Waxing Green Lumber?


From original questioner:

The designer wants a walnut beam mantel piece with checking but a "hand rubbed" finish. Short of finding a dry 10"x8"x9' claro walnut beam (not holding my breath) the only option that I can think of is to install it green with a finish that will take to green wood, and then refinish periodically as it dries out. Will a wax finish take to green wood? How well will it hold up as the beam dries? Any other suggestions?

From contributor Ge

Wax is almost a perfect water barrier. So, if you wax the beam after the surface dries a little bit, you will trap the water inside and that can lead to decay (rot) and insect risk.

The drying, slow or fast, will lead to warp and shrinkage that can be an issue too.

I would suggest that a laminated beam could have almost invisible glue lines and perform much better.

From contributor da

I agree - in fact I have dried boule lumber that could make a really nice laminated beam. The problem is that the client wants the checking as they are going after a rustic look. I hadn't thought about the wax being too good of a moisture barrier. Any other finish that would be compatible with green lumber but still let the beam dry over the years? It's expected that it would need to be refinished when it's dry but needs to look reasonably good while it's drying

From contributor ri

There is quite a difference between a coat of paste wax, and a coat of paraffin that is used on turning blanks to keep them from drying and checking. I'd be more worried about the snap, crackle, and pops of a wet timber above a fireplace. That first winter will be eventful! If they want rustic, I'd look for a recycled timber. If they still want the walnut, I'd set it without any finish, then give them a can of wax to use in a few months. They'll need to refresh it every few years anyway.