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Thread: The PITA that is WAX

  1. #1

    The PITA that is WAX

    Snooping around the net, I am finding there really isn't an idiot's guide to using wax. We are fortunate here to have a plethora of wisdom and experience with wax. Don't make me start naming names... Rasper, Zap, David, Mantrid and few other of you wizards of the hot stuff. My experience with wax consists of a weird chick back in college that liked to be BURNED with it!

    Now I find myself trying to learn how to make stuff with it! Here is the beginning of a little object I am trying to stick together. Yes ZAP, it's a half hearted attempt of the little box you made, but if I make a pigs ear out of it, I expect it to end up an ashtray like every other sculpting project I made back in school for family that didnt smoke. I commandeered the wifes little inductance portable cooktop and a pot. That thing works a treat for dialing in the EXACT temp you want. She nabbed it at a garage sale for $4 bucks. In addition, I bought a butane powered flame from homeless despot for 25bucks and that works great for pin pointing heat. Other tools are whatever scribe, pick or booger hooker that was in the tool box. I got a slab of microcrystalline from Raspers place in AZ and melted my first pot of wax. Pouring into a plaster mold, idea courtesy of Zaps hidden youtube page, I set out to build a box. I honestly haven't a clue what's standard practice for sticking this stuff together. So I end up mating parts together and laying a hot booger hooker across the two parts and plunging it into the two pieces, but not completely through the parts. After sticking one side together, I flip and repeat. Then it's onto dripping to fill in my mess. This usually results in flash backs to college. An hour later after tons of scrapping with a razor blade I have a larger slab than I started with! Standard practice? Probably not.

    So I'm looking for any tips, links, suggested reading, shaping ideas and tools you think I can't live without... Basically anything that might ease the pain in the ass that wax can be to work with. SO far, I do like working with it, being the pyro that WE ALL ARE around here... Maybe it's the flame or the deep history of people for thousands of years working with wax to accomplish great things. If this goes well, I'll make a mold of it, just because I'm a chicken shit and ceramic shell it for bronze. This is kind of a trial run for me with something small. I have some really stupid ideas for lost wax stuff cast in bronze and then tig welded together later. We'll see about that nonsense in the future. ;-)

    On with the show! Don't expect much. I can handle harsh criticism with the best of them. Bring it on as I need all the help I can get.

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    Wax is 2-AB150 - Microcrystalline Wax from http://www.arizonasculpture.com/prod...D=4&subcatID=9
    Last edited by jagboy69; 01-28-2017 at 04:37 AM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Everyone has got to start somewhere, when I started knitting (go for it, I've heard it all before!) I used to gain odd stitches at an incredible rate, now I can turn out a decent jumper. I guess watching the wax guys work must give you a lot of good methods but there is no substitute for getting the feel for the material.

    Good luck, looks like you're off to a good start.

  3. #3
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    What you are doing looks right to me. I have a flat plaster slab that I made to pour wax on when I need a sheet of wax, using oil based clay as dams. Always soak the plaster for ten minutes in water before pouring wax so it won't stick.

    The best way though, is to make a mold of the shape you want so you don't have to work the wax much. For instance, I would have made that box out of oil based clay, coated it with Vaseline, and made a plaster mold of it. The I could pour the wax into the plaster mold, building it up to the thickness I want it. If the shape is such that the wax won't come out of the mold you can break the mold. Plaster is incredibly useful stuff. With the advent of all of the modern rubbers and plastics, we seem to have forgotten how useful and how cheap plaster is.

    Richard
    When I die, Heaven can wait—I want to go to McMaster-Carr.

  4. #4
    Moderator DavidF's Avatar
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    Electric hot plate and alcohol lamp. You can put a slab of aluminum on an electric hot plate, heat it up then touch the ends of the pieces you want to join to it, then press them together much like fusing hdpe pipe.
    Now you can use the alcohol lamp along with some metal carving tools for clay sculpting to work it some. Just heat up the tool and have at it. Or just order yourself an electric wax worker....
    A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor....

  5. #5
    Senior Member machinemaker's Avatar
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    damp plaster is your friend. create what you want to cast in wax out of what ever you are best at working. I have made wood patterns with a few degrees of draft, coated them with a release agent and then cast a plaster mold around your pattern. dampen the plaster and the wax will not stick to it. The type of wax will also make a difference. Personally I like a hard wax for sculpting. hot tools work well for welding wax parts together. to clean and smooth wax I like a little piece of steel wool soaked in paint thinner. It abrades and the thinner dissolves the wax. I like working wax in a very additive way and almost never carve wax. If you put a heat lamp over a tray of wax you will have a gradient from liquid under the lamp to soft to hard that you can use to add to you creation. warm tools on your hot plate so that they slide over the wax. you can add wax from your heat lamp warmed tray and form it with warm tools. you can control the heat of your tools and burnish the wax to obtain what ever forms you want to build. If you want to change things just use a hot knife and cut things apart, warm and re shape, cool in a bucket of water and keep on working.
    Kent
    There is beauty, power and excitement in simple old technology!

  6. #6
    Lots of good ideas guys.

    1. I didn't realize it was okay to pour hot wax right up against oil based clay. GOOD TO KNOW!
    2. I like the idea of little wooden patterns. I can see the laser printer slicing out thin sheets of lauan plywood into intricate patterns now.
    3. Paint thinner with some steel wool, slick way to smooth over my sins!
    4. Time to build a small box with a light to soften my hard microcrystalline wax.
    5. I might need to revisit my 10lbs of Chavant Le beau touche' clay for some smaller more difficult pieces to shape and plaster mold.
    6. Now where did I put that booty butter?

    I'm eyeballing my little weller soldering iron. Wonder if I can shape my own tips and shove it that thing stuck on a light dimmer? hmm What are you guys using for wax pens?
    Visit me: WWW.HandcraftedLanterns.com
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Zapins's Avatar
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    Looks good. Glad to have another wax guy on board.

    Nice looking box too!

    For joining parts together I use very thin wax stringers or wax rods to fill in the gap. Then I heat up a pin tool (a pottery pin tool) and stick it deep into the joint area and drag it along the joint until it gets cool. Then heat and keep going. Do this along the entire joint. This helps to fully fuse the two parts together and is very important for structural strength on larger or more delicate parts. Simply dripping wax onto another piece of wax doesn't fully bond them together.

    When I first started wax working I used an alcohol lamp, but it creates soot as it burns which discolors the wax. I switched to propane tanks like the green one you have in your photo and the plumbers torch attachment that goes with it and find it much better. Quicker melt times and no soot issues.

    The 4 most useful wax tools I have are a cheap plastic handle very thin and sharp paring knife from walmart, the all important pottery pin tool (the full steel kind), plumbers torch and the small heat gun solderer for flame polishing. I use those 4 tools on everything I make and very rarely use the many other tools I've accumulated.

    I'll see if I can make another wax video when I get back to TN in about 2 weeks. Just let me know what other wax working techniques you want to see and I'll see if I can put them in the video.

  8. #8
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    I didn't realize it was okay to pour hot wax right up against oil based clay. GOOD TO KNOW!
    You do want to brush it with some Vaseline, or spray it with some silicone, so the wax won't stick. The devilish thing about wax is that it seems to stick tenaciously to everything but itself (the one thing you would like for it to stick to).

    R
    When I die, Heaven can wait—I want to go to McMaster-Carr.

  9. #9
    Hmm.. Thanks Richard. I missed your last post. I dammed up some oil based clay and poured wax up to it. YUP! Clay stuck to it, I didnt use any lube and it stuck real good. Next I formed a little object with the clay and that time I DID brush some Vaseline on it AND on the little plastic dish... I cast plaster of paris in the dish and the clay came right out after it setup. Next after a soak in water, I sloshed wax into the mold a few times and was able to successfully build up my object into wax! (small baby steps I know)
    That vaseline sure created a greasy greasy wax positive. Any recommendations to clean the booty butter from the mold?
    Visit me: WWW.HandcraftedLanterns.com
    "Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war"
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  10. #10
    Got some progress done tonight on the little box. It is STILL a box and not an ashtray YET! It's funny, but in the 3rd photo, you can see my "stitching" in the lid. Hey Zap.. did you try denatured alcohol in your lamp? I think I read somewhere, ya don't get soot if you burn that stuff. I'm pretty happy with the butane torch at the moment.

    Time to think about some feet and some doo daadds for it.
    jason

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    Visit me: WWW.HandcraftedLanterns.com
    "Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war"
    -- Donald Trump --

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