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Any helpful hits on carving channels in wax?


The subject heading says it all. I have never carved channels
in wax before and am hoping to get some feedback or advise on the
matter. Also, does anyone know of a good book on the subject?

Thanks Once Again!

Katrina Barnett


Hi Katrina

One way of cutting a channel into a wax model that works well
for me is by using a graver. I find that matching up the graver
to the width of the channel gains the best results and bbe sure
to make several cuts to achieve your depth. Trying to remove to
much wax in a single pass can chip the wax as well as minimizing
the control of your tool to stay within your defined boundries.
Good luck.



Channels can be constructed out of soft sheet wax. Cut a strip
of wax somewhat longer than you need with a rectangular
crossection, the widest dimension being the diameter of the
stones you are using. Even, 90 degree sides make for a cleaner
channel. Make the sides of the channel out of 20 to 28 (depending
on the style you want the channel to look like) guage wax sheet.
The height of the side strips should be the thickness of the
bottom peice plus about 1mm. Weld the side strips to the bottom
peice with a not very hot needle. A 1/2 inch peice of sharpened
20 guage round silver wire that has been silver soldered to your
wax pen works well. Be sure to seal all joints. If you take an
identical bottom peice and put it in the channel you can bend or
shape the channel as you want. When you remove it the channel is
not distorted. I hope this helps you. John Winters


Hi Katrina, I’ll assume that you’re carving for mellee stones in
this instance. I use a combination of gravers and special
"dragging" tools that I make from bicycle spokes. You’ll want to
make your channel less wide than the dimensionsof the stones to
be set, for instance if you’re carving for a 2.5mm stone, I’d
make the channel about 2.1mm - 2.2mm wide, to allow you to polish
the channel after casting. You may also wish to drill one or two
holes in the channel - if you do them all, they may not line up
well with your stones - but if you at least drill the first stone
to be set, you’ll help to avoid a bubble forming in your channel
in casting (by facilitating investment flow), which can be

In regards to the bike spoke tools, I cut them at about 6"
lengths and bend the ends over (about 3mm from the end) and then
file them to the size of the channel I want to carve, sharpening
the tip, so it will pull wax from the area you’re putting the
channel in. I then mount them in wooden dowel handles - I
probably have 20 of them in various sizes and shapes in my wax
bench. As for the gravers, I primarily use flat gravers to cut
the channels. I’m assuming that you have channel set stones
before - if not, you may wish to experiment on a couple of pieces
before you proceed with a complex wax. This is a pretty
complicated subject to try to describe in words, but between the
bunch of us, I’m sure we can leave you helplessly confused and
bewildered. Have fun, Mike.


Carving channels in wax is the only way I do it any more.
Basically there are two tools I use. A flat graver usually a #40
if it is not too wide for the stones, or a flat cutting wheel in
the fordom again if it is narrow evough.

The first thing to concern yourself with is the layout. Use a
set of very sharp deviders to mark the inside and outside edges
of the channel. I use a optical comparitor (a small loupe like
devise with measurement marked on the optics) to make sure my
channel marks are within a tenth of a milimeter to the size I
need. If setting a 3mm stone i cut 2.8-2.9 mm channel. Make sure
your stones are exact in size also. Use a leverage guage or some
other form of measure that is exact to the .1 mm. Layout
complete, procede to cut the channel with your graver. Start in
the center and slowly work deeper being careful no to take too
much with each pass or the wax will crack or peel beyond the
desired area. Slowly widen as the depth increases until you reach
your mark. Measure the cut with a guage to be sure you reach
exact (to.1mm) tolerance. You can also use a tool in the foredom
to cut this slot or channel. It is faster but not as precise as a
graver. I often rough out the channel with a wheel and then clean
up with a graver. straight channels are easier then curved ones
so try and start with the straight ones. I usually leave a 1mm
thick base at the bottom of the channel for support and then
drill holes for cleaning stones. I have found over the years that
purple Matt wax ring blanks work the best for me however you
should try the color that suits you best. I also leave a channel
wall that is about 1/2 to 1 mm thick depending on the design and
size of the stones. The thicker the channel wall the more room
for clean up and the tougher the channel is to push. Hope this
helps if you have specific questions you can email me direct at Frank


Katrina, Helpful hints on carving channels…hmmmm…ok… first
assuming you are a beginner, the tools you use are going to
dictate how easy or hard this could be… Get the smallest tools
you could find, I made all of mine to my specs. Carving channels
is VERY easy once you get the hang of it… When I do channel
work in wax I always make my channel about 1/4 mm smaller than
the width of the stone. (1/8mm on each side of the channel) Take
your dividers and draw the cahnnel first, remember if you set up
yours stones on top of a wax ring, after you cut your channel
the actual space needed will always be longer than what it
appeared to be on the top of the ring…Trust Me… Anyway, rough
out your channel, be sure not to make the channel to wide or your
stones will drop right to the bottom. Make sure your channel
floor is level. Once you have the channel cut, find the middle of
the channel and drill a pilot hole for the culet of the stone…
From there, take you heart burs(turn them by hand) and actullay
begin setting your stones from the center out, one stone at a
time, on each side the ceneter stone, after you set the first
stone in the center, take your drill bit and make you pilot hole
for the next stone. Spacing your stones will take practice, but
spacing them in wax saves alot of headache later… Once all of
your stones are set in wax, simply pop them out gently, and cast
your piece… Not everybody sets up their channel in wax like
this, but doing it this way you are gauranteed to have proper
spacing and no suprises later like the culet of the stone popping
out the underside of the ring…or not enough lenght in your
channel for all of your stones…If I have you confused feel free
to e-mail me, I will send you some pictures… Marc Williams MarcCo.
Jewelry Mfg. MarcCo Mfg.


—I also make channels similar to some of the other reply’s so
there is no use in repeating what they have said. One helpful
hint is to take a set of watchmakers screwdrivers and sharpen
them. The set I have has sizes from .6mm to 3mm which gives you
almost any size you need small stones.

Good luck

B. Wismar



If you are doing a straight channel, it it relatively simple to
carve using wheel burs on your flex shaft. Scrib lines on your
wax to define the channel and use a bur which will give you the
depth of channel which you need when you rest the shank of the
bur on the top of the wax.

If you are doing a curved channel it is much more tedious and
requires the use of flat gravers and/or a handmade scraping tool.
I usually flatten the end of a bicycle spoke and shape it with a
flat end and parallel sides.(I drillout the end of a small dowel
and glue the unforged end of the tool into it for a handle) I
scribe the outline of my channel on the wax and carefully scrape
away the wax. If the channel is for larger stones, I may use
wheel burs to remove the bulk of the wax from the center of the
channel. It is important to be sure that the sides of the
channel are parallel, which is why I prefer the homemade tool
rather than the sloped edges of the graver.

Hope this helps rather than confuses. I would love to hear
someone elses tips for curved channels.

Good Luck,

Sharon Ziemek


Mike gave advise to Katrina some while ago on setting mellee
stones. I often wonder if any glue if every used to hold just a
small stone. I would like to set some on a wide ring band but
have not been sure how to make sure they won’t all fall out of
the little drill holes I’m sure I would have to drill. Any advise
on setting Mellees? Dolores New Jersey



No jeweler worth his/her salt would glue a diamond. You simply
need a narrower channel. There have been some very good
instructions here on Orchid and there are also very good books
and classes on the subject. I’d advise you to look to them for
help. Other than that, practice, practice, practice!

Best Wishes;
Steve Klepinger
BTW… The term “melee” is both singular and plural


Dear Dolores,

You might try a slightly different flush setting technique I
have used. Fit the stone the same way as described by others on
this thread, however leave a straighter wall to slip the stone
into. The stone should fit in as snug and even as possible. This
can be done with a setting bur the best because of the cutting on
the sides as well as the bottom of the bur. Fit the stone so that
the table of the stone is flush with the metal.The ring can even
be roughed and almost finished at this point. Now you take a
round or point (angellete / ongellete) graver and sharpen it into
a point. I have never measured this angle. You must be able to
fit the point between the stone crown and the side metal wall of
your setting. This point is pushed into the metal right above the
girdle and even with the crown of the stone. You make a sliver of
metal and push it over the stone. This must be very small and you
only need two. You can hardly see the slivers, you don’t have
any clean up and they don’t wear off because they are recessed.
Here’s a tip for a loose stone in a channel mounting also. Just
fit a small sliver in. No one can see it without a loupe and
there’s little to clean up.

Best Regards,
TR the Teacher & student


Hi Dolores, this is a reasonably complex subject, but we’ll see
if we can cover some of the basics. It sounds to me that you’re
envisioning a gypsy set or flush mount type of setting. What
you’ll need is a setting bur for the size of stone you’re using,
a drill bit smaller than the diameter of the stone, and a
planishing tool. Once you’ve decided where to set them, center
punch the spots and then drill a hole through the ring. You then
use your setting bur to drill into your metal - deep enough so
that the stones table is roughly flush with the metal. You may
wish to use a 45 degree bearing bur to relieve the seat (I
generally don’t do this for diamonds, but sometimes do for
colored stones). You’re looking for the stone to fit pretty
tightly into its seat - I often force them into position with a
small brass rod fitted into a graver handle. Once the stone is
in position, you’ll then planish the metal over the girdle of the
stone. I use a series of brass rod of varying shapes and sizes
to hammer the metal over the top. Once you’ve got the metal
pushed down over the girdle to the point where the stone is
tight, you need to burnish the circle of metal surrounding the
stone. I use an old bur with the tip broken off, sanded down
and polished very smooth, mounted in a graver handle - take this
burnisher and run it around the circle surrounding the stone
until it looks bright and polished. If you’re not dealing with
diamonds, be careful of the stone with this tool. You may also
use a graver to touch up the setting as well. I then use a knife
edge white rubber wheel (at a 45 degree slant) to polish the
dents out of the metal where I tapped it down over the stone.
Finish polishing, and voila! you’ve gypsy set! By the way, the
only time I’d condone glue use in setting is in highly fragile
stones, and then I pour crazy glue over the stone (in hopes I’ll
stabilize it somewhat), wait for it to dry, set the stone and
then soak the glue off of the stone - if you’re setting a $20K
emerald, a little insurance like that is nice. Good luck, Mike


Hello TR!

Just had to add my two cents worth on your earlier post.

When you describe bringing up small slivers of metal I’m assuming
this is after a good effort at tightening the stone
conventionally? The “sliver” method is indispensable but a no-no
for (stores and salespeople loupe my work) first quality
stonesetting. I am not saying I don’t use this method. I am
saying you would be hard pressed to see (even with a loupe) where
I have slivered!

Use half-point gravers (high speed, hard to find) to raise your
sliver, then use your “polished point” to burnish at 70 or 80
degrees (guessing at this angle) and this sliver you raised is
gone. When using half point gravers, sharpen not only at the
angle your used too, but tilt the right and left gravers
respectively to sharpen so the curved side is the leading edge.
Imagine a newborn colt. The angle the front hoofs oddly meet the
ground is this angle. I use half-points for my bright cut edges,
and final edge detail on channel setting rails. An indispensable
graver! If you try to order these (two gravers, a left and a
right) you’ll likely be told they only stock them in regular
steel. How frustrating! They can be ordered by your supplier
from Grobet in New York. They then must order from Mueller in
Germany. If you have Fischer’s catalog I’m told they stock them.
West Coast findings and supply was stocking them for me for
student purchasing. John may still have some in stock. I can’t
remember their 800# ,and it is not listed! I’ll post it
tomorrow. Very nice fellow, (also Jay [a jeweler] very
knowledgeable) concerned with selling you tools and findings
that you want, not that you have to settle for, because you
don’t have time to send the stuff back! His prices are
competitive; mainly they care! No, they didn’t put me up to
this. The house has finally cooled down, and I’m going back to


Hello all!

Here is West Coasts # 1-800-634-7941. This follows up my last
post about half-point gravers. I noticed I didn’t elaborate on
their true benefit in stonesetting. When cleaning up around
bright cut, pave’, and channel work. Routinely it’s a
rollercoaster ride (the curves and angles the stones are set in)
to cut away this metal cleanly and minimally. Flat gravers for me
are quite cumbersome for this effort. Half-points turn tight
curves with ease comparatively. Try them if you graver set
stones. Tim


Dear Tp,

You put it much better than I. I would only sliver smaller
stones as I describred and your follow up graver tip was great.
My criteria for a lot of burnishing is the design of the piece.
Many times I have not had the room to do a lot around the bezel
of small melee. I prefer a nice sharp edge on the metal as it
comes to the stone and I’ve found too much surface burnishing
creates a lot more work and clean up than I want. All in all a
good thread!


TR the Teacher & Student