Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Creating Tiny Wax Figures


#1

Hi all! I have recently begun to try to create very detailed insect
figures in very small dimensions–less than an inch square, and am
running into lots of problems that the larger ones didn’t have. I
find that if I use hard wax and carve the figures, the wax tends to
chip or flake at the most critical points and I lose the detail. If
I use sheet wax, and build the figures, they require a great deal of
handling and because the wax is soft, sooner or later the detail is
lost. When I use a combination of both, the soft and hard waxes do
not adhere well to one another. For example, if I carve the body, and
then make the tiny wings out of sheet wax, and fuse them with a
heated tool, they will not fuse well, and will repeatedly fall off.
So–I need all the help, tips, suggestions that anyone has. I know
there are many of you who make your own small charms and other small
figures and I would really appreciate your input. Two more
questions–Can this be done with just hand tools, and an alcohol
burner? And- Do you use anything special to smooth the surface of the
wax before having it cast? Many Thanks Sandra


#2

Hi all! I have recently begun to try to create very detailed insect
figures in very small dimensions–less than an inch square

I use a 6 volt 6watt soldering iron with a power controllerset at
about 50% Take the tip off and replace it with a coil of .5mm silver
wire with the tail poking out and filed to a fine point you can do
very fine welds with this Tim.


#3

Have you tried CARVEX or FILO wax?? My wife uses this highly
plasticized and hard wax for all of her jewelry and figurine carving.
It is very hard, easily machined to near knife sharp edges. Most
jewelry suppliers should have it or Kindt Collins makes it. One
problem is it can be difficult to cast as it melts at about 360F and
there is a tendency to crack the investment. (If we cast it, we
invest it, pre heat the kiln to 500-600F and put the investment in
after it sets for 2 hours, using R&R Dentsuply (spelling)). Normally,
we make an RTV mold of the master, shoot waxes and cast the shot
waxes, never casting the master.

I think you will find this wax will allow you to get GREAT, clean,
crisp detail. Cynthia carved a 2.5 inch tall Christmas Tree that has
around 115 ornaments/items on it. Biggest problem for me is seeing
the detail. She carves using 3X glasses and a 4X Optivisor.

Good luck, hope this helps.

John Dach
MidLife Crisis Enterprises
Cynthia Thomas Designs
Cynthia’s sculptures are at: http://www.mlce.net
Maiden Metals,
A small bronze foundry, no web site yet!!


#4

Hi Sandra; Here are some ways in which I approach wax carving, some of
which address your questions specifically.

  1. Remember, there are 3 grades of hardness available in the common
    carvable waxes. I use the Kerr waxes, blue, which is a medium
    hardness, for detail work where the act of carving alone is likely to
    crack or break parts of the wax, and the green wax when I need very
    crisp shapes and sharp detail yet don’t have a condition where small
    details might get broken off, like protruding, thin pieces like
    prongs.

  2. Some kinds of plastics can be carved, at least with burs and a
    flex shaft. They burn out well, except they create fumes requiring
    ventilation, and some will stain the investment, making it appear as
    incompletely burned out, when it in fact is. Their advantage is they
    are a lot more resilient than wax.

  3. When you are joining waxes together, you have a couple of
    approaches you can use. Either weld the waxes together with one or
    the other of the parent waxes or use a third wax to join them. If
    you weld them, make sure you melt down into the pieces you are
    joining and fill back up, otherwise, you’ll have a pretty fragile
    joint, and sometimes investment can penetrate the seam. If you use a
    joining wax, I would suggest a product called “perfect purple” which
    has a very low melting temperature, and flows down into seams nicely,
    and also is somewhat carvable. I’ve also used super-glue to join
    waxes, but it is fragile, and I’ve found it leaves residue’s in the
    investment that affect the castings.

  4. As for smoothing wax, I sometimes use heat, in the form of a small
    torch tip, turned down very low and carefully brushed over the wax.
    Experiment with this on scrap wax until you get the feel for it. I
    also use “Q-tips” and small paint brushes dipped in lighter fluid to
    polish wax. Old nylon stockings can work too. The lighter fluid
    disolves the surface slightly, but slowly, and it takes a bit of
    rubbing to see results. The nylon simply abrades away the surface
    and can be used with or without solvents. Some suppliers have little
    hot air pens for polishing waxes, but I haven’t tried them.

  5. Finally, have you thought about fabricating some of your
    components in metal and making molds of them? Could be some of your
    forms are generic to several designs, and if you can simply shoot a
    wax or two, should they break off, it’s no biggie to get another one.

David L. Huffman


#5

You can get wax in boxes (not sheet) that follows the same
characteristics of File-Wax ring sticks…in hard, medium, and
soft…The box has various thickness, or a solid bar…I get the
medium for my carvings. It does not chip like the hard and holds more
detail than the soft. I scratch in the lines with a scribe and use
talc to show them off. I work with hand tools…Go to a
dentist…they always seem to have a drawer full of dental tools that
they don’t use, and each time I get them, they don’t charge…free is
good…last trip netted 15 different ones. Alcohol burner works or a
cheap soldering iron and controller from Radio Shack. I make tips
for the soldering iron in the shapes I need. There are one or two
products…Wax Wash is one to smooth the surface. With fine work go
easy with the wash…It also helps when investing to insure a better
flow on the investment on the piece and less cleanup for you.

Tom


#6

Sandra - a technique that I have seen, but not done myself is to do a
master in pewter, then mold it. I saw some fantastically detailed
birds in bronze at the Loveland Sculpture show and when I talked to
the artist, he said that he does anything with detailed feathers or
fragile detail in pewter first. It’s easy to work, holds the detail
for a mold - not vulcanized because i think the pewter would melt -
and reproduces well. My 2 bits worth. Judy Hoch


#7
    Sandra - a technique that I have seen, but not done myself is
to do a master in pewter, then mold it.  I saw some fantastically
detailed birds in bronze at the Loveland Sculpture show and when I
talked to the artist, he said that he does anything with detailed
feathers or fragile detail in pewter first.  It's easy to work,
holds the detail for a mold - not vulcanized because i think the
pewter would melt - and reproduces well.  My 2 bits worth.  Judy
Hoch 

Making models in pewter (actually a 99% tin 1% antimony alloy) is the
traditional way before Jack Ferris developed carvex wax. It will stand
up to vulcaization. Much of the costume jewelry in the Providence area
was made this way. I worked with and learned from a couple of master
modelmakers who worked only in white metal. They thought
it was odd that my brother and I made models in wax and sterling.