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[again] Homemade Wax Pen


#1

Hi Don

Have enjoyed reading your series on steam casting. I’ve been
taking a silversmithing class for the last 2 years and have
found I love the casting and wax pattern part of the hobby.

You mentioned making a “nudgit”, but it bothers me to have to
constantly reheat this type of tool. Seems like it’s either too
hot or too cold. I’ve found a much better wax tool and wanted
to pass the idea along to you.

I got a cheap soldering iron from an electronics store and power
it off a light dimmer to get just the right heat. Works like a
charm! Everybody likes it, and I’ve had to make up several for
others in our class. Also, if you get an iron that has
replaceable tips, you can file your own shapes to suit your fancy
or to do a particular wax job. I have one that’s a slender
point for fine work and another that’s a knife edge for larger
work like attaching sprues.

To make up the controller you’ll need

1 double "handy box"
1 cover plate
1 duplex receptical
1 rotary dimmer switch
1 cord strain relief clamp (also called a Romex clamp)
1 cord and plug (cut off of an old appliance)

Many people will have these lying around in their hardware
drawer, but even new parts will only run you about $12 and are
available from the electrical section of your neighborhood
hardware store. An electrical supply store will be even cheaper.

The “handy box” is a metal box designed to hold two devices
(switches or recepticals). I prefer the boxes with rounded
corners, and I’m careful to get a matching metal cover plate also
with rounded corners. Cover plates come with different hole
patterns, so be sure to get a cover that’s built for one
receptical and one light switch. Mount the cable clamp in one of
the holes in the box. Clamp the power cord leaving about 5
inches of wire to play with inside the box. Mount the dimmer and
the receptical to the cover plate.

There’s usually a diagram on the dimmer switch that shows how to
hook up the wires. If you have any problem, ask a friend or take
the partially assembled unit back to the store for help.

To test the unit, plug in a light and try the dimmer. Then plug in
your soldering iron and turn up the dimmer just far enough to melt
the wax without smoking.

Hope this helps,

  • Brad Smith
    Los Angeles
    <@brad>

#2

I also use a soldering iron with my own tips. However, I
purchased a dimmer switch for a lamp at Home base and plugged my
soldering iron into it. Works like a charm and I didn’t need to do anything
except plug it into the Wall!


#3

Brad:

I made a wax pen such as you describe a while back and it works
great. I would add a couple of things to your very good
description of how to make it. Get a soldering iron with a set
screw, because some models have tips which screw in. Using such
a one, you would be limited to filing and forming tips with the
screw threads on the end. With the set screw model, you can use
large gage copper wire or whatever strikes your fancy. Chuck
the wire in your #30 and sharpen it, forge it into a spoon, etc.
With the set screw, you can also change tips while the iron is
hot if you’re careful.

I used a 6 or 9 ft extension cord for the plug, cut it in the
middle and had the other end with the three outlets coming out of
my box in case I want more than one iron or want to use it for a
variable speed (use a shaded pole) motor.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to make a reservoir
(camelback?? is that what they call it??) nib for the thing. You
could use a nib split down the middle and it would hold some wax
like an old drafting (inking) nib, but the reservoir would be
better. Any suggestions on this??

Roy (Jess)


#4

Hi Gang,

Good idea!

Not to worry though about having to get a soldering iron with
tips held in by a set screw.

If the 1 you have has the screw in type tips & you’d like to
have the convenience of the set screw type, modify one of the
tips. Drill & tap a hole through a screw in tip. Cut the tip off
at a convenient length Drill a hole the size of the material to
be used as a point down the center of the remainder of the tip.
This hole must extend beyond the hole that was taped.

To use position the changeable tip in the hole & tighten the set
screw. If possible use a brass set screw, it won’t seize in the
hole like a steel screw will.

Dave


#5

Now I’m trying to figure out how to make a reservoir
(camelback?? is that what they call it??) nib for the thing. You
could use a nib split down the middle and it would hold some wax
like an old drafting (inking) nib, but the reservoir would be
better. Any suggestions on this??

Batik artists use a Tjanting tool to apply wax. They are
essentially a small metal reservoir and tube attatched to a
wooden handle. Hot wax is added to the reservoir and the whole
thing is tipped to make wax lines on fabric. The metal parts
(brass on mine) could easily be detatched and re-attatched to a
soldering iron. Tjanting tools are available at almost any good
art/craft store and come in sets of several different tip sizes.


#6

Now I’m trying to figure out how to make a reservoir
(camelback?? is that what they call it??) nib for the thing. >

What about closing one end of a tube to make the reservoir,
soldering it side by side to the copper wire nib, then drilling
an appropriately sized hole in the base of the “reservoir” next
to the nib? Or drill the base to permit passing a split or
grooved nib wire down through the reservoir base, leaving the
groove unsoldered so the heated wax will feed down the wire? The
wax would be heated to the right working temperature by the nib
directly in this way, rather than by conducted heat which my
first suggestion would require.

I can’t work wax worth a hoot, but your reservoir idea sounds good to me.
Good luck.
Pam


#7

I have seen them carved in wax, cast in bronze (or whatever as
desired) and then fixed on the ‘pen’. Yours with the set screw
attachment would be an easy attachment.

Lorri