Looking for a better material for a technique that involves pressing
wax into hand carved dies. I have been using carving wax, which
carves beautifully but tends to stick to the hot wax. I also tried
plaster, which works, but the porosity causes problems for very fine
detail. There must be something out there that carves as well as the
waxes but that will take the heat and pressure. Any suggestions?
Looking for a better material for a technique that involves pressing
You can try mixing your own wax beeswax is a low melting wax,
parrifin is a higher temp melting wax and their are additives that
you add to the mix for hardness, ect. Sorry Its been over thirty
years since I made candles. Can’t find the book with the
descriptions of what does what. I’m sure you should be able to find
it on the net.
You can check this site out and see if they may have something
useful for you they have been fast and friendly to deal with in the
past.http://www.smooth-on.com And since you mentioned using plaster,
try some of the harder type plasters rather than plaster/Paris. They
have mould making and casting plaster that will fit your bill. Also
try this clay here is a good site. http://www.sculpey.com
You would be amazed what can be done with that stuff.
been there, still doing it only with epoxy
What about plexiglass or soapstone?
Here are a couple of things that will work:
Depending on what you mean by “carving”, Plexiglas T may work. It is
used as a forming die all the time.
Also, there is a product called “AlumaLike” which is essentially a
resin with aluminum particles distributed through the resin. It is
used in milling operations to create an inexpensive but fairly
durable die. Very easy to machine, holds fine detail, and can take
the heat you talk about.
There is another similar product, cheaper, too, available but I
forget the name right now. It’s available through E-Wax (my brother)
at BrantEmery@comcast.net. He handles waxes and related
technologies, including ALL of the jewelry waxes in bulk or rings,
or tubes, or whatever, including the Mattiello line and custom-sized
tubes, etc., and he is considerably cheaper than ANY other source.
He can help you with the carvable metal/resin product.
Looking for a better material for a technique that involves pressing wax into hand carved dies. I have been using carving wax, which carves beautifully but tends to stick to the hot wax. I also tried plaster, which works, but the porosity causes problems for very fine detail. There must be something out there that carves as well as the waxes but that will take the heat and pressure. Any suggestions?
you might also try the use of a different seperating agent, rather
than changing the die material. At one point, I was playing with
pressing sheet wax into typography type or graphic arts etched
magnisium or zinc etched plates. Wax, obviously, would stick to these
materials when pressed into it. Saran wrap or similar thin plastic
wrap spread smooth over the wax prior to pressing it in provided a
good clean seperation after pressing, and with care could then be
peeled back off the wax without damaging it. Some loss of detail
does occur, of course, just due to the thickness of the plastic film,
but it’s fairly minimal, at least within the requirements of what I
was doing at the time… Note that the sheet wax is pressed into the
die COLD, not hot. The sheet waxes used are the various dental wax
types which are somewhat plastic even when cold, so they don’t
fracture during this process. The depth of the relief you get is
limited by the thickness of the sheet wax you start with. Pressing
could be done with a shop press, or just with the jaws of a good
vice and a couple flat steel plates. The idea, by the way, was not
mine. It came from Richard Thomas, at the time the head of the metals
program at Cranbrook, along with a wide array of other interesting
methods we all now take pretty much for granted… In this case, it
was an easy way to transfer the nice graphics one could get with
etched zinc plates, to a wax model. Worked somewhat better than
making rubber molds of the zinc plates and trying to inject wax into
I never tried it for your purposes, but I have carved plexiglass(?),
Lucite(?). I used it to hold loose stones as an assembly for
presentation and mock-ups. carves easy, polishes nice, should stand
up to molten wax, maybe need a mold release. Its certainly durable.
For your use it should be helpful that you can see inside it as the
Are you bringing the wax to liquid state or soft and pliable?
I would suggest Corian, the counter top material. It is hard but
tough, in fact tough enough to make fountain pans with screw-on
tops, threaded. One of my friends uses plexiglass to press wax relief
into. I press wax into the 3M material of the Modelmaster system (got
it at Rio ) and it is plastic and metal, and I use silicone spray on
the pink wax surface. I press it with a screw press, no heat. Email
me if I have not been clear.
Soapstone. I frequently use it for simple pewter castings, and it
will take a pretty fine detail. It’s more work to carve than the wax,
but once done, it’s pretty much forever.
Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
Of course, you could try carving in plexiglass or delrin. Not a
great carving material, kind of gummy. Have you thought about carving
in pewter? I understand it was a favorite with model makers at one
time, but I’ve not tried it. If the design permits, you might try
carving the positive and using a firm RTV compound. You can buy small
amounts of the 2 part putty type RTV which sets in about 15 minutes.
Finally, maybe it would be useful to carve your dies in wax, then
cast in metal. I’d be interested in knowing what finally works out
David L. Huffman
Have you tried porcelain? There would definitely be a learning
curve, but I bet it would work.
Albion, CA, US
PS: If you have questions, and don’t think this would be of general
interest, email me off list. Or email Noel, who knows a lot more
about ceramics than I do!
I have hand engraved intaglio designs into steel, red brass, and
pewter to achieve embossed wax models. Spray the “die” with a release
agent - silicone, or even something as simple as a kitchen pan spray
like “Pam.” If the wax does not pop right out with a minimum amount
of teasing, put the whole thing in the freezer for a while. Take it
out and let it come back up to room temperature and the wax should
just fall out of the cavity. DO NOT try to pry a frozen wax out of
the die, it will shatter!
On one very difficult wax, I had to weld a wax rod to the thickest
part of the model and pull it out…
Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA
Don’t know if I have enough info on what you are trying to do but
have you tried using “vegatable ivory” I think it is also called a
Tongo nut. I see them all the time in rodk shops so I know they are
readily availabel.They look like Ivory and carve similarly. They can
be worked with rotary tools, files sandpapers etc. They should be
very tolerable of hot wax and should be reuseable. I don’t know if
you would need a release agent or not.
Hey there cheap enough that they are woth a try or two.
Tangua Nuts are acceptable substitutes
Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry
They are tagua nuts from the tagua palm tree. This link has info on
them and sells them. right now it seems that they have only a limited
supply of sizes in stock. Since they are a favorite of wood carvers.
most wood carving suppliers have them.
http://www.oneworldprojects.com http://woodcraft.com Also sells
them. http://www.leevalley.com At the one world projects web site
check out the carving hints pages.
been there done that, they really do act like ivory and look like it two!
Tagua nuts are fun to carve. They’re not as dense as ivory, and seem
to chip more readily. In my personal experience, the surface of the
nut seems to get * mushy * while handling, over time, as if
melting or something. As well, with a large nut being around 3
inches or so, not much more, and with a( roughly 5-10% ) cavity in
middle, there may not be much left to work with by the time you
finish slicing it into usable pieces.
This may not solve your problem in that it takes a new learning
cycle. I just thought it might be interesting to describe the use of
thin copper molds to create wax items.
I originally made large copper western pictures by working the
design into a thin sheet of copper. The design is raised by worked
on both sides of the copper with wooden tools. When the design is
done you have a raised embossed copper picture.
The back of the raised embossed design is filled with plaster then
the whole thing is contact cemented to a piece of masonite.
Every now and then the plaster would fall out of the back of the
copper picture. The plaster was an exact copy of the original
I developed a way to make the plaster look like copper which allowed
me to reproduce the pictures. The last one I created was a buffalo
hunt scene which was 15 by 26 inches. The only problem was that the
plaster, which was about one half inch thick, would crack easily.
Looking for a way to make the casting more durable lead me to lost
wax casting which lead to lost wax jewelry making.
The first jewelry items I created were buckles with various western
portraits on them. Just pour molten wax into the raised embossed
copper mold that was sprayed with a mold release. When the wax
hardened it was into the freezer then out to cool to room temp. The
wax with a raise portrait would pop out of the copper mold.
I eventually made RTV molds of the buckles which made it easier to
The material and instruction manuals were obtained at a local Tandy
store which is no longer in business. There is a tandy company that
still supplies miscellaneous crafts item. They might be found on the
I can send photos to anyone interested.