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Re: wax



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To my knowledge there are no long term studies which would determine a wax
preference in sewing. Any decision would be largely based on one's training,
personal observation, prejudice, and anecdotal evidence. Here's mine:
I don't believe that the choice should be between paraffin and bees, but
rather microcrystalline wax (perhaps this is what was meant by paraffin?) and
beeswax. While both paraffin and microcrystalline are derived, ultimately,
from crude oil, they are not the same in many important respects (for one,
think of their comparative brittleness). Paraffin wax is best left to the
kitchen and industrial usage, I think.
Beeswax has a longer history of use in the real world, so that both it's
problems and virtues are somewhat better known. Microcrystalline waxes
haven't that history, and our knowledge of the material in usage is thus more
limited. Having said that, I know that some book conservators prefer
microcrystalline in the firm belief that it will prove less deleterious to
thread and paper over time. There are others who, having lived through the
enthusiasm's for what proved to be less than ideal products, soluble nylon
being a good example, prefer a more cautious approach.
Lastly, I know of some conservators who eschew any form of wax on their
thread, choosing to use shorter lengths as necessary and sometimes to polish
the thread by pulling it, needle end to tail, through a wad of soft cloth to
lay the surface fibers, followed by very careful sewing. This will loosen the
twist and thus reduce the knotting tendencies, but also somewhat weaken the
thread. As a heavier thread is normally used in "conservation" sewing, this
weakening is not as criminal as it might seem on first blush.
In my own practice I use both waxes and none. In sewing anything of real
value, I use no wax. Other times I have used either wax, my choice made for
no good reason, really, but making note of what was used in my binder's
statement, and letting posterity judge my choices.
Best
James

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