Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Wax


From: Bob Self <bself>
Date: Wednesday, June 5, 2002
This message was originally posted at squeezebox [at] yahoogroups__com
which is a discussion group open to all those interested in
discussing playing, repairing, history or any other subjects related
to free reed, bellows powered instruments, (mainly accordions and
concertinas). Wax is used in accordion construction to install the
reed frames.  It needs to be renewed periodically. Although I am
sure most are aware of the dangers involved in heating wax, if not,

I emailed the author and he was happy to give permission to use it,
although he did not give his full name, only his initial, "G". Here
is the text of our e-mail exchange:

    One addendum, please make it clear that there was a pound of wax
    involved in a stove top pot with no lid.... This experience
    would have been drastically mitigated had I used a thimble of
    wax as some implied.  Also could have been avoided had I not
    panicked and just put a lid on it.... Such is panic!


    I want to share my recent experience with heating wax as a
    warning to everyone and hopefully prevent similar accidents to
    the one I had just last month:

    1.  *Never* put wax in a pot directly on the stove, even with
        the element set low, its still far too high for wax.

        I put a pound of beeswax in a pot on the stove top with the
        element set to the minimum... and walked away only to forget
        it until....

    2.  Wax has a flash point lower than boiling water.  That is
        it'll smoke intensely just before bursting into intensely
        hot deep red flames.

        Just as my smoke alarm went off I heard the "WOOF!" of the
        wax hitting flash point, immediately there were flames up
        the walls of my kitchen reaching the ceiling.  It produces
        thick black smoke and the fire is very intense.

        If the wax is smoking and sizzling *turn off the heat
        immediately* and *put a lid on it*. There is very little if
        any warning before wax hits its flashpoint.  I shudder to
        think how often I have stood over a pot of the stuff.

    3.  *Never* try to move a pot of burning wax.

        I panicked and grabbed the pot to take it outside, I had one
        warning when it flared the first time I moved it, I should
        have put it back but didn't... as I moved to the kitchen
        door the wax flared again pouring flaming wax all over me,
        over my hand, arm, my torso and down my lap flaming.

    4.  Burning wax is like Napalm.

        It burns fiercely, it sticks to everything and its very very
        bad to come into contact with.  I have lost all the skin
        where it contacted my hand and arm, it cooked deeply into
        the web between my finger and thumb so that the flesh left
        behind was cooked white.  Thankfully I was wearing thick
        clothing that didn't ignite so the damage was relatively
        contained to my right hand and forearm.

    5.  *Never* pour water onto burning wax

        I threw 3 litres of water onto the wax fire which was now
        sited at my kitchen door and threatening to take a hold. The
        water caused a fire ball that fried the front of my
        pre-waxed top and jeans.  Wax was splattered right over the
        door and walls as a result of pouring water onto it.

    6.  To extinguish wax fire: *smother it*.

        I should have simply put the lid on the pot, but as I say I
        was panicking and my brain wasn't working. In the end the
        fire was extinguished by dumping a thick woolen blanket and
        a wooly car seat cover over the entire fire which suffocated

    If you are going to melt wax use regulated heat *and* never ever
    leave it unattended.

    I personally will never deal with melted wax again, there are
    other methods that serve my purposes. However I understand that
    Double boilers or putting a small pot with the wax in it inside
    a bigger pot with water on the stove is relatively safe.
    Although I'd be very wary to let the water do much more than
    simmer, and again never leave it unattended.

    As a result of this accident I have had to go through an
    excruciating amount of pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I've
    had a large skin graft operation that is healing well now. As
    I'm right handed, I have been out of action for about a month so
    far with probably another month to go before I'm out of bandages
    and the physio will take more time still.

    I'm just very grateful that it wasn't worse, that my home didn't
    burn down, that my friend didn't get hurt and I will recover,
    but it could have very easily been a lot worse in many ways.

    Please take care out there, I'd hate for anyone else to make the
    same mistakes I did and suffer for it.


Bob Self
Architectural Conservator

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:82
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 6, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-15-82-013
Received on Wednesday, 5 June, 2002

[Search all CoOL documents]