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December 13, 2008
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Well, as promised, I thought I should write up a little information on sculpting in Wax. It's not the first medium one would think to work in when starting out with sculpture, but it does offer a lot of benefits.

That said, though, it's probably not the best medium to use if you're JUST getting interested in sculpting. It's primary benefit is that it allows for lots of clean sharp detail, which is something that's valued in the collectibles field. But we all know detail doesn't equal good work. :) As a prerequisite to wax, I think it would be best to start out sculpting in Super Sculpey. It's easy to get your hands on, and everything you learn from working with it is applicable to wax sculpting.

But if you're wanting to dive in and try wax, here's some help with getting going:

I personally use a few different kinds of wax with my sculptures. All of which are mixed and offered through private 'dealers' I guess you would say. ha! www.willowproducts.com is an excellent resource for getting your hands on a variety of waxes to begin with. Gary offers a WIDE variety of different waxes to try, ranging from very hard to quite soft. Of course, when talking about wax, even the softest grade is quite hard compared to clay.

Choosing a grade that works for you is sort of dependent on how you like to work. I would suggest ordering samples of Willow Product's various waxes to give them all a try. You probably won't know what you prefer until you dive in and start working with it all.

Another option is Toxic Mom Studios wax, otherwise known as TMS wax. It's my favorite wax for sculpting faces, because it allows for an extremely clean surface and tight detail. If you just starting out with wax, it's not necessary to get this, but I do highly recommend it for headsculpts. TMS is made by Ralph Cordero, and you have to contact him directly to order some. Toxicmama@aim.com
It can be difficult to get in contact with Ralph sometimes, due to his VERY busy schedule. Making wax isn't his full time gig, so be patient if you choose to contact him.

As I said, though...It's not necessary to start with TMS wax. I would still suggest you get some samples from Willow Products, as those waxes are very nice and fully capable of making great sculptures.

So, what is the consistency of wax compared to, say, Super Sculpey? Whereas Sculpey can be molded with your hands, Wax as a general rule, cannot. The softest grades of wax can be worked with your hands, but they must first be warmed up, either in a pan over a stove, or with a heat gun (hairdryer)

Wax is hard, and must be built up into forms by dripping or brushing it at a near molten temp. As it cools, you can drip and add more wax onto your sculpture. What Wax lacks (har har) in speed at the beginning, it more than makes up for when it comes to refining and finishing your piece.

As mentioned above, wax can only be worked with by using hot tools. I'll start to get into all of that in the next 'installment', as this is already getting a bit dense. :D

Trev
  • Mood: Eager
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:icondougorama:
DougOrama May 7, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I've been thinking about trying wax for sculpting (once I find some) because I'm tired of Super Sculpey shifting on me with handling after I've finally done some decent work on a project, plus the armature work is a major pain, especially if you don't get it perfect the first time and need to adjust. But I don't even know how much wax I would need. I'm trying to make human figures that are around 15 inches tall. How do I figure out the amount of wax needed? And can a firm filler be used to save wax, like styrofoam or something? When I took a sculpting class many years ago we did styrofoam with wax over it and had our work cast in lost wax process.

It looks like willow isn't selling wax any more. Do you have another second best option to try? There aren't many sellers than I can find, and the ones that do seem to be a bit of a pain.

Thanks.
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove May 8, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
I recommend Ralph's wax, you can order here:
[link]

I use castilene to fill out my sculpts and avoid armature. That way if I carve down and hit the 'armature', it's still a form of wax that can be sculpted. I hate hitting armature wire.

most people rough out a sculpt in clay, make a quick mold of it, and transfer to wax.

Wax is a great medium, I hope you enjoy it. As far as how much to buy......for a 15" statue it might be good to have around 5 pounds on hand. It's hard to say.
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:icondougorama:
DougOrama May 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Good stuff to know, and thanks for the link, too. But isn't castiline even more expensive and harder to get than sculpting wax?

I like the idea of the rough sculpt molded for starters. Why not do it with parrafin? Is that not workable enough in case you cut in too deep?
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:iconkworking:
kworking Oct 28, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I just want to begin by saying you are fantastic!!!! :faint: Um, I was wondering if I could add glass eyes and hair if I were to start using wax? I'm not super good at sculpting, in fact I've just started. But I want to know what options are out there, and I like to use hair and doll eyes. So if you don't write back that's fine, I'm a huge fan of your work and thanks for your time. :bye:
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:iconchaoticlandscape:
ChaoticLandscape Nov 12, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for your wisdom :)

I used to sculpt with nsp hard, but when I started my studies then work as dental technician, I saw what we could o with waxes, I ordered samples from willowproducts, and a cheap waxpen from a chineese ebayer. WP waxes are fine, but the little "chips" (sorry, used google translate on this one) won't dust out nicely, it's a little sticky on itself.
How is TMS wax ? I've heard a lot about it, how sharp can be the details etc.
And you're right, the alcohol torch is THE tool to have.
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:icondanosuke:
I've heard some sculpt in NSP and then mold and cast in wax for finishing. do you ever do that? Do you think that may be more work than just starting from wax?
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Sep 21, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
That is a common method, for sure. I've tried it before, but for me, I just prefer working in wax or castilene from the beginning. Wax shrinks when you pour it, so you have to account for that in your initial NSP sculpt. There's no wrong way of doing things, though, just whatever works for you! :)
Trev
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:iconssflipo13:
I just started working with the wax we use at my work. We shoot wax into molds of rings. I believe it is paraffin wax. Pink in color. It is easy to work with. I use a heat pen to design what ever comes to mind. But I was looking for something to coat it with that will harden when I`m finished . Do you know of anything that will stick to wax and harden ?
ssflipo13
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:iconblatted:
Hi, started sculpting in wax and at the moment i am constantly running back n forth to the oven or using a hairdryer to melt n smooth the wax, is it possible to use a mini heat gun or butane powered gun (these are so far the options i can thing of) and would u recommend getting or making an alcohol burner to heat up my tools?
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Jan 21, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
heya!

I use my alcohol torch almost exclusively. The one I have is from a company called "Buffalo". You fill them with denatured alcohol and it burns clean so you don't get soot on your tools. I heat my tools up over the torch and you can also squeeze the bottle to get pinpoint heat (like you might with a heat gun)
I occasionally will melt up a pot of wax when I'm roughing something out, but for the most part, I just use my alcohol torch. It's one of the universal wax tools, in my opinion, though many people disagree with me there. I hardly ever use a waxpen, though many people use those almost exclusively to add wax to their sculpts.

lmk if you have any other questions,
Trev
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