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Wax for rigging lines

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I just want to pop a question about which wax is best for rigging lines. Usually I make my own wax blocks out of old candles melted down into old ice cube trays. This wax seems to do the trick. But recently I have used bees wax. Is there any advice on which works better? Should I stay with the old melted down candles or continue using bees wax?

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I have used bee's wax on my rigs BUT unless you put your models in Glass cases "DUST" sticks to the rigging and is very hard to remove The Model will be back in the shipyard every year for a long and tedious cleaning 

P.S. The Admiral claim's to keep a dust free house. That is true but with great help from 3 DUST magnet rigs. 

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Candles are usually made from petroleum based paraffin wax unless explicitly labelled as Beeswax. Beeswax will have an adverse effect on your rigging over the long term because it is slightly acidic. Micro wax is best and can be obtained at an art supply store as conservators wax.


Jaxboat B)

Edited by Jaxboat
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There is an extensive thread elsewhere on MSW on this subject in which the opinion seams to be running against the use of beeswax for ship models for reasons of archival longevity. I on the other hand stick with beeswax, if beeswax is wrong I don't want to be right. Emiliano Marino has a book about sewing canvas sails for full size vessels The Sailmaker's Apprentice in which he recommends beeswax mixed with turpentine or tar for the sailtwine used in sewing  actual sails. I love the  smell of pine tar and I sew a lot of canvas so I keep the beeswax mixed with tar handy and I like using it on ship models since the tar in it is a direct link to the past and the culture of sailing ships.

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I like the beeswax and turpentine.It easily soaks through the line, then the turpentine evaporates leaving the wax evenly distributed. The only downside I have found is it is if you apply too much, it turns white after the turpentine is gone. Not a big issue and solvable with a brush and a turpentine wash. As long as I wipe the line down with a paper towel after using the mix on it I have not had the issue.


The issue of whether the wax has a slight acidic content that could degrade the line over time is possible, but I think that it will still well outlast me. So I am not so concerned about it.

Edited by robnbill
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  • 2 weeks later...

Take a glass jar, and shred beeswax into it. Add enough turpentine to cover well and let it set overnight. You can shake it occasionally. If all of the wax has dissolved, add more. The idea is to add as much wax as it will dissolve. This becomes a thin pudding. 

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I have tossed up using wax on a number of past builds. Haven't tried it as yet. May not now if it is a dust attractant. As for fighting the fuzzies, I just rub a drop of PVA glue between thumb and forefinger and run it up the line after fitting. Wouldn't do it if the line wasn't under tension. Don't know if this is considered an acceptable practise or not, but it works for me.

Edited by hornet
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  • 3 weeks later...

1. A few very old books (I really don't remember which ones) stated that shipboard sail makers used a mixture of 5 pounds beeswax, 4 pounds skimmed off grease from the boiling of salt pork thinned with 5 gallons of turpentine applied to the 'twine' they were using for sewing sails. I haven't tried this formula.

2. A similar formula that I have been using for about 5 years is: one part beeswax, one part toilet bowl ring wax and enough turpentine to dissolve it all to a consistency of yellow mustard.

3. I was looking for a wax formula to use for waxing thread in large quantities. I investigated every wax substance I could find. Eventually I picked up a toilet bowl wax ring in ACE hardware one day, read the fine print including a reference to a mil spec. I looked up the mil spec on the internet and was amazed. This stuff has a 50 year warranty against hardening (basically).

4. The mixture will last forever. I use a lot of it so I haven't tested this forecast.

5. One of the problems in using hard beeswax is that it roughs up the thread surface when you use it.

The hard wax creates more fuzz than it glues down (look at the process under a microscope some day).

6. Speed - using a thinned version of the 'formula', you can wax and dry (with a fan) a thousand yards of thread and dry it ( using a birdcage type drying fixture) in an hour (that much thread should last a few years).

7. As for the acidity, you can dissolve a 'Tums' pill (or something like it) and add it to the mixture (it is a guess as to the quantity unless you have a pH meter): if in doubt, add more. No one yet has complained about  a 'base' pH deteriorating thread.

8. If you are going to dye the thread, do it before you wax it. If you use oil based pigment, mix wax and color together and you can do both at the same time. 

9. There is some discussion currently about waxing. I haven't heard anyone give sound scientific evidence that it is deleterious. The rigging won't last as long as the wood in any case.

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