Cleaning wax carving

This site has been a very positive resource for me to learn just
about anything concerning producing jewelry. Please accept my sincere
thanks to all that have been so gracious and patient to teach us
newbie’s in the art.

Now my questions: On youtube I watched a person carve a ring mould
out of blue wax ring material, once every so often he wiped the piece
with a fluid and than air cleaned it. Can anyone tell me what that
liquid was? Also what is the advantage or disadvantage between the
different hardness wax products? Lastly, how does one repair an over
cut mistake on a the wax model?


The product was probably a citrus based cleaner. It will remove very
light scratches and smooth the wax very nicely. There is also a
solvent type product that will also smooth wax carvings, I prefer
the orange or citrus based because there are less fumes. The
difference in wax hardness is for different designs you are carving.
The blue wax is more flexible than the others and is a good general
purpose carving wax. The purple is a bit more firm and holds a bit
more detail and the green is the most firm and is good for filigree
work or high detail.

Now my questions: On youtube I watched a person carve a ring mould
out of blue wax ring material, once every so often he wiped the
piece with a fluid and than air cleaned it. Can anyone tell me what
that liquid was? 

There are several products marketed to clean/polish wax models.
Often based on orange oil, or other petroleum distillates, they are
wax solvents that will help remove minor scratches and marks. They
can make a wax model look a little better prior to casting, but you
have to be careful with their use. Despite what some of them claim on
the labels, you need to wash off residues of the stuff before
investing them for casting. Some investments will react poorly to
some of the solvents, giving you a rougher cast surface. Also, over
use of the things can end up blurring details instead of polishing
the was. And, given that cast surfaces, while good, still need some
clean up, minor scratches and a lack of a polish on the wax generally
isn’t an issue that needs to be fixed for a good casting, since the
flaws you’re often taking off are finer than what the end cast
surface exhibits anyway. If they are coarser, fix them with finer
abrasives, or finer files, etc.

And, if you wish to buff up a wax surface, you can also do it by
gently rubbing with a bit of old nylon stocking or similar cloth. No
solvent really needed. For some uses, of course, the solvent product
will be useful. But they’re not automatically a needed part of the
process, or always all that useful.

Also what is the advantage or disadvantage between the different
hardness wax products? 

harder waxes hold details better, bend less, take crisper carving
with finer more delicate details, etc. But being more brittle, they
can be easier to accidentally break, so they may need to be handled
more carefully. The harder waxes might need a more gentle delicate
touch, with smaller amounts of wax being removed with a cut of a
tool, than the softer more flexible waxes. But then by contrast, if
carving a delicate detail in a soft wax, the wax will tend to just
flex out of the way of the tool, making it harder to actually remove
the desired amount or shape of wax with the cut.

Lastly, how does one repair an over cut mistake on a the wax model? 

Melt a bit of scrap wax back onto the mistake. Be sure to also melt
the surface that you’re repairing, rather than just flowing melted
wax over the solid surface, in order to be sure the new wax actually
blends/bonds with the old. Let it sit a little bit before carving
again. Carving waxes are slow to actually form their crystaline
structure (yes, like most solid materials, they do have such a
structure). Right after it solidifies, the recently melted wax will
be much softer and weaker than the original. Allowed to sit for a
time, it improves. If overheated, some of the plasticizers in the wax
get burned out, so then it never quite recovers, but it’s still

Very small repairs, like to rough tool marks or slight overcuts, can
be simply filled with another, softer, wax, like disclosing wax, or
inlay wax, injection wax, etc, rather than needing to rebuild with
carving wax. it depends on how much you’ll need to rework the
repaired surface. Doing that can sometimes lead to a repair that’s
rougher than it would have been, but so long as there is more wax
there than the desired surface, after casting you’ll simply have a
raised rough spot to clean up, rather than a ding or mark that needs
to be filled. Taking off a little extra on the casting, where there
was a repair, is often trivial, no different from needing to clean up
where the sprues attached.


Hey Ken, he was probably using some time of mild solvent on the wax.
I have some Vigor wax kleen I bought from Rio and have heard of
people using lighter fluid as well. Although I have not tried it,
pantyhose by itself or in conjunction with cleaning fluid is suppose
to do very well at cleaning waxes.

Different waxes for different applications, soft waxes are flexible
but gummy to try to carve while hard waxes are brittle but easier to
carve. An overcut on a wax can be fixed by adding wax to the overcut
area and recut. Don’t put hot wax on cold wax, it won’t adhere, both
surfaces should be heated. A wax pen works well and so does a pin
and an alcohol lamp albeit slower.

Jim Doherty

The product I use is Goo Gone (Citrus Power), comes in two different
sizes and can be found at hardware stores. Inexpensive and has many
uses besides smoothing waxes.

Michael Andrews

Hi Ken,

On youtube I watched a person carve a ring mould out of blue wax
ring material, once every so often he wiped the piece with a fluid
and than air cleaned it. Can anyone tell me what that liquid was?
Also what is the advantage or disadvantage between the different
hardness wax products? Lastly, how does one repair an over cut
mistake on a the wax model? 

I hope I’m not too late to chime in and be of some help.

I’m not sure what liquid was used on the video- I’ve used a number
of different solvents (some so bad for your health that I won’t even
mention them).

I don’t use solvents on geometric, hard edge pieces, just on
curvilinear or organic forms. Wax Brite and Wax Clean are both
solvents I use. They are made from the oil of oranges. You can also
find a full strength (concentrated) orange oil solvent in the
hardware store- I think Goo-Gone may be one brand- make sure you are
not buying the diluted stuff- it won’t work. Read the label and
follow the precautions! It’s organic, but it’s still a solvent and
can cause health problems. Also, make sure you rinse the wax off,
after using the solvent- or it will continue to attack the surface
of the wax. Also, use the solvent before you use any softer waxes
(such as Touch Up Wax or Relief Wax) on the piece, because the
solvent attacks softer waxes more aggressively.

Often I don’t even use solvent. My favorite tool for finishing the
surface of a wax is a knife edge felt wheel (the small ones that are
used to polish metal- but without the polishing compound), hand held
and rubbed on the wax. I much prefer this over silk or nylon, as it
is stiffer, and better at getting into groove. I cut these into
different shapes.

Many people prefer a medium formula wax for hand carving, and a hard
formula wax for lathe and milling work. The hard formula tends to
crack easier than the medium formula, but it machines a bit cleaner,
especially when it is machined at higher speeds, with finer cutting
tools. In two months I have a new, all purpose formula of my Gold
Tone Wolf Wax by Ferris hitting the market. It’s ideal for hand
carving and machining. I’ll put a post up on Orchid when it’s

Repairing carving wax is easy, if you keep a couple of things in
mind. To make a good bond, when building up an area of the wax, or
fixing a crack, it’s essential to melt the wax well. If you drip
molten carving wax on the piece you are repairing, it will peel off.
One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen (and done) is to have the
temperature of the wax pen (or dental pick over an alcohol lamp) too
cool. If the wax you are applying is stringy that is a sign that it
is too cool- and you may end up with air bubbles in the wax. If your
pen is smoking, either you have residue from a lower temperature wax
on the tip, or the tool is too hot- and that is not good either. In
class, I say that the right temperature is in between smoke and
string. Also, always be on the lookout for hairline cracks, it’s
easiest to repair them when they are small, and before the piece
break in two.

There are some free wax carving tutorials on my website:

I hope this helps! Have fun carving!

Kate Wolf in Portland, Maine hosting wicked good workshops by the

I’ve used baby oil and a nylon stocking for some time. The baby oil
will slightly melt the top surface of the wax so I usually wash it
off after using it. I’d wash off any solvent you put on the wax for
cleaner casting.

Thank you for the in depth explanation, it has helped. To bad I live
in Conn…Long trip for your class in Main. If in the future you
conduct closer classes please let me know. You come highly
recommended by your past students.

Thanks for the tutorial link. VERY helpful for a just so so carver.
spotted a couple of hints that should help avoid some of my

My favorite tool for finishing the surface of a wax is a knife edge
felt wheel 

On Carvex (I like blue) I just use steel wool, and then dust it off
with a brush. No, I’ve never had steel embedded in a casting - dust
it off with a brush, silly. Works great, but definitely not for soft
wax, only carvex…

To anyone who wants to learn about furthering their skills in wax
carving, yes, Kate Wolf’s class is the absolute best I have seen or
taken in the last eight years in which I have been actively pursuing
the craft, and since starting sporadically in 1978.

Some folks cannot make it to Kate’s class for a number of reasons,
however that should not stop you from attempting to work on those
skills. If you want access to Kate’s knowledge, check out her
websites because there are tutorials there. Also you can purchase a
set of her tools which includes the book she uses in her class. Or
just buy the book separately. (That’s it for my unsolicited
commercial spot.)

Now if you are serious about carving, or any work in jewelry, you
can also go to the library and check out numerous books on, well,
just about anything to do with making jewelry. That is what I did.
It is free, other than the gas to get to the library. Most libraries
have online catalogs now and have reciprocity with other libraries.
If your local library doesn’t have the book you want, they can borrow
it from another. I do it all of the time, and you can too.

If you are really serious about it, you can take a course at your
local arts center. There is most likely one within an hour’s drive.
Yes it might mean an hour’s drive to and from a class once a week,
but the class is probably worth the $8 in gas. I was fortunate to
take wax carving and stone setting at the Torpedo Factory in
Alexandria, VA when we lived there. We live in the Tampa area now
and there are similar classes at The Arts Center in St. Pete (where
I learned to cast), as well as the Dunedin Fine Arts Center in
Dunedin. My point is that these classes are available all over the
country, one just has to look for them, they are usually about 6
weeks long and cost between $100 - 150.

I found when I started in this, that taking classes gave me the
opportunity to have equipment at my disposal, an instructor to teach
me the ropes, and it fast-tracked the process so that I had a
finished casting in my hands in a few weeks.

Most people don’t an unlimited budget, but one must understand that
having a wax is one thing, making it into a casting is another thing
and will require an investment (pardon the pun). There are costs to
setting up one’s studio so that one can make moulds, cast, and finish
the piece. One can also send the wax model(s) to a caster and have
them do the moulds, casting and finishing, or any configuration of
the whole procedure, and that might be the most cost effective. But
it will cost something, that is a fact, get over it or learn to do
watercolors instead.

There are several casters that advertise on the Orchid forum, who
support Ganoksin, and come highly recommended. Send them an email and
start the conversation about what it will cost you and what you need
to do/send to them by way of models. Or you can go to a local
jeweler or dental lab and see if you can get some casting done there.
It will still cost you something.

And take the seriously given by the Orchid members, who
are not only veterans of the forum but veterans jewelers. They are
giving you the straight poop, for free. Don’t try to reinvent the
wheel until you know how to make one already. The practical
I have learned here has saved me countless hours of
frustration in the studio. (Some of the more esoteric conversations
I gloss over unless I have a lot of time to kill. Sorry gang.) Read
a lot of the archives. You will soon figure out who knows their
stuff. Go to their websites and read their benchtips. Read, read,
read. “Then carve a pound of wax.” - Kate Wolf Once you do a few,
the other will start to make sense, but sometimes you
have to apply the knowledge before the rest will follow.

Okay, I got away from wax carving, but not really. It is all part of
th= e…whole ball of wax. (Couldn’t resist that one.)

Nel Bringsjord, A.J.P.
GIA Diamonds Graduate