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