Race Paraffin Chart

Why Paraffin Counts
We’ve heard the argument that it doesn’t matter much what paraffin you use if you’re just going to cover it up with a fluoro powder. Testing and experience both indicate that this isn’t true. The fluoro applications form a surface coating, while paraffin penetrates the base to provide the bulk-properties of the wax job. The analogy I like to use (when I’m hungry) is a cooking one. Fluoros are like the seasoning you put on the meat, but the paraffin is the cut of meat.

Paraffin goes a long way toward determining the hardness of the base, and the ability of the wax job to resist dirt and wear. The contribution of the paraffin to the speed of the wax job varies with conditions. Sometimes it seems that paraffins make a really big difference, or at least that the right paraffin makes a really big difference – bigger than the powder and top-coats. This can be the case when one paraffin is really dominant in testing.

What about black stuff?
It can get confusing – nearly every wax company offers “black” versions of their waxes. Some companies suggest using black underlayers in all conditions. What to do?

Black additives can be a number of different materials, including graphite, molybdenum, wolfram, and others. These additives contribute different qualities, including shear-lubrication, electrical conductivity, and base stabilization. While some black products have a very broad range, others are quite “dangerous”, and the potential liability can be high. In general black waxes are indicated for dirty conditions and old snow. But the safest thing is to use them only when you’re able to test them. In new snow conditions I definitely prefer to steer clear unless I’ve got test data to back up the use of a black additive.

There are many geographic locations where black waxes seem to do especially well, and offer an advantage more often than not. It’s a little like finding a good restaurant – when you can tap into local knowledge you’re going to do well!

Paraffins are applied with an iron, and according to the manufacturer recommended temperature settings. Getting wax to penetrate the base requires a certain minimum critical iron temperature of about 115 degrees C (depending on the base formulation). Waxing with an iron below that temperature won’t do much (heatboxes utilize a much slower mechanism of absorption). Every wax has a certain amount of heat it can carry, and using an iron that is too hot risks damage to the base material in the form of destabilized amorphous materials (the cause of black wax shavings!). If you follow the wax companies suggested iron temperature guidelines you will be in the right temperature range!

After ironing it is important to let the wax cool for a sufficient period of time – preferably a couple of hours. If hours are not available, it is best to allow the wax to rest at room temperature for ten or fifteen minutes. I don’t know what happens chemically between the time the wax cools, and a couple of hours later, but the stability and finishing texture of the base is greater when more time is allowed.

About the chart
No wax company can claim to have the best paraffins. Because we import Vauhti we use it as our primary testing line, and find that it works very well – particularly in new snow. But we wouldn’t want to be without swix HF8, or Start HF80. We could name lots of other favorites – like the Holmenkol Matrix line – but we have to make choices and this chart reflects our current use and recommendations.