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Getting smooth surfaces on waxes and castings

What’s the best way to get the surface of waxes as smooth and shiny
as possible before casting? (I’m casting detailed figural charms, not
things like rings or pendant findings)

–Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Jewelry

Kathy Let me interrupt this “string”. I once saw wax carver use
setters "Polishing Paper # 2/0, or even a finer # 4/0. The results
were that you would believe he actually polished the wax design on
the polishing machine. It was so-o smooth, it was hard to believe it
was only a only a wax. I would hasten that you should give it a "try"
on something less delicate or important, just to get the hang of it!
“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter !” “

   What's the best way to get the surface of waxes as smooth and
shiny as possible before casting? (I'm casting detailed figural
charms, not things like rings or pendant findings) 

The best thing I’ve been able to do is use a really light touch with
my dental (carving) tools and make the surface as even as possible,
then take some sandpaper and twist it into a thin cone. Smash the
cone flat and it makes a kind of sandpaper blade, with a thin point
that can fit in small areas and an edge to go around lines. I use two
or three progressively finer grits of sandpaper.

To polish, I’ve been using scrap pantyhose and orange cleaner on the
big areas (taught to use pantyhose because it doesn’t leave fibers
stuck to the wax and the weave is very fine; while the orange cleaner
seems to melt the surface very slightly, making the areas smooth,
plus it’s sticky and removes any stray wax at the edges of carved
areas). I then take a piece of scrap pantyhose and wrap it around a
small pointy file, then dip that into orange cleaner to get at the
narrower parts of the piece.

Alternatively you could dip the whole piece into the orange cleaner
and ‘floss’ out the excess orange cleaner with a piece of pantyhose;
depending on the way the piece is shaped this way can work better.
After the orange cleaner is wiped/dried off, you can see if there are
any scratches left that you may have to go back and sand off, polish
again, etc.

If anyone has better suggestions I’d like to hear about them too, of
course. :slight_smile: I really enjoy wax carving.


Hello Kathy and all! Cited from a fellow orchidian: "I once saw wax
carver use setters “Polishing Paper # 2/0, or even a finer # 4/0.”

At school, when learning to carve wax, we used Emery paper # 2/0 and

4/0 to smooth the surface of one piece and gave its final polish

with a used pantyhose dripped in nail polish remover. It works so
well, when your casting comes out of the cylinder, if you have no
bubbles stuck on it or porosity, it will take you about ten minutes
to remove firescale and polish the metal piece. It’s a lot easier
and faster to finish your piece in wax then in metal.

Also, but you’ll have to test it on less important pieces first, you
can use your torch with a very low flame to melt the surface of the
wax. It will leave a smoother surface than the first tip mentioned
above, but you will need to be very careful (or should I say
"experienced") because too much heat will melt your detail, round up
your corners, etc. Quite frankly, these cautions are the main
reasons why I use emery paper and nail polish remover… :slight_smile:

Hope this helps!
Benoit Hamel

use xylene or lighter fluid on a q-tip. Do an experiment on a trial
piece so you understand how much or little fluid is needed. It can
round edges and affect detail depending on how fine your work is. Dip
the q-tip in and squeeze it against the side to remove excess, or
blot on a paper towel till just damp.

 I use it alot for smoothing out flat areas, recessed areas. Use a

toothpick, break the tip and twist it in a cotton ball or fine
tweezers with a small ball of cotton to get in small areas.
Richard in Denver

Depending on the detail you wish to maintain there are several
possible polishing techniques:

  1. Use mineral spirits or Wax Kleen with a piece of silk or nylon.
    the finer the mesh the finer the polish. This does not lend itself to
    fine surface detail as the mineral spirits or the Wax Kleen tend to
    dissolve the surface of the wax.

  2. The next possible way is with a small torch or alcohol lamp to
    flame polish. Very shiny surface but tends to sag the surface texture
    and detail may need touch up after. You can also use a hot air
    soldering pencil that works on butane. They are available at most
    electronic suppliers for $50 or $60. I use one that I made a
    reduction tip for from a couple of pieces of silver tubing that
    reduces the air opening to about 1.5mm. This works great for really
    small areas and detail. I cut the tip at an angle across the tubing
    to get better directional flow of the hot air.

  3. The last method is with a hot wax tool. The tip needs to get red
    hot. Detail is directly related to the size of the tip. I use a
    master touch with a .035" diameter wire for heat glazing.

One of these should work. Also remember to polish the tools you use
for carving. Apolished tool leaves a shiny surface where you cut. If
you need more details you can contact me by email.

Frank Goss

        What's the best way to get the surface of waxes as smooth
and shiny as possible before casting? (I'm casting detailed figural
charms, not things like rings or pendant findings) 

I also use pantyhose and Wax Kleen polish for most waxes. If the
item has no sharp corners or areas that must be perfectly flat, I use
my natural gas/oxygen torch, with the oxygen turned off and a low,
pilot light type flame, and gently fan it over the surface of the
wax. This melts the surface slightly, then reforms to a nice, smooth
surface ready for casting. Please note this process takes much
practice to perfect, and only works with carving wax, not with
lower-melting injection waxes.


Hi Kathy, When I used to polish waxes I used Xylene to remove
scratches and bring the surface to a high polish, to the point it
would almost look like a jade carving. This solvent is available
through most hardware stores and needs to be used with plenty of
ventilation. Prior to polishing I would smooth my surface with
either an old #4 file or a dental tool. I would then use either
thick paper towels or soft cotton to smooth large surfaces, and, of
all things, the end of paper match sticks to get into the details of
a carving. The match sticks don’t last long, but you can cut them to
shape, they hold the solvent, and are stiff enough while still good
to remove scratches and polish the finest detail (and they are
cheap). Of course, you should experiment to find materials that will
best suit the needs of your carvings. I should mention the xylene
is only good for carving wax, as it is too aggressive for softer
waxes and makes the surface tacky. Hope this helps.

Best regards,

Warning…Xylene is very toxic, not only to breath but to touch. It
is absorbed into skin and goes into blood in seconds. Gloves a must.
The orange cleaner I use is just as good and not toxic. To clean waxes
I use ‘Tuff Orange for Pets’ with panty hose…I find CHEAP
knee-highs work best because the elastic top is rougher so you get
two smoothing surfaces. …
A little side note…last year I had to do roof repair myself…first
time ever…and got more tar on me than the roof. Tuff Orange totally
cleaned it off me in seconds without rubbing my skin raw . I have no
connection with company, just use the stuff for everything.
Especially good and safe for school where I teach. Sue

Not only is xylene toxic (asthmatics beware!) but the smell is very
penetrating and it lingers long after you’ve finished using it.
There has to be a better way of smoothing waxes.