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Chain wax experiment

Old 06-05-18, 08:01 PM
  #1  
Kontact
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Chain wax experiment

The "correct" way to wax a chain:
Clean entire drivetrain with multiple solvents, buy name brand bicycle chain wax and heat enough of it to fill the bottom of a crock pot.

Today I heated a small block of clear candle wax from the craft store in the smallest stainless sauce pan directly on the electric cook top, popped the quicklink off my dirty chain, wiped it once with a paper towel and dumped it in the wax.

I mixed it around in the pot on "simmer" heat for 5 min then lifted it out with a metal hook, let it drip a bit then dumped it in a cardboard box. As I suspected, the 200+ wax boiled the old oil off the surface of the chain, and probably got most of the inside stuff out. The wax turned dark gray, but the chain came out bright silver and wiped off clear - so I think most of the old lube did end up in the waste wax.

So I wiped the chainrings off and put the chain on. It is behaving just like any other freshly waxed chain - moderately stiff, clean and unsticky to the touch.

I tossed out the gray wax - it was only about 1/3 of a cup because I used a small pan instead of a big crock pot. I put water in the pot and boiled out most of the leftover wax - the dishwasher will get the rest.

I'll ride the bike and see how well the chain stays clean, considering the somewhat dirty cassette and lack of chain cleaning. But I think what I did gives all the main advantages of a waxed chain - increased cleanliness and lubrication - while avoiding most of the pain. It took 10 minutes.
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Old 06-05-18, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
The "correct" way to wax a chain:
Clean entire drivetrain with multiple solvents, buy name brand bicycle chain wax and heat enough of it to fill the bottom of a crock pot.

Today I heated a small block of clear candle wax from the craft store in the smallest stainless sauce pan directly on the electric cook top, popped the quicklink off my dirty chain, wiped it once with a paper towel and dumped it in the wax.

I mixed it around in the pot on "simmer" heat for 5 min then lifted it out with a metal hook, let it drip a bit then dumped it in a cardboard box. As I suspected, the 200+ wax boiled the old oil off the surface of the chain, and probably got most of the inside stuff out. The wax turned dark gray, but the chain came out bright silver and wiped off clear - so I think most of the old lube did end up in the waste wax.

So I wiped the chainrings off and put the chain on. It is behaving just like any other freshly waxed chain - moderately stiff, clean and unsticky to the touch.

I tossed out the gray wax - it was only about 1/3 of a cup because I used a small pan instead of a big crock pot. I put water in the pot and boiled out most of the leftover wax - the dishwasher will get the rest.

I'll ride the bike and see how well the chain stays clean, considering the somewhat dirty cassette and lack of chain cleaning. But I think what I did gives all the main advantages of a waxed chain - increased cleanliness and lubrication - while avoiding most of the pain. It took 10 minutes.
Im sure your method worked just fine, but I also think a single dip in OMS would be more beneficial for marginally more work. While the wax is heating throw it in a jar with OMS, shake around and drop straight into the wax. That would remove likely 99% of the contaminants and allow you to reuse the wax. If you want even faster I bet I can beat 10 mins if you include drying time overnight. You can shake a chain in OMS for about 30 seconds/dip in like 2 containers, hang it then put it back on the bike and apply squirt wax lube in about a min and get probably 95% of the benefit of a hot wax. Most people it seems that use paraffin aren't really concerned with time and are simply more meticulous. Once I switched to squirt lubing takes less than 5 mins after the initial prep of the chain
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Old 06-05-18, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by redlude97
Im sure your method worked just fine, but I also think a single dip in OMS would be more beneficial for marginally more work. While the wax is heating throw it in a jar with OMS, shake around and drop straight into the wax. That would remove likely 99% of the contaminants and allow you to reuse the wax. If you want even faster I bet I can beat 10 mins if you include drying time overnight. You can shake a chain in OMS for about 30 seconds/dip in like 2 containers, hang it then put it back on the bike and apply squirt wax lube in about a min and get probably 95% of the benefit of a hot wax. Most people it seems that use paraffin aren't really concerned with time and are simply more meticulous. Once I switched to squirt lubing takes less than 5 mins after the initial prep of the chain
I think the contrast here is that I didn't need to buy OMS and $12 Squirt Wax, I did everything cleanly in my kitchen, the wax was cheaper than any purchased lubricant and it took no more time than your method for pretty much identical results.

If I do it again with a dirty chain I might try running the gray wax through a coffee filter. But I'm pretty sure I only threw out 5 worth of paraffin. 4 oz of Squirt has to be at least 1/3 carrier solvent.

Last edited by Kontact; 06-05-18 at 08:34 PM.
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Old 06-05-18, 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
I'll ride the bike and see how well the chain stays clean, considering the somewhat dirty cassette and lack of chain cleaning. But I think what I did gives all the main advantages of a waxed chain - increased cleanliness and lubrication - while avoiding most of the pain. It took 10 minutes.
You'll have to clean the bike after your initial ride shoots off shards of wax. And then you'll need to re-lube the chain once you ride in rain.

I used to paraffin my chains decades ago. One thing I do remember is you probably need to let it soak longer. I used a double boiler back then. The hotter the chain gets the better the wax/paraffin penetrates the rollers. Back then I used to drain a quarter can of carburator cleaner spraying the chain to clean it. That worked pretty well, damn be the environment!
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Old 06-05-18, 10:37 PM
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I've been doing pretty much the same thing, but I try to remove as much of the oil that the chain is packaged in, which helps to keep the wax clean.

Filtering the liquid paraffin won't work. It will solidify as soon as it hits the filter. You could heat the whole thing up, but you will create a fire hazard and at best a mess for very little cost savings.

I bought a crock pot at Costco that came with a tiny daughter module. It is perfectly sized for a bike chain, and safer than doing this over the stove.

I have found Squirt is great for refreshing the waxed chain if you don't want to take it off the bike.
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Old 06-05-18, 10:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Rogerogeroge
You'll have to clean the bike after your initial ride shoots off shards of wax. And then you'll need to re-lube the chain once you ride in rain.

I used to paraffin my chains decades ago. One thing I do remember is you probably need to let it soak longer. I used a double boiler back then. The hotter the chain gets the better the wax/paraffin penetrates the rollers. Back then I used to drain a quarter can of carburator cleaner spraying the chain to clean it. That worked pretty well, damn be the environment!
I just took it for a couple mile ride - no shards.

I don't know how everyone does their wax, but I thoroughly heated the chain all the way through. So when I pulled it out and wiped it with a paper towel and shook it around in the cardboard box, it really didn't have a lot of excess on the outside because the hot metal shed most of it.

It was really quiet. I guess we'll see how the rain goes - paraffin doesn't dissolve in water, so it will be a question of how much the water and grime can act as an abrasive to rub the wax off.
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Old 06-05-18, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
Filtering the liquid paraffin won't work. It will solidify as soon as it hits the filter. You could heat the whole thing up, but you will create a fire hazard and at best a mess for very little cost savings.
I understand that it wouldn't be ideal to dump paraffin on the burner, but I'm not sure what's different about wax than other stovetop cooking oils. I used low temps and paraffin burns at 390F - about the same as olive oil, and I kept the top handy to smother it. I had done a bunch of wax casting in the past and used a similar set up.

The main thing I like about the stove top is being able to melt the wax and heat the chain quickly. But crockpots or double boilers are safer, if slower. And being able to do this swiftly and simply is what made trying this appealing.
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Old 06-05-18, 10:55 PM
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As long as you keep an eye on it you should be ok. Just don't leave it unattended. I'm a paranoid chemist who has seen enough fires and explosions, etc., to know that pretty much anything that can go wrong, at some point, will.
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Old 06-05-18, 11:42 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
As long as you keep an eye on it you should be ok. Just don't leave it unattended. I'm a paranoid chemist who has seen enough fires and explosions, etc., to know that pretty much anything that can go wrong, at some point, will.
It definitely goes faster than anything you'd want to step away from. Wax liquifies faster than butter and the chain comes up to wax temp quickly because it is in contact with the metal pot.
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Old 06-06-18, 07:38 AM
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Pretty much any type of paraffin wax will do. I used to buy 1 pound boxes of "Gulfwax" at the grocery store in the canning section. I had a dedicated cheap sauce pan I used to melt the wax directly over the stove and a meat thermometer to monitor the temperature. I'd heat it to somewhat above boiling water temperature, say 240-250F, immerse the chain (on a wire hook) with some swirling for a few minutes and then let the whole pan, wax and chain cool to about 150F to thicken the wax so it didn't all drip off when I removed the chain. When the chain cooled it was a rigid stick but a bit of flexing by hand softened it right up. The use of a reusable master link was essential to making this practical and I was an early adopter of the first Craig Superlinks in 8-speed width.

The results were a super clean chain that ran quietly, gathered no dirt and left no "chainring tattoos" on me if I bumped into it. The downside was the lack of durability and sensitivity to rain so it had to be repeated fairly often. I finally went back to a wet chainlube and put up with a dirty chain.
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Old 06-06-18, 10:03 AM
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I used paraffin wax 20 years ago. I cooked my chain in a Fry Daddy for about 20 minutes. I had to repeat the process every 400 miles or when it rained.
I then went to a plastic jar with mineral spirits and shook the chain and rinsed it off. I oiled it with 1 part chain saw bar oil to 4 parts mineral spirits. Chains lasted about 6000 miles.
10 years or so ago I began cleaning them in an ultra sonic cleaner, using the same lube. My chains lasted 17,416 on the fenderless road bike and 20,682 miles on my touring bike with fenders.
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Old 06-06-18, 10:08 AM
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I did the 80/90 gear oil experiment with left over transaxle oil. Didn't clean chain, left it on the bike, applied lube, wiped down. Good to go for at least 500 miles.
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Old 06-06-18, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by trailangel
I did the 80/90 gear oil experiment with left over transaxle oil. Didn't clean chain, left it on the bike, applied lube, wiped down. Good to go for at least 500 miles.
What does that have to do with wax?
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Old 06-06-18, 10:25 AM
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I’m curious to hear about what indicator people use to determine when to re-wax. Do you wait until the chain starts making any noise at all, or just when it starts squeaking? My waxed chains usually start clattering and buzzing at around 50mi, but I’ve never let one go long enough to squeak. I usually get paranoid and re-wax at around 100-150 mi, or after any rain exposure, whichever comes first. I’ve also had good luck with the “hot wax then refresh with Squirt” method.
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Old 06-06-18, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Metaluna
I’m curious to hear about what indicator people use to determine when to re-wax. Do you wait until the chain starts making any noise at all, or just when it starts squeaking? My waxed chains usually start clattering and buzzing at around 50mi, but I’ve never let one go long enough to squeak. I usually get paranoid and re-wax at around 100-150 mi, or after any rain exposure, whichever comes first. I’ve also had good luck with the “hot wax then refresh with Squirt” method.

This wax company refers to going to the squeak as the outer limit, but suggests that 350-400 dry weather miles is a good ballpark.

https://moltenspeedwax.com/pages/why-wax


I suppose another advantage of treating the wax as a disposable cleaning solution is that you could use oil in a pinch, then "wash" it out of the chain on the next waxing.
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Old 06-06-18, 04:29 PM
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I read occasionally on using molten wax on chains on these and other forums and was highly doubtful about this being a good idea, but hearing it repeated made me curious and I tried it out. For me it turned out to be the worst chain protectant and lubricant any of my chains ever experienced, with the most unsafe and laborious application procedure I could think of in the context. The advices of using Silca pump heads and leather saddles thrown repeatedly here and there pale by comparison. From my perspective there might have been a day and age when these were practical but this was likely before I was ever introduced to biking. However, if you find it of use, I wish you all the best.
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Old 06-06-18, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by 2_i
I read occasionally on using molten wax on chains on these and other forums and was highly doubtful about this being a good idea, but hearing it repeated made me curious and I tried it out. For me it turned out to be the worst chain protectant and lubricant any of my chains ever experienced, with the most unsafe and laborious application procedure I could think of in the context. The advices of using Silca pump heads and leather saddles thrown repeatedly here and there pale by comparison. From my perspective there might have been a day and age when these were practical but this was likely before I was ever introduced to biking. However, if you find it of use, I wish you all the best.
What is it about putting the chain in the hot wax, taking it out and wiping off then re-installing that seems so laborious?
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Old 06-06-18, 05:01 PM
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I love the fact that the OP and others here are approaching chain maintenance from a minimalist angle. I am the same way with a lot of things. However, when it comes to waxing my chain, I find the easiest way is to apply White Lightning Clean Ride.

So I get that this was an experiment, but I'm not sure why this would be something to experiment with. Even if you only use a few cents worth of wax for each treatment, wouldn't you have to go through the whole preparation routine every time you need to re-wax? My White Lightning sits on my work bench and is always ready the minute I need it, so I don't lose any time on the bike.

Just curious...

Last edited by Papa Tom; 06-06-18 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 06-06-18, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom
I love the fact that the OP and others here are approaching chain maintenance from a minimalist angle. I am the same way with a lot of things. However, when it comes to waxing my chain, I find the easiest way is to apply White Lightning Clean Ride.

So I get that this was an experiment, but I'm not sure why this would be something to experiment with. Even if you only use a few cents worth of wax for each treatment, wouldn't you have to go through the whole preparation routine every time you need to re-wax? My White Lightning sits on my work bench and is always ready the minute I need it, so I don't lose any time on the bike.

Just curious...
I never got more than 100 miles out of an application of clean ride, and the second it got hit with wheel spray it started squeeking. Hot wax and other products such as squirt seem to have a much higher wax content that stay on the chain and provides better longevity.
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Old 06-06-18, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by redlude97
I never got more than 100 miles out of an application of clean ride, and the second it got hit with wheel spray it started squeeking. Hot wax and other products such as squirt seem to have a much higher wax content that stay on the chain and provides better longevity.
I guess I don't ride in harsh enough weather. My Clean Ride lasts much longer than that. I suppose there's validity to what you're saying if so many people are doing it.
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Old 06-06-18, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Rogerogeroge
You'll have to clean the bike after your initial ride shoots off shards of wax. And then you'll need to re-lube the chain once you ride in rain.

I used to paraffin my chains decades ago. One thing I do remember is you probably need to let it soak longer. I used a double boiler back then. The hotter the chain gets the better the wax/paraffin penetrates the rollers. Back then I used to drain a quarter can of carburator cleaner spraying the chain to clean it. That worked pretty well, damn be the environment!
Exactly what I did for years until I started to commute in all weather. The problem is that the wax just doesn't stay where you want it. 70% flakes off in a few days and a good rain will mobilize the other 30%. I use Chain-L now and am not likely to revert, although I have kept my can of paraffin wax/graphite/motor oil mix.
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Old 06-06-18, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Hoopdriver
Exactly what I did for years until I started to commute in all weather. The problem is that the wax just doesn't stay where you want it. 70% flakes off in a few days and a good rain will mobilize the other 30%. I use Chain-L now and am not likely to revert, although I have kept my can of paraffin wax/graphite/motor oil mix.
Chain-L on the commuter where watts don't matter, wax on the weekend ride. Still trying to decide on what you use for cyclocross which can be a crapshoot mix.
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Old 06-06-18, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom
I love the fact that the OP and others here are approaching chain maintenance from a minimalist angle. I am the same way with a lot of things. However, when it comes to waxing my chain, I find the easiest way is to apply White Lightning Clean Ride.

So I get that this was an experiment, but I'm not sure why this would be something to experiment with. Even if you only use a few cents worth of wax for each treatment, wouldn't you have to go through the whole preparation routine every time you need to re-wax? My White Lightning sits on my work bench and is always ready the minute I need it, so I don't lose any time on the bike.

Just curious...
When I used WL, you had to either pre-clean the chain or put up with it being dirty. What I did also cleaned the chain.
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Old 06-06-18, 06:24 PM
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A few years ago I experimented with waxing the chain for a full season. I love a clean drive train!!
Discovered the wax only lasted 150 miles and had to rewax at that point. This did not bother me, but what did bother me is riding in the rain. Got caught in a torrential downpour and within a few miles the chain started making lots of noise. By the time I got home it was squeaking. Wet lube does not do this, at least for me it does not. I use a variety of wet lubes now and just deal with the mess. I do miss a clean drive train.
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Old 06-06-18, 07:12 PM
  #25  
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I'm good for lots of fiddly bike stuff,

but at 150 miles wax would sometimes not last a single ride.

Happy lately with slightly thinned synthetic motor oil- lasts really long & supposedly low friction.
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