There are a number of finishes available for forged work including traditional finishes like paint or wax. The one we’ve found best for interior locations uses a mixture of raw linseed oil and beeswax. We mix the linseed oil and beeswax in the shop, blending them by heating them together in a baking pan over the forge. We use raw linseed oil because boiled linseed oil contains heavy metal driers which are toxic.
For larger items, such as latches, the forging is heated slightly over the fire and dipped in the warm, liquid finish. The forging is then held again over the fire to ensure that all surfaces are completely covered by finish. We allow the forging to cool to a temperature that is comfortable for us to handle before we wipe off excess finish. For smaller items, we apply the warm, melted finish (it feels like melted candle wax) with our bare hands. After a few minutes we wipe off the excess.
Temperature is important in applying the finish. The wax must be hot enough to be liquid. In the winter, the finish can solidify in less time than it takes to hear Ravel’s Bolero on our shop radio — just a few minutes. If the wax is too hot, or the forging is too hot when the finish is applied, the finished surface has a strange “caramelized” appearance.
It is the linseed oil in the finish that transforms the gray scale on the surface of the forging to black. Beeswax helps create a barrier to the environment. Beeswax is extremely stable and has been found to protect items for centuries.
We let the finish dry for at least two days and then the items are given a final paste wax (using Johnson’s). A day later the items are given a second buffing. After a final inspection they are ready to ship to Horton.