Starting Wax Carving

What tools do I need to start carving wax, and where would be the
best place to buy them through? (i.e. wax pen, files, burs, carving
tools,)

I think the best tool would be a good class!

Wax carving isn’t rocket science, but there are different ways to go
about it, and different things you will need to know regarding
making

a proper model that will cast and potentially mold. Also, a good
class will introduce you to a variety of tools. At the beginning I
spend $$$ on tools and come to find out, there are a select few that
work for me, that I come back to constantly. The others sit and
catch dust! You kinda don’t know until you use them.

-a.
Amery Carriere Designs
www.amerycarriere.com

I have written and illustrated several papers on wax carving and
engraving. I would be glad to post you copies at no cost. One paper
is in Orchids “Tips From The Jewelers bench.”

Let me know if you are interested.

Lee Epperson

It might be advised to take a wax carving class first to see what
tools are used. Make a list while you’re learning to use the tools
and buy them as you learn what is needed.

Learn to do the basics… then spend money. Many tools can be ‘hand
made’ instead of forking out alot in the beginning.

It has only taken me twenty two years to be a top notch master wax
model carver and I suppose it takes just as long to learn any other
trade to perfection.

Rio Grande has a great selection of tools, they can be found online
and you can also order a catalog.

Good Luck in your adventure.

Marge Mersky
www.mmwaxmodels.com
www.deepdetail.com

Rio is always a good place to start, but it’s a better place to
figure out what to look for on ebay, which is my personal favorite
place to get all kinds of stuff!

V.

This isn’t especially towards Amery, just in general because I see
it alot… the statement ‘take a class’… don’t you think that the
person asking the question WOULD take a class if that were an
option/available?? First, for some, the cost of getting to the class
is the SAME as taking it, second the class might be cost
prohibitive, third the person might not be a good ‘class learner’
(like myself), fourth there might be other obligations (family,
current work, etc) that prohibits the taking of the class, etc…

I didn’t see the original question so I might be going off on a
tangent but I’ve seen enough of the ‘take a class’ answers that it’s
getting on my last nerve. I see it in lapidary all the time as well.

Craig

I recently recieved a few books including Basic Wax Modeling &
Practical Wax Modeling, both by Hiroshi Tsuyuki and Modeling in Wax
for Jewelry and Sculpture. Both have great info and many of the
tools they list i can either make myself or find at thrift shops or
dollar store type places. The others i figure i will order project
by project. Do you think that these books would be a good
replacement for a wax class or should I still look into attending
one?

it alot.. the statement 'take a class'.. don't you think that the
person asking the question WOULD take a class if that were an
option/available?? 

I see your point. This goes back to people asking really broad, vague
questions. If you ask, “how can I learn wax carving?” Most of us will
say take a class.

If you ask, “how can I best learn wax carving without taking a
class, because I live in Wyoming and there are no classes for 10,000
miles and I can’t travel because I get car sick and I only have a
bicycle, which at the moment has only one wheel.”

Elaine

Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

I didn't see the original question so I might be going off on a
tangent but I've seen enough of the 'take a class' answers that
it's getting on my last nerve. I see it in lapidary all the time
as well. 

As a self taught “jeweler”, my personal experience is that I did not
know what was available or what the benefit was of taking classes.

After years of struggling along I had the fortune of taking a class.
That opened me up to a whole new world, one of inspiration and
possibilities that I had not imagined. The learning curve changed,
possibilities opened up that I previously could not have imagined.
Networking with others, sharing ideas, sharing techniques, learning
about tools and how to use them. In some workshops I learned what I
did not have interest in, and that was well worth the price. I did
learn something from the class that would come in handy when I needed
to incorporate a technique to achieve a goal. Casting, mold making,
faceting, gemmology, forging, design workshops to name a few,
workshops with Michael Good, Andy Cooperman, Helen Shirk, several
classes with Harold O’Connor, Charles Lewton-Brain, Marne Ryan, Steve
Midgett, and Carrie Adell to name a few. Carrie Adell, one of my
favorite people, whose joy for life and passion for metal brings
tears to my eyes. I flew to Mesa, Az. from Denver to take a class
with her, but really just to be around her for a weekend. Where there
is a will, there is a way, if I did it, anyone can. I have been as
income challenged as anyone one of you. I personally benefited far
more than financially from taking classes and workshops. They always
provided some fanning the flames of passion, and providing some of
the most frustrating times, as I had to then apply what I learned and
overcome limitations and break old habits, change my thinking and I
feel like I was supported to challenge myself to take bigger risks.
But that’s just my experience.

Richard Hart

tangent but I've seen enough of the 'take a class' answers that
it's getting on my last nerve. 

Yeah, I took a class, I think it was 1970 or so. The teacher told me
I would be good if I had any talent. Since then I’ve learned - well,
I thought of making a list, but we don’t have all day here - let’s
just say A LOT, just by doing. I was intrigued with engraving, so I
went and bought some gravers, same with woodcarving. One day I just
decided to set a stone, so I did. Wax carving? Wax, of course, some
fairly coarse files, dremel or flex-shaft if you have it, jeweler’s
saw, some sort of blades - gravers or exacto knives. Alcohol lamp if
not a wax pen, some dental tools or something like them, for
spatulas. Not much more is needed - some place to work. As with all
things, you don’t need the other stuff unless you think you do. If
you’re working and come up against something and think, “That
doomerflaggie would be perfect here.”, then go get it. That’s how
tool collections are made, one piece at a time…

Classes have been invaluable to my learning in some areas
(soldering, casting, etc.). But I think for me wax carving is
something I have picked up sufficiently from good illustrative books.
I do think that in a vacuum of knowledge, (your only jewelry-making
experience is starting with wax carving), unless you have a better
understanding of other processes (casting, soldering, fabrication,
etc.), you might be limited in the possibilities and knowledge of
skills required for successful wax casting and may not focus on some
aspect you find you need when you start casting those waxes.

So classes are certainly necessary. But some things cam come from a
very inquisitive and dedicated mind and be learned from books.

Also, I don’t think anyone’s response to “take a class” is a way of
saying learn it on your own; I can’t help you. It’s just the most
concise and accurate way to learn most things rather than interpret
someone’s written instructions without having someone to explain it.

Another also, some people do learn better from seeing examples and
others can get it from written instructions and pictures.

So in art as in life, do what works best for your satisfaction and
success.

V.

Books are great, and that was pretty much all I had to learn from 35
years ago… but I made a lot of mistakes and wasted a lot of time
trying to interpret some of the things I saw in books.

Then came the videos, and some of those are amazingly well done,
while others are amateurish attempts. Ask for reviews before you buy.
People on this forum have seen them all and will tell you what’s
worth the money…

In fact I remember a couple of old wax carving videos that are out
in the classroom. Have to go look and see who did them. I’ll email
that to you tomorrow. I don’t guarantee they will still be available.
They were good enough to start someone out.

I think that Jewelers of America also had several that were made at
seminars over the years. The thing about those is that you have to be
a member of J.A. to get access to them.

But more than anything else - I have to recommend a hands-on
workshop or class. Go see Kate Wolf…

Books and videos cannot answer your questions as they come to you.
They cannot tell you that what you are trying to do is upside down or
backwards. A teacher standing over your shoulder can.

You can learn a LOT more from books and videos AFTER you have some
idea of what it might take to do whatever it is you want to attempt.
I am a firm believer in them. I value my library as much or more than
my tools.

Would you like to fly in an airplane, knowing that the pilot learned
all he knew from a book? Or have your doctor perform an appendectomy
on you after he watched a video?

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA USA
209-477-0550
www.jewelryartschool.com

1 Like
don't you think that the person asking the question WOULD take a
class if that were an option/available?? 

No offense taken. Just wanted to elaborate on why my response was
“take a class”. Craig, I didn’t want you to think that my “take a
class” response was made without reason. I mentioned to take a class,
because that’s what I did and I loved it. I took a Tuesday night
workshop at a small, but beautiful jewelry gallery in my neighborhood
about 10 years ago. Don’t think I would have started down this path
without that workshop.

I think I paid $125.00 for 8 weeks (Tues nights 7:30-10). I think the
class now runs about $225 for the same time frame.

I think a class or a group environment is more than just learning a
trade or a skill. There’s networking as well, kinda like we do here
on Orchid, but more focused on opportunities in the area. (Don’t know
where Kjell lives, I could recommend a bunch of inexpensive options
in the LA area if she? is interested and lives here) From this class
I discovered a great jewelry making class at a local adult school
that covers fabrication and wax carving for under $200.00 for quite a
few weekends and studio time. I’ve also discovered a few local
classes at community colleges and rec centers for nada- like $30 for
6 sessions. Yeah, the equipment might not be the best but when I
wanted to learn enameling spending $30 on a class was much less than
a few hundred on a kiln. I didn’t want to waste the cash on a kiln
before I discovered whether or not I even liked enameling.

I didn’t mean to assume that Kjell could afford to travel to one of
the really cool schools ya’ll talk about and take a class from a
master wax carver. Heck, I can’t afford that! :slight_smile: And I probably
shouldn’t make assumptions that Kjell can afford $225 or $30 for a
class. And, I probably shouldn’t assume that there’s even a class in
his area. Sometimes I forget how lucky (?) I am to live in Los
Angeles (did I really just say that?) where we have tons of options
for classes workshops, etc…

And, I really do have a box of carving tools that are just
collecting dust because someone said “oh you’re taking a wax carving
class? You need these tools.” So, I bought them, and I don’t use
them. I’m only keeping them 'cause I know as soon as I sell or donate
even one, that’s the one that I’ll need!

Craig, maybe you’re right, maybe Kjell is like you and isn’t a class
learner. I just know myself and I know that I really don’t like
learning from books. I’m very visual, and I’ll retain more if I can
watch someone demonstrate something first. It’s just easier for me.

Kjell, good luck on whatever you decide!

Amery Carriere Designs
www.amerycarriere.com

Hi Elaine,

If you ask, "how can I best learn wax carving without taking a
class, because I live in Wyoming and there are no classes for
10,000 miles and I can't travel because I get car sick and I only
have a bicycle, which at the moment has only one wheel." 

Love your response!

I’d say that with luck like that the only correct response would be:
‘Don’t even try, you’ll probably cut yourself or the finished wax
will break into a million pieces!’

Dave

Carrie Adell to name a few 

Carrie was the very first person I met when I came to San Francisco.
I miss her… On the topic of classes, though… I tend to distrust
classes because it takes a gifted (and rare) teacher to let people be
themselves, artistically. Too often teachers are trying to make
clones of themselves, in art. That said, though, it is a fact that we
cannot do it all ourselves. It’s simply not possible for a person to
make up everything that is craftsmanship in their own mind. It’s the
networking, and the sharing of styles and ideas that make us all be
more than we could be alone. One person will have this way that’s new
to us, another will open up a new design direction we would never
have
thought of on our own - on and on. Many times I have struggled with
some technique until someone somehow showed me that I was doing one
little thing fundamentally wrong, and when that was changed it all
became easy. The other side of that coin, though, is to BE yourself,
artistically. People can tend to want to lean on their teachings and
not forge ahead in their own direction, because it’s safe. Confidence
and experience changes that, but it also takes an adventurous
spirit…

Do you think that these books would be a good replacement for a wax
class or should I still look into attending one? 

We’ve done some speculating about your learning style and your
situation- no access to classes/workshops, a book learner or not…
Why don’t you tell us a little more about your situation. Where do
you live? How do you prefer to learn, from demos or books? Inquiring
minds want to know!

-a.
Amery Carriere Designs
www.amerycarriere.com

If you ask, "how can I best learn wax carving without taking a
class, because I live in Wyoming and there are no classes for 10,000
miles

Oh, Elaine…there are at least two of us on the forum from Wyoming
and we were fortunate enough to have classes there :- ) and even
taught a few ourselves.

Donna from WY currently residing in VA

Carrie was the very first person I met when I came to San Francisco.
I miss her… On the topic of classes, though… I tend to distrust
classes because it takes a gifted (and rare) teacher to let people
be themselves, artistically. Too often teachers are trying to make
clones of themselves, in art.

There are gifted teachers in our industry. We don’t try to make
clones of ourselves but rather encourage students to strive to be
their very best. If this means getting a measurement on a wax model
within a tenth of a millimeter of the desired thickness or width,
then that’s the way we eventually become the very best at what we
do. As far as personal style and artistic freedom is concerned you
will find those avenues are wide open once you learn your
fundamental skills and apply them to your individual creativity.

Keep practicing… it pays off eventually.

www.mmwaxmodels.com
Margie Mersky Custom Designs, INC

I tend to distrust classes because it takes a gifted (and rare)
teacher to let people be themselves, artistically. 

Huh! Have you ever taught? Teachers are sharing the very things that
make them distinctive as artists. I can only teach the things I
know. The last thing we want (speaking as a teacher) is for students
to become just like us! I would say it takes a rare and gifted
student to take the technique they are taught and use it to do
something special and unique instead of imitating the teacher.

Noel

First of all let me say thank to everyone for all the great info. To
quickly answer your questions. I’m living in southern maryland,
about an hour from DC working in a retail store for the past three
years. Not a bad place but with no room to learn more or be creative
seeing as all i do is repair. Ive been dying to move to seattle for
as long as i can remember and have recently made a trip out to find
a job. Ive found that i just don’t have enought experience in a few
areas, wax carving being a big one. Ive always been interested and
my current employer told me he would help with any additional
education i wanted when i was hired after completeing the GIA grad
jeweler course. Yet upon any inquiry to find and learn something new
the answer i have been given is always go talk to him and he will
say go talk to that guy. So nothing has ever come of it. I do not
mind learning in a class setting though i do dislike making mistakes
in that setting. I know that is the place to do it but it still is a
big hurtle, which is why i asked for the books and was happy to
recieve them as a gift? It will be nice to have a little experience
before i attempt a class. I havent lookd into it much but im sure i
can find something. In any case i was just hoping to learn a little
so i have a little knowledge on the subject. My initial question was
really just to find out what tools people thought were necessary,
and where to find them.

As for my experience, i have worked with setting of all sorts can
fabricate almost anything out of stock and have dabbled in
engraving. Ive found i pick up new metal working techniques very
quickly, such as chasing and repouse, and filagree. Usually i have
an idea and see what fun way i can use to create the item. Wax
carving would greatly aid this.