Paraffin waxing your chain

bawbag

Maximum Pace
Mar 20, 2013
430
244
63
Tokyo
#1
While I've been waiting for new bits for my (only) bike, I decided to test out the much lauded/derided paraffin wax lubrication method.

I got a kilo of paraffin powder from this place for an extremely reasonable sum, grabbed a crappy saucepan and a metal mixing bowl from Daiso and was ready to give it a go.

Stripping the chain of all lubrication was pretty annoying without resorting to eco-unfriendly means. Citrus degreaser did really well up to a point, but I knew it wasn't stripping everything out. A bit of reading online mentioned a saucepan, a shallow 50/50 mix of dishwashing detergent and water, and judicious application of heat. This seemed to get the remaining gunk out of the chain without, as I'd read online, stinking the kitchen out. Perhaps that's because I'd gotten most of the crap out already, but it was perfectly fine.

Anyway, now that the chain was clean of all lube, it was time to do the paraffin dip. The saucepan was filled with a couple of inches of boiling water, then the metal bowl was sat on top, creating a double boiler. Paraffin powder was slung in the bowl and the wait for it to liquefy began. It took about 10 minutes for everything to be ready, then I carefully lowered the chain into the wax, attempting to keep it untangled and flat on the bottom of the pan. This turned out to be easier said than done, so I followed a guide online to fashion a hanger for the chain out of an old spoke. Much better - it laid flat and I could agitate it with the handle a bit.

After 10 minutes, I flipped the chain over and let it go for 10 minutes on the other side, occasionally giving it a jiggle to help the wax penetrate the chain. Once done, I turned off the heat, lifted the sparkling, super clean chain out of the wax and hung it up to drip dry over an old plastic bowl. I didn't attempt to remove the excess as some say you should, mainly because others say that it doesn't make a difference - the excess will crack and flake off while you ride.

Once dried, the chain was rock solid. In fact, you could hold it horizontally and it would keep its shape. The rollers were frozen solid in the links, too. Slightly disconcerting, but well, there's no going back now is there? I chipped off the excess around the connecting link (KMC missing link), gave the chain a good bending, then installed it.

The first few minutes of riding it were not so pleasant - pedalling felt gritty and a bit off. I decided to blast up and down the road a few times to break the chain in, which slowly but surely resulted in... a silky smooth ride. The grittiness diminished to nothing. The chain felt like a freshly-lubed chain should. Nice!

Inspecting the chain, the wax had flaked off all over the shop - my chainstay looked like it was covered in fish scales, but they were brushed off with no effort at all. The rollers had completely freed up, and the chain was as flexible as it ever was. Flexible, smooth-running and completely dirt free. I mean 100% dirt free - not a speck of dirt. I'd cleaned the drivechain completely - even removing the jockey wheels and giving them a thorough degrease and clean. In theory, the drivechain will remain sparkly for a very long time as the chain is now unable to pick up dirt.

Worth the hassle? Well, the first time was an exercise in tedium, that's for sure. Last night I decided to give the chain a second bath just to see how quickly I could do it - it took 30 minutes between removal and reinstallation. Not your usual 3-minute job with some teflon lube, but then I usually spend almost half an hour cleaning the drivechain of grime every other week.

Recommended? If you like shiny things; yes. If you're not in a rush; yes. If you get pissed off cleaning your chainrings; yes.
 
May 22, 2007
3,595
1,422
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#3
That is uncanny. I was thinking about getting together the wherewithal for this, too. I do like shiny things. Thank you for a very helpful guide.

If I may…

What diameter crappy saucepan? If you were starting again would you get a different size?

How much of the kilo of paraffin powder did you use?

Could you have forced the chain a little to break it in and reclaim some of the paraffin flakes into the pan?

Did you leave the paraffin in the pan for next time?​

I will be particularly interested to know how long it takes before you feel it needs doing again. Problem is if I do this I will have to buy a less-scratched-to-hell crankset.
 
Jan 14, 2007
2,514
213
83
Noda
japanichiban.com
#4
i used to have some liquid wax chain lube...forget the name of it....squirt it on and go for a ride and it would clean the chain by itself...the grease and grimy dust would just form and fall....good stuff....
 

bawbag

Maximum Pace
Mar 20, 2013
430
244
63
Tokyo
#5
Here's the setup. 18cm pan. Same for the bowl. I forgot to add that I placed a round metal cookie cutter in the bottom of the pan so that the pan wouldn't boil over. Wax used was about 300g I guess. A lot left as you can see. A kilo made me feel like Walter White in the superlab.

I left the used wax to cool and harden in the bowl, as the wax can be reused a bunch of times until it gets dirty. If you had a second bowl you could filter the liquid wax through a cloth and keep the wax usable for even longer. For curiosity's sake I knocked out the wax puck to inspect the bottom and there was indeed some specks of dirt suspended in the wax. Not much, but this was from a supposedly clean chain. Apparently some people just dump their chain straight in the wax and let it get clean that way.

Longevity... unknown. Seems at least 300km up to 800km.
 

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Likes: Musashi13

bawbag

Maximum Pace
Mar 20, 2013
430
244
63
Tokyo
#7
http://moltenspeedwax.com/
Here's a company making money off the idea of the guy who runs friction-facts.com. He basically gave up his formula for a combination of paraffin wax, PTFE powder and ultra-fine Molybdenum Disulfide powder - the lowest-friction chain lube in the world according to tests.

http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/...publishes-ultrafast-chain-lube-formula-36424/

If anyone felt so inclined, they could quite easily (but not cheaply) procure the two additional chemicals needed to make the "magic wax" although whether it's worth the effort is another thing. They're not really the kind of chemicals you can get at your local home centre.

100g of the finest MoS2 - (you need 1g per 450g of wax)
http://nichimoly.shop-pro.jp/?pid=18167398

PTFE powder? Dunno. Haven't found it in amounts less than 20,000 yen's worth.
 

Doug3

Maximum Pace
Jun 24, 2010
720
179
63
Setagaya
www.tokyocyclingcoach.com
#8
I've, been doing this for the past 15 months. Will never go back to regular lube. My supplies are a 100 yen teflon coated saucepan, 100 yen "tea candles", 100 yen mesh backed and rubber-like front gloves, 100 yen pack of brillo pads, a pair of disposable chopsticks and some dish soap.

Basically the same thing @bawbag said.

After removing the chain, I use the brillo pads with some dish soap to get off any big crap that is on the chain. I don't make it perfect, because it seems that when I do boil the chain in the wax, the finer stuff usually separates from the chain and floats into the wax.

I put the wax directly in the saucepan. I put the chain on top of the hard wax prior to heating. I don't flip the chain. I reuse the wax 4-5 times (about half a pack of candles) and do lightly wipe the chain while it is hanging to remove some of the excess wax. (I didn't used to wipe the chain, but found it shed less, and seems to have the same performance.)

KMC missing links are great for this process. In a hurry I can get it down to about 20 minutes.

Chainrings, sprockets and pulleys also stay quite clean.

No more dirty black colored chains.

Chain wear does not seem any worse than lube.

Quiet and silky smooth!
 

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#9
I've been doing this for about 30yrs and divide up 2 chains/yr. Winter Chain and Season Chain. In fact, I was taught this by our team mechanic who was 2rd generation in the biz -- so it's been around at least since the 1930's or so. You can also use Boeshield T9 which is a penetrating , wax based lubricant. Our 'Continental' friends often used WAXOYL to the nearly same effect. There is even better solution available in Japan and we use it for race prep. Another good one is Pledge furniture polish. In all cases, the basic ingredient is the same - paraffin wax.
 

wexford

Maximum Pace
Jul 3, 2012
986
600
113
Tokyo
#13
As I was sitting on your wheel I for one can say that I was dead impressed with how clean your cassette and chain was. I meant to ask you how the hell you got them that clean but I was pretty wrecked when you finally slowed down. On the other hand, that chain that @GSAstuto was riding was pretty dark and greasy looking. I think you need to do it again! Can't comment on Mike's as I was always playing ketchup to him.

I've, been doing this for the past 15 months.
 
Likes: Doug3
Aug 27, 2012
581
234
73
London, UK
www.macrophotofly.com
#15
I used that but found it collected dirt like mad. It was really annoying if you had links with slots in them (like the KMC XLS ones have to reduce weight). Spent 3-4 times as long getting the gunk out of the chain gaps which offset the gains of not applying dry lube every ride. In the end I degreased and went back to dry lube. Please tell me the wax parafin method doesn;t become a major pain like that too?

Only thing about this parafin approach - with the new 11spd chains, the links are no longer re-usable (even the KMC ones). How is that going to stack up? New link each time too?
 
May 22, 2007
3,595
1,422
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#18
Pass it around at the next Half Fast meeting.
Que? :confused:

links with slots in them (like the KMC XLS ones have to reduce weight). […]Please tell me the wax parafin method doesn;t become a major pain like that too?
I use Ultegra 10-speed chains and the wax didn't accumulate noticeably in the slots.

with the new 11spd chains, the links are no longer re-usable (even the KMC ones). How is that going to stack up? New link each time too?
I suppose so. I imagine not a few people will accept the risk and (gasp!) reuse their non-reusable 11-speed KMC Missing Links. I just had a look at the KMC instructions and saw that the 11s ones require a special tool to assemble and disassemble, whereas the 10-speed ones are usually no more difficult than unhooking a bra strap. Yet another reason to stick with 10-speed for as long as I can :cool:
 
Jun 26, 2017
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#19
Hi everyone, new user here. Sorry about digging up an old thread but I've just tried waxing my chain too. I don't have a lot of reference points with other products and have only done one ride, but it's quite as and seems to be running smoothly.

It looks like there are various recipes for the wax. I used the "oz cycle" one off Youtube. That guy uses a bath of half candle wax, half paraffin oil. The oil is used to soften the wax into a cream. In Japan, paraffin oil can be bought off amazon.co.jp for inaka readers and maybe at Tokyu Hands or big home centers for city types. The Japanese is 流動パラフィン, or "ryuudou parafin". Oz cycle also mixes some of his wax with a strong solvent called xylene to make a drip on top-up chain lube like the Finish Line one. In Japan, xylene is a semi-controlled substance usually sold in industrial amounts at paint dealers, but there is one seller on Yahoo Auctions selling it by the litre. I'm not a chemist or particularly knowledgable about solvents, but I strongly suspect other fast evaporating solvents could be used. My guess for a safe and easily available one would be anhydrous alcohol, available at chemists. It's the stuff you use to clean camera lenses with. I've only done the wax/oil bath so far, and that was yesterday.

For more nerdy DIY lube goodness if the OP is still around, there are sellers of PTFE powder and moly disulfide on Aliexpress. These are the two additives in the Friction Free wax mix. http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/...publishes-ultrafast-chain-lube-formula-36424/ The former (posh name for Teflon) is cheap enough to warrant a try.

Again, a total guess, but (white) tea lights from Ikea or a 100 yen shop might be a cheaper source of paraffin wax than Japanese (funeral) candles.
 
Likes: leicaman
#20
I devoted a cheap rice cooker to melt the wax. This way you only need a power socket somewhere so there’s no need to do this process in the kitchen (possibly saving some marital bliss).

Apply the waxed chain to the bike while it is still warm to the touch or at least flex the chain links before the wax sets. It’s so much easier to put the chain on before the wax has solidified completely.