period cut nails. The customer wants a coat of wax to perk up the finish, but I am reluctant because the piece is in original untouched condition. Would the addition of wax diminish the value?

I am assuming the finish on this piece is a clear finish on wood and that it is not a painted piece.  I am also assuming it has a finish, and is not bare wood.  You can paste wax a clear finish without much concern, as it is fairly easy to remove if necessary, later.  Painted surfaces should not be waxed.  Wax on bare wood, unless that is the original finish (or non-finish), can be difficult to reverse.  It would be interesting to have a photo of the piece to refer to.  Also, for the sake of discussion, you raise an ethical question:  Is the customer always right?  PSP

Most likely its an old finish. Rarely or should I even say never does the original finish survive.I would use Boston Polish Bowling Alley Wax. This is common practice.

Peter and Freddy, Thanks for your responses. Thankfully I convinced the customer that it was in her best interests to leave the piece untouched. The piece in question was a cherry Shaker child's cradle in remarkable condition with some losses to the finish on the inside, which as Peter mentioned, would have absorbed more wax and darkened. Ross

Good call.  When it comes to authentic Shaker items, doing nothing to anything with an old finish is the best course.  Most of them have a thinned paint for a surface finish.  Even if that was followed at a later date with something like shellac, it is best not to add or subtract anything.  The Shaker market is extremely picky.  PSP