Sunday, May 15, 2011

Acrylic Varnishing Wax

I am not generally a product-driven artist. I use whatever, as long as it gets the art where it needs to go. But there is one that I really love, and that is Polyvine Varnishing Wax. I first learned about it when my mom and I traveled to Great Britain with a group of fellow needleworkers led by Gail Harker several years ago. One artist Gail brought to us for a lecture had used acrylic wax on some abaca tissue paper to make something that looked like an old oiled map. Sadly, I do not remember the artist's name, but I do remember vividly that little ping of epiphany that went off in my head when I saw what one could do with that stuff, and when we returned home, I set about finding it. That proved to be a bit challenging. All the coolest artists were using acrylic wax over there, but here, I could only find it on websites catering to faux finishers and woodworkers-- which is, after all, its intended customer base. Ha! Silly them.

So here is the low-down on this product: first of all, Polyvine Varnishing Wax is not a wax.  It is a water-based clear coat that has a silky, waxy look resembling beeswax when it dries.  When dry, you can burnish it to a lovely shine with cloth or very fine steel wool. It is not as tough as a regular poly varnish and will scratch, but this is not a problem unless one is using it for a table top varnish, which I am most definitely not doing. 

It can be added to other water-based varnishes to impart a silky feel.  You can add it to metallic paint (water-based) for the same reason.  It does make any solid color more transparent, more like a glaze.

If you add it 50/50 to flat latex paint, it allows the paint to be sanded down with water to reveal the base color for distressing techniques.   You know how latex paint has a tendency to roll up and crumble when you try to sand through it?  This addition makes the paint stay put and you are able to sand it down to a feather edge.

So what do I do with acrylic wax? I love to use it to strengthen paper and to make it look translucent. I coated the pages of the book below with it to seal the drawings and collage. I also coated the cover with multiple coats of acrylic wax to secure the sewing and give it a nice finish. In the photo above, I am preparing "fabric paper" for the cover of a book I am currently constructing, using the acrylic wax to adhere paper to fabric, and decorative elements to paper. I don't use it for everything I do, but it is one of my staples for sure.

(click on photos for bigger view)


  1. Just heard about this product, googled it and was led to your explanation. Thank you! My mind, too, went PING! and I had to get up a pace about the house a bit. Oh! Oh! Which hardware store should I head to? bye...

  2. I'm not sure you can find this at a hardware store in WA. But you can try

  3. Found your blog post and was wondering which bottle is best to get....the dead flat or the satin. I do books as well and wanted something to coat the covers of the sketchbooks I stitch to make them more durable for my customers