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Beginner having a hard time with initial carving/line work

Hello, I’m just getting into wax carving and looking to do very simple designs on pendents. I’m using kate wolf brown wax and also using her china marker/graphite technique to lay down the initial design. I’m stumped after that, I’ve tried using a scriber, onglette engraver and a assorted dental tools and my lines have been coming out nasty. It seems like the wax has impurity’s or my tools are not sharp enough. Any scriber recommendations to achieve basic lines like in this picture

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My now deceased wife, used Filo was, a VERY HARD - 70% plastic wax mix, and carved VERY short lines, curves, etc. in the wax. Sharp tools, hards, grainless wax, a steady hand, LOTS of experience/time and you can do it. Wax work, good wax work, is truly and art and it does take time to learn the ins and outs of it all. I would suggest you get some really hard wax, sharpen your tools and then sharpen your working ability……… practice is very helpful!!!

I am interested in seeing what others say on this. I am not a wax carver but I did Cynthia’s (deceased wife) bronzes, for me a learning experience but I will say a success. Can be seen at MLCE dot net if interested.

Best of luck and learning.

John D

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Blue wax was always to gooey for me. I use hard green wax for carving. Another benefit of green wax is that you can smooth the surface with sand paper. You may have better results with your lines by using scrapers that you pull through the wax instead of anything you have to push.

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I am very new to this myself. I bought some wax from Rio and a set of tools from Harbor Freight and did some experimenting. I bought a kilo of delft clay which I promptly mislaid. So I bought 2 more and promptly found the first.

These photos are my first two projects with wax and clay. Room to improve but I am happy with the results.


I now use Kate Wolf’s Gold carving wax, and it can be carved in great detail.
I also have a set of her carving tools, which are as the label says WICKES SHARP.
You want to use sharp tools, and take small bites.
I also use carving burrs in the flex shaft when I need to remove a lot of wax.
If you really would like to develop wax carving skills, I cannot help but recommend taking a class or seminar from Kate. No matter what yours kill level she can take you to a new level very quickly.

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Hey, Don,
Not bad for an old man…and a young man probably wouldn’t be able to sit still long enough to do it at all! I’ve had a lot of trouble with my thumbs, which I trace back to trying to bend some half round wire with brute strength, but they have probably been going downhill for a while…between some exercises I found on youtube and some glucosamine + MSM from Wally they are much better. We can always find solutions and work-arounds. You and Rob are my inspiration. Keep up the good work. Soon your stuff will look like Benvenuto Cellini’s! -royjohn

I’d love to take a kate wolf class but covid and I live on the west coast…

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I believe that Kate often does seminars at Tucsan, AZ in Feb, and at Stuller in LA.

Covid impacts everything, as you say.

Thanks RJ

It is fun to do. I am sure I will do much more. I have already started on some ore intricate pieces. The wax artist is my daughter. She couldn’t draw a picture to save her life but she can sculpt in 3 dimensions like Michelangelo.



For these sort of lines I often use a linoleum or wood block cutter- the kind for printmaking.

I lightly edge where the lines meet at perpendicular angles with a very sharp xacto blade, then use the cutter between.

As suggested below by John and Dusteater use harder wax. We like the Green and Purple wax in our studio. Spend the money and buy Kate Wolf’s tools. You’ll just need the starter set for now. Also invest in a good optivisor if you don’t have one yet.
And finally… As you stated you are new to wax carving. Give yourself permission to make a mess. Every failure is one step closer to being an expert. And carve out, pun intended, the time every day for practice. In highly skilled jewelry making the ten thousand hour rule is necessary.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

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Lots of good advice here and some good ideas. One thing I noted was the expression ‘dental tools’. In my experience that means instruments dentists/hygienists have discarded and are happy to pass along. Those are explorers, curettes etc, none of them “carvers”.
Never have I seen the most useful category of dental instruments mentioned…dental lab technicians instruments. These practiced professionals use “waxing instruments” and they are worlds away from clinical instruments apart from some very limited carvers. This latter went out of use pretty much 20 to 30 y ago, amalgam carvers.
Anyway, my shorts story is that I was a lab technician first, then practiced dentistry for 50 y now do clay and metal. The last set I ordered was a PK Thomas set waxing instruments and were’nt too pricey. I hope this can help someone. I’d be willing to take some pics if interested.

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That’s exactly the info I was looking for, thank you very much! Thanks EVERYONE! this is an awesome forum! I’m hungry to get good, I’ve been eating through youtube tutorials and while good I haven’t really found any videos that break down what tools to use or specific tool techniques

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Those cutters look perfect!!! What do you mean by edge??? Like start the initial lines with the xacto where the angles meet? And are you pushing the lino twords you or away from you on the main lines?


after looking at your blue head example, i am wondering if the piece was “smoothed out” by either using a soft flame, or a wax solvent(?) to gloss the surface…sort of melts the surface, eliminates chatter, etc…(?)

the edges of the lines look “softened”…

just a thought

here is an example product


Be sure to get an alcohol lamp or preferably an electric wax pen. There’s a battery powered one that’s quite reasonable. At least with wax if you get three quarters of the way through cutting your lines and you make a mistake you can just fill it in with wax, file it down and re- do the botched line. Like everything in our trade, practice, practice, practice! I

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Yes - dental tools are wonderful and dentists seem happy to give them away. I also use an oil lamp and heat the tool a tad, depending on the temp in my studio.

Forgot about the wax pen - the process goes much faster and accidents often inspire creativity.

Hmm let me see if I can explain without showing… Imagine you are drawing a T. I would use the xacto to draw the top of the top line. Then, I would use a narrow v-cutter (the linocutter) and starting at the bottom, cut up until you hit where you cut the xacto line. This gives you a crisp “stop”. I hope that makes sense! Basically you pre-cut your ends as needed, or clean up after the v or u-cutter.

I use these for everything, and cut all different ways with them. I’d be happy to show you on instagram (if you use it). Message me @topolski_jewelry

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Wax is a wonderful way to design it does take some practice. I love the idea of 2 hours a day since we all seem to have a few extra hours daily lately. Kate Wolf tools are amazing also there areKorean wax carving set from All Craft in NYC. Both are very sharp. The regular Xacto knife is great, but you have to support the blade to keep from skipping. What you need here is a sharp tool and harder wax. Most of my work is angular so my go to is green wax which gives a crisp edges. Good luck and keep carving

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