New Chain Lube Formulation - Beta Testers Wanted

Begging the moderator’s indulgence.

I have been working on a new chain preparation / wax lube formulation and I would like to expand the testing regime.

I’d like to get a few people to trial this as beta testers; preferably some experienced chain waxers and some from amongst the wax curious.

For the former, you will need to have an ultrasonic cleaner, a wax pot with reasonable temperature control and work in a well ventilated space.

For the latter, you will need to either send me your chain (new or reasonably new, please) and I will treat it or you can purchase a Shimano or Campagnolo 12S chain from me at their RRP and I will treat that.

The formulation is entirely plant based / biodegradeable / no palm oil etc etc except for the graphene component which is made from petrochemicals.

Free of charge to trial participants (including shipping) excepting chain purchase as above. Australia only please.

PM me or email maker (at) lyrebirdcycles (dot) com

1 Like


Been waxing my chains for a couple of years now. I use plain candle making wax and can run as a control. I don’t currently have ultrasonic cleaner but have been wanting an excuse to get one. :sweat_smile:

Email incoming

1 Like

If you ever decide to expand the beta outside Australia let me know! I lived in Wagga Wagga until I was 5 but currently in the US.

I thought I’d post some info about chain cleaning here rather than in the Gravel Waxing thread.

A bit of background: Whilst developing my hard wax chain lube I used lab glassware so I could observe its behaviour during melting / solidification cycles. This meant I then had to clean the wax off the glassware and this proved to be more difficult than expected, every standard cleaning regime left a film of wax on the glass. This is apparently because when solid, waxes are effectively insoluble even in the most suitable solvents because there is not enough entropy available to overcome the enthalpy of fusion*.

An illustration of this point: here’s a pic of a flake of Carnauba wax suspended in a 55 : 35 : 10 mix of xylene, hexane and citrus terpene after half an hour on a magnetic stirrer. This solvent mix is as close to the ideal solvent for Carnauba as I could make, the distance in Hansen space being a little under 0.3 Mpa^1/2, well inside Durkee’s maximal distance for solvent cleaning (Ref Durkee, Cleaning with Solvents: Science and Technology, Elsevier 2013).


The wax is yellow, the solvent is clear. If the solvent were working, it would be yellow with dissolved wax.

The boiling water trick doesn’t work well either: water and wax don’t mix.

Here’s a beaker in which I melted some of my hard chain wax then poured it out, leaving residue on the bottom and sides:

I then boiled water in the beaker for five minutes after which the beaker looked fairly clean with a scum of wax on the surface. Removing the wax and the boiling water however revealed a skin of adherent wax on the bottomof the beaker: sorry for the dreadful pic the camera battery was running low.


This makes sense: water is a very poor solvent for wax (distance in Hansen space is about 40 MPa^1/2) and wets the surface less well than does the wax, so it is not energetically favourable for the water to displace the wax.

So if solvents don’t work and heat doesn’t work, what does?

As I mentioned above, solvents don’t work because the available entropy is not enough to overcome the enthalpy of fusion. The answer is to get over that hump and then dissolve the melted wax. That requires a solvent that can safely be used above the melting point of the wax, stays liquid when cooled and can be washed out by ordinary means. I use the degreaser/ wax remover I developed, it and my wax blend have a distance in Hansen space of about 1 MPa^1/2 and it is stable up to quite high temperatures.

I remelted more wax in the beaker above (to make the comparison fair) then heated my degreaser in it for two minutes, followed by five minutes in ethanol in the ultrasonic bath:


I left the pour mark alone so you’d know I wasn’t cheating and substituting a different beaker.

  • Or is it the enthalpy of crystallisation? I’m really not sure.

(background, I used to do support for a histology tissue processor).
Try this cleaning cycle:
20 minutes of xylene at 75C
20 minutes of ethanol at 55C

The processing retort would be spotless after that (and a drying/cooling cycle)

1 Like

No, I will not try that.

I know it will work but I would not recommend a hot xylene clean to anyone.

Xylene does not qualify.

As an aside, all this was predicated on removing petrochemicals from the process as much as possible so xylene is out from the get go. I used it in the test above simply because that blend was the best solvent for Carnauba that I could muster with the materials I had on hand.

1 Like

Carnauba - if that’s what you are working on, it’s going to be interesting. Sounds like a literally hard choice for a non-petrochemical formula.
Granted, I don’t have the engineering background to really understand what it may take to get this to a working lubricant - but the melting point alone (or rather the difference in melting points between this and other natural waxes) makes it challenging.

Doesn’t sound like your typical DIY application :thinking:

1 Like

It isn’t as much of a problem as it sounds, waxes form eutectic mixtures.

For those not familiar with the term, a eutectic mix has a lower melting point that would be predicted from the components because the different substances interfere with crystallisation. The word derives from the Greek for “good melting.”

The classic example is old fashioned tin / lead solder, a 63 : 37 mix by weight (75 / 25 mole fraction). Tin melts at 232 oC, lead at 327 oC so you might expect the mix to melt at 256 oC but the actual melting point is 183 oC.

Technically my mixture is eutectoid because it doesn’t sit exactly at the minimum. Eutectoids don’t have a precise single melting point, they exhibit a liquidus / solidus range. A classic example is silver brazing alloy: for instance Harris 56 is solid below 618 oC, liquid above 652 oC and a wobbly paste between those temperatures.


Ah - that’s about entropy again, if I remember correctly.

I’ve been reading up on Carnauba wax a bit: I wonder if one of the distinct advantages of its application in chain waxing would be to create a hydrophobic coating in order to minimize the grinding paste effect of a water/sand/grit mix.

That’s probably why paraffin works quite well getting better mileage out of the drive train, but I gather there are some plant based waxes (or beeswax) that could beat it in this regard.

In my opinion Carnauba has a number of excellent properties that make it a very good base for a chain wax: good water repellency, natural lubricity, sets up hard but forms split planes under shear.

Unfortunately this is accompanied by a very high price: in bulk quantities it is over ten times the price of paraffin.

I think the reason waxes yield lower wear is very simple: they resist squeeze out so they maintain the separation between the sliding surfaces. If this is correct, treatments like diamond polishing will have less effect on a waxed chain than they will on a wet lubed one.

1 Like

Interesting discussion regarding cleaning wax. I’ve gone from not cleaning, and just re-waxing, to pouring 2 liters of boiling water over the chain before re-waxing and the difference in the level of grime in the wax is significant. The chain is by no means ‘cleaned’, but it takes enough of the outer wax and collected grime that it keeps the wax pot much cleaner. I’m just using plain paraffin, no additives.

1 Like

Here’s the practical upshot from the theory above.

Chain (thanks @Chovy) in degreaser in small basin, placed in 90 oC oil bath for five minutes with swishing:


The basin here is a stainless steel lunch box from Aldi. Ths small stainless bracket holds the sensor for the temperature controller.

Hooked out of degreaser, let to drip awhile (apologies to Jo Jo Zep), degreaser replaced with ethanol, into ultrasonic cleaner at 50 oC for five minutes:


Ethanol replaced with ethyl acetate based chain rinse: normally the lid would be on for this step as ethyl acetate has a high vapour pressure at 50 oC.


Chain is then removed from bath and the rinse allowed to flash off for half an hour or so then laid down on a paper towel. About 0.6 ml of chain prep drawn into the syringe with dropper:


I tried to take pics of the process of adding a drop to each link but they didn’t come out, sorry. The #22 gauge dropper forms very small drops, about 3 microlitres per link. The idea is to wet the inside of the link and nothing else.

Pic taken after: note the chain has been moved and there is no residue on the paper towel. Also note that the amount in the syringe has about halved so there is a total of 0.3 ml of prep in the chain:


I then pick the chain up and articulate all the links in both directions to spread the prep. This is easier than it sounds: just hold the chain in a loop and raise each end alternately and it will roll through the links. Do this a few times then flip the chain and repeat to articulate in the opposite direction.

Chain was then hung up overnight for the carrier to flash off, I will wax it later today.


I finally got most of these off this week.

Part of the delay was reformulating the “squirt wax” which changes in consistency more than I’d like due to solvent loss. If the squirt wax you receive is too thick to squirt properly, add some nail polish remover.

Shipping will be slow: no airmail for solvents. Chovy and Buzz should receive theirs today, Dolos next week.

1 Like

Given the current delays with Australia Post I suspect it will hit me early next month! About 3 weeks for last thing I got from Victoria although rail flooding obviously impacted that. Suspect that there will be a big back log for ages.

Sorry and thanks - got mine delivered last week but I have been busy with work.
I have a new chain to prepare ready to go on over the weekend so will provide an update shortly.

How did you go @Dolos?

My shortly clearly isn’t the same as yours!

I was ready to start the prep on the new chain, but had a ride with a mate and his drive train sounded like a robot having a fit in a metal rubbish bin so donated my new chain and cassette to him when we got home. Have just got a new set ready to do something.

I have to say that opening the wax pack I was pretty daunted by the contents.

I normally just rinse a new chain a couple of times in turps and then give it a final flash in acetone before waxing in a slow cooker.

This is a lot more comprehensive in both preparation and wax application. One thing that is going to be hard for me is that i have an essential tremor so applying the graphene I expect to use a fair bit more than instructed unless I double my medication! :laughing:

When I am up and running it will be hard to see much difference I reckon. I barely see any wear on my chains or cassettes as it is just using candle makers’ wax, but if I can see a couple of Watts saving then that will be a huge percentage of my peak power! :crazy_face:

1 Like