Posted by Amelia Upton on 7/31/2012 to
At Seattle Findings, we have many customers who are self-taught. Yet, some techniques are not easily learned on one’s own, requiring more or less instruction.
is one of those skills. For those of you beginning to explore casting and wax carving, take the following steps to improve your carving skills. Once you master the basics, you can potentially create anything you can dream — if only you have enough time and wax.
The most important thing to start out with is a drawing (or several) and a clear idea of what you intend to make.
Once you have a good idea of what you'd like to carve, it’s time to choose your wax. The softness and pliability of wax is marked by its color. If you haven't carved before, it’s easiest to begin with the hardest wax (green). If you plan to carve small delicate parts, such as prongs, green is too brittle, blue will be too soft, but purple should work out well.
Cut any stable shapes first. For example, before you begin carving a ring, size the ring tube to the desired ring size. And besides, the easiest way to size a wax ring is to use a ring wax sizer to carve the inside away instead of trying to use a hand tool or flexshaft. A ring wax sizer will carve quickly and evenly.
Measure out and mark where you should begin carving. Removing any large, unnecessary chunks first will reduce your time and effort. A sharp compass
or divider is very handy for measuring how much you need to remove. Dig into the wax to mark it or use any type of permanent pen.
The easiest way to remove large chunks of wax is with a coping saw and wax blade. The twisted tooth of the wax blade allows it to cut through the wax without getting stuck. Once you have cut off the large chunks, you can start carving with a flexshaft and wax burs, or by hand.
The final touches and details can be done with hand tools or a flexshaft. It may be helpful to sharpen, shorten, or thin out your hand carving tools to better suit your design (it’s always better to adjust your tools to your design, rather than adjust your design to your tools).
When you have your design completely carved, try buffing it with 300, 400 or 600 grit sandpaper to smooth any rough areas. Personally, I like to buff with a soft paper towel after 600 grit. I've found the extra buffing takes out any small scratches in the surface of the wax that the 600 grit didn't get. Wiping your wax down with alcohol and/or Wax Kleen
will help to reduce remaining scratches or mars in the wax. To smooth or create various textures, you may want to use a wax pen
The more finishing you can do before casting, the more it will save time once your design is cast.
Wax carving is a matter of practice and trial and error. Keep a journal or notebook of your discoveries so you can recreate happy accidents, and it will help decrease your errors. Happy carving!