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Okay, to continue (and probably wrap up) my Wax info, here's the second installment.

Tools of the trade! Sculpting in wax, while essentially very similar to sculpting in softer clays, does require some specialized tools. Nothing too fancy, but you will need some certain things.

The most important tool is an Alchol Torch. This is a small rubber bottle with a wick that runs up to a screw on cap. You fill it with denatured alcohol, which in some cases is difficult to find. Here in California, I can pick it up at any hardware store, but just a couple of years ago it wasn't as easy to get.

Here is a link to the one I'm using. There may be cheaper alternatives, but $15 isn't too shabby: www.egeneralmedical.com/hsi-36…

The alcohol runs you about $15 a gallon too, and usually lasts me about a month of solid working time.

So, what is the alcohol torch used for, you ask? Well heating up your tools of course! :) It can also be gently squeezed while lit to provide concentrated heat to your sculpt. It's very very hot, so you'll want your sculpt to be some distance from your torch when you do that, but it can actually be used to smooth your surface in some instances. You'll get a feel for the torch's capabilities pretty quickly.

Another more expensive option that many sculptors like is the Wax Pen. This is an electronic device that provides precise temperatures to various interchangeable tips. Kind of like a wood burner if you're familiar with those. I use the Kerr Lab Ultra Waxer cgi.ebay.com/Kerr-Ultra-Waxer-…

This is an expensive device, and while it has it's purposes, A lot of sculptors agree that it isn't a necessarily vital tool to have (thankfully!) I use mine much less than I light my alcohol torch. If you decide you like sculpting in wax, I would recommend you buy one, along with a few of the tips (each of which are pretty expensive....$50 a piece) But you can pull off all of its capabilities without one. It just makes it a little more convenient.

The better option is to get the alcohol torch, some denatured alcohol and some various metal tools. Some of the best tools I use aren't specifically meant for sculpting. I bought a set of dental tools about 3 or 4 years ago that I've used ever since. Here's a link to some basic ones that look pretty good: www.hobbytoolsupply.net/12-Del…
And these: www.jackstoolshed.zoovy.com/pr… Or these: www.ares-server.com/Ares/Ares.… Here's a shot of some nice ones: www.sculptingstudio.com/ebay/I…

just search around for dental tools. I suggest buying a set of various ones, because as you sculpt, you begin to find uses for things you wouldn't have first thought would be helpful.

It's also nice to have some loop tools. I bought a really nice set of small ribbon loop tools from Michaels craftstore. Something kinda like these: www.steiderstudios.com/images/…
Any loop tool you can get will be helpful.

With these tools, and any others you find that you think would be helpful, you can begin to scrap away at your wax, as well as add to your sculpt. So how do you do THAT?! Well, let me tell you. I will use a headsculpt as an example, because that's usually what I'm making here. If you want to make a small headsculpt, you can heat some wax up to a warm, but not molten, temp (you can do this in a pot over a stove...just don't work with it when it's compeltely melted...it WILL burn you) and start forming a ball, or egg shape. Nothing has to be pretty, you just need some volume. Once that form is cool, you can light up your torch and get a small brick of your room temp wax nearby. You can then grab any of your tools and after hovering them over the flame, start carving away at your surface. If you've taken too much away, or the cheekbones aren't large enough, all you have to do is heat one of your spatula tools, stick it into your nearby wax 'reservoir' and drip it onto your sculpture. You'll get a feel for that pretty immediately. It may feel slow, but it really allows for a perfect amount of control and precision. By balancing your subtractive and additive methods you can form a face over time...and the best part is...you can hold the sculpt in your hands at all times without ever smooshing the details.

So up to this point, you've got a wax sculpture, but it looks rough and ugly still. Unlike clay, wax sculptures always look junky when rough. :) (to me, anyways) So how do you start getting those smooth forms? Simple! Get your hands on some Fine grade 3M sanding sponges: www.shultzrefinishing.com/khxc…

These things are essential and wonderful! various companies make them, and I recommend getting any that you come across that are finer grade. With these, you can cut out small rectangle wedges and begin sanding your sculpture. They even can withstand the extreme heat of your torch. I always hover my sanding sponges over my torch and then begin sanding the surface of the sculpt. You'll go through a lot of these as you make a wax sculpture, but it's the essential tool needed for getting a clean surface. as you start feeling comfortable with your forms, you can cut a wedge out and start sanding the sculpture without hovering the sanding sponge over the flame. You'll get a perfect finish over time.

What else, what else...hmmmm. That's really about it. It's also nice to get some lighter fluid from a retail store. This can be brushed onto the surface of a wax sculpture and used as a solvent. If you're familiar with sculpting in sculpey, it's like what turpentine or turpenoid do for that. However, it has to be used sparingly, as the wax can get way too mushy if you use too much. I only use it for eyes, nostrils, ears...things that I can't fit a sanding sponge into.

With your finished wax sculpture, you can take a mold with silicone, just as you would a sculpey sculpture. The one thing you cannot do with wax is paint your finished piece. it has to be molded and cast in a resin or other plastic before you paint it.

Here's a link to another faaaantastic tutorial on sculpting with wax from master sculptor Andy Bergholtz: www.absculpture.com/tutorials.…
That'll give you some other great perspectives on it all.

Also, I highly recommend you check out this message board, The Clubhouse. It's a community filled with great sculptors and model makers. theclubhouse1.net/forums/index…
Just check out the Sculptors forum for a wealth of information and inspiration! You can ask questions about wax, or any kind of sculpting.

Other than that, it just takes patience and perseverance, like any art. The first time I tried wax, I hated it. Didn't see what the fuss was about...but it was because I was going about it wrong. Once I warmed up to it, I saw just how wonderful it can be. There isn't any real trick to working with it, other than knowing the tools you need, as the rest just comes from a little trial and error.

If you're making a full figure with wax, it's good to use some wire armature, as the wax is very brittle (the hardest grades are, anyway) For example, if you want to sculpt some fingers, it's a good idea to put a wire in for each digit.

I hope this is all somewhat helpful for those of you who want to give it a go. There is no fast way to getting good at sculpting, it's a forever ongoing journey, but I'm happy to offer some information to get you started! Have fun guys and gals!
Trev

ps- just another warning: Wax can give you some VERY bad burns. always exercise caution when you've got a molten pot of wax. It can also get ALL over your work area and your clothes...I have few outfits that lack a drop or two of wax somewhere. ;)
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:iconunconventionalsenshi:
unconventionalsenshi Featured By Owner May 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
That was very informative and helpful to read, thank you! :) I'm about to buy an alcohol torch and I wonder if there's any difference between the plastic squeezable ones and the metal or glass ones that that kinda look like lamp oils(online dentists store offer them) ? The idea of plastic bottle that burns slightly frightens me and I worry that it is unstable and set my desk on fire :XD: (though some have glass marbles in, I've seen). Anyway, I was playing with some oil clay and it was pretty rigid in winter, so I used to warm up the tools over a lighter, or the cllay surface itself. But then I've noticed it left that terrible soot >,< I've read somewhere that it's because those propane-butane lighters have a yellow flame and that it's not hot enough and leaves soot on heated things and that one needs a blue flame ? I guess my guestion is, does your torch EVER leave soot on your works or tool? :) And is that dependant on the substance that is burning (like butane or ethyl alc) or the way a torch/lighter/lamp is constructed. If I buy a torch and it leaves soot as well I will be devastated :(
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner May 17, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Happy to hear it!

I used the plastic squeezable torch...It runs on Denatured Alcohol. I love the thing...doesn't leave soot, and you can squeeze it to shoot heat right at the wax. It's one of my most used tools.
Hope that helps!
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:iconunconventionalsenshi:
unconventionalsenshi Featured By Owner May 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks so much, I'll go with the plastic one then :D
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:iconoptimalprotocol:
OptimalProtocol Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2010   General Artist
I'm using super sculpey for the first time and I did a little research before doing so. Specifically, working in a different color then the ugly beige. Mix in a little black to the sculpey and you'll be set, as know. After I had mixed the two, I realized I had mixed in black premo. It seems this mixture makes it a tad harder to manipulate than your normal sculpey. Is this true or is it just me? Also, what exactly are the rules for thickness when it comes to sculpey? Thanks!
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2010  Professional Traditional Artist
I haven't done much Sculpey sculpting lately, though I did make a couple of bases for some statues in it a few months ago. I mixed Sculpey firm with normal beige Super Sculpey and got a nice mix.

I've never put premo into sculpey, so I can't really share any experiences there. When I mix black into my Super Sculpey, I buy small blocks of Sculpey 3. They look like Premo blocks, but in my experience they're very soft. I've never noticed it making my Super Sculpey beige any harder.

As far as thickness, I don't really know. I try to bulk up with foil so as not to use too much clay, but I've never had any issues if I makes something about an 1 1/2" thick. You just have to back it a little longer. It's okay, also, if the sculpey looks brown after baking. It's much better to have it brown than to undercook it. You can just hit it with primer after it's baked to make it look nice again. :)

Trev
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:iconoptimalprotocol:
OptimalProtocol Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2010   General Artist
Ah... cool, cool. Thanks, I really appreciate the tips and advice! :)
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:iconsmhuofa:
smhuofa Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2010
This is a great journal entry!!! I'm working on a new sculpt in Roma Plastilina and I eventually want to get a bronze made of it. It's two full sized hands. I want to make it really detailed, but I'm not sure I can get it smooth and really detailed in the plastlina. Do you think it would be advantageous to make a mold of it and pore a wax of it, then refine this copy? Do you think it would be worth while with a large sculpture like this one? I've never worked with wax, but I have seen the advantages of using it on DA and I love the results!

Again, great post!
- Shannon
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2010  Professional Traditional Artist
Hey Shannon-
You know, I don't know if wax would be good for larger work like what you're doing. it's typically only used for small stuff, but that's mostly due to the fact that it's slow to work in even at a small size. seeing as how you've already sculpted your hands, more or less, casting them in wax might do just fine. it would help you in sanding to create really clean forms...as for detail, it would allow you to stipple in pores and create texture, though it all has to be done laboriously by hand. You can stamp into wax a little, but it's not the easiest process.

another thing to keep in mind is that wax shrinks quite a bit after being poured into a mold. it will be noticeably smaller than your original, and can distort a bit.

I hate to have a kind of ambiguous answer, but I just don't know how it would work for your project. You might be just as well off casting them in resin and doing further cleanup, as it would retain your original size. *Shrug* I guess it's always good to follow your gut instinct!
take care! I hope your piece comes out wonderful!
Trev
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:iconsmhuofa:
smhuofa Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2010
Thanks for your great reply. I didn't realize wax shrinks when cast. That wouldn't be good for this project, especially if it distorts it. I guess for now I'll try to get the plastilina as smooth as possible and put as much detail in as I can. It will be a bronze eventually, so I guess it doesn't have to be as detailed.

Thank you for your informative reply. This really helped me get a better grasp on what I can do with wax!

- Shannon
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:iconspinery:
spinery Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2009
In relation to the sanding sponge you're mentioning... You mean the 3M Softback, right? Avilable at car supplies?

I've gotten down to some carving in a makeshift mix of beeswax/microcrystalline wax, and will be getting a leaf of that sponge to try it out...

Btw, the image link next to the sponges, which I remember seeing some time earlier, seems broken now...
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
hey there-
yep, those are the sanding sponges! I like the Fine grade stuff.

I hope it works well for you!
Trev
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:iconjennis233:
jennis233 Featured By Owner May 25, 2009
This is really great, thanks a lot :D I tried using Willow Product's ZEN. Do you think it's too soft to be sanded?

I was recommended by another person to use steel wool, and it works fine but makes a mess.

My mistake was that the model I worked on was cold, and the additions to the model were warm. They don't seem to adhere too well.

I think the next thing you need to do is make a youtube video @o@;;; I know how to sculpt just fine I think, but just not with this material.. it's not clay u_u

I hate super sculpey because of how you can't make it too thick since you have to cook it, and I also don't like how the edges get brown. :/
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner May 25, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
Hey, I'm glad this helped!

Zen is soft, as far as wax goes. It is a bit difficult to give it a final sanding. I usually brush it down with lighter fluid, you can sort of brush it smooth at that point...it's good for hair, and some clothes elements. I don't use it for anything other than that, though.

Steel Wool was never something I liked using. Like you said, it's a mess! I also think I can get a better result with sanding sponges.

Wax can kind of adhere to a piece if you drip it on when it's molten...it's difficult to get it to adhere while warm (like when you can work with it in your hands) It'll chip off pretty easily, though.

I'll try to make some kind of video at some point. it's definitely tough to put it into words how I work...

Super Sculpey is tough to work in, for me too. You can get past the thickness issue if you build up your forms first in tin foil. That way you can keep the clay at a reasonable thickness, and it should bake all right...OH, and if you want to get past the burnt look, you can spray your sculpture with some gray primer and give it that uniform look again.

thanks for letting me know this helped some! take care
Trev
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:iconjennis233:
jennis233 Featured By Owner May 25, 2009
I feel like zen is definitely too soft when I use it :) I will try another one :) I'll definitely keep going.
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner May 25, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
Good for you! tenacity is everything with this stuff!

You might really love TMS wax. did I put in the email address to contact Ralph about that? I think I did. If not let me know, and I'll get it to you. you can buy his wax blend directly. it's the best toy sculpting wax out there. very hard and sands to the perfect finish.

Trev
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:iconjamesmarsano:
JamesMarsano Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
this is a really great article. i was really surprized with Andy Bergholtz's tutorial work. he did it really nice. i always wanted to try wax, but i think i'm more comfortable working with sculpey.
because its easier.=)
i have started a hugh jackman as wolverine 6 inches sculpture on my profile. it's still in progress though.
thanks a lot for the valuable info. it really helps me=)


-james
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
Oh yeah, Sculpey is definitely a great material to work in. It all comes down to preference, really. Each material can be pushed to the same level as any of the others. No material is better, persay. :)

I'm glad you liked reading about it, and I'm really glad you checked out Andy's tutorial. Andy is genius!

Your Wolverine is coming along very well! Something you might try in the future is mixing some colored sculpey into your Super Sculpey. you can buy a couple of the black and white squares (sculpey 3, it's called) and mix them into your block of super sculpey. you'll get a nice grey tone if you do that, and it takes some of the translucency out of the clay. I think you'll really like it if you try it. it makes it so much easier on the eyes when you're trying to sculpt smooth surfaces.

Keep up the great work! Just be patient, and you can achieve just about anything with clay!
take care, James,
Trev
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:iconjamesmarsano:
JamesMarsano Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
thankyou checking my wolverine=) this is the first time im using sculpey.
wow. really?? i never knew that. thank you very much for the advice! that sounds really interesting=) yeah i saw the sculpey 3 on michaels. ill probably buy it. it has the same quality right?
u too trevor, i really like your work. keep it up=)
take care

-james
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
no problem, man!

yeah, sculpey 3 is a little softer than super sculpey, but once you mix it into the super sculpey, you won't be able to tell much of a difference. it's all for the visual aid of the gray color.


have fun!
Trev
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:iconjamesmarsano:
JamesMarsano Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
oh i see,
thanks again=) okay ill try it then=)
i want to sculpt obama for the next statue and sell it on ebay or craiglist=)


james
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:iconkanoox:
KANOOX Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2009
that was really clear and informative, cheers!!
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:iconaliasghost:
AliasGhost Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
OH man, Trevor, great journals, I think the whole wax sculpting thing is quite the mystery to most sculptors. I started using Castilene a few months ago for accessories as Chris Dahlberg suggested I should move into it. I'm not gonna lie, I hate Castilene, it has it's uses but it's not fun for me. What Willow products are you using?
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks Scott! I hope this helps people who want to get going with wax.

Castilene is sort of a sad story these days. I got to use it just before they stopped mixing it right, so my batches weren't great, but they weren't terrible. I hear the newest stuff is just AWFUL and unworkable.

Even when it was at its best, though, I prefer hard wax. The softer waxes are better for hair and clothes, but that's about it, for me.

Of Gary's stuff over at Willow Products, my very favorite is Zen. It's a new batch of softer modeling wax. It's the perfect replacement for Castilene. I love it for flowing hair! I haven't used all of his harder tooling waxes, but of the ones I did use, I liked Ice. It was good for headsculpts. Not quite as good as TMS wax, though.

take care!
Trev
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:iconaliasghost:
AliasGhost Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for the info brother, I'm gonna try some of Gary's stuff.
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:iconstudiojsculpts:
StudioJsculpts Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks man,I really appreciate you taking time and giving a little insight into wax sculpting. Its time for me to give it a whirl,Thanks bud!!!
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:iconfrancacereu:
Francacereu Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2008  Professional Artisan Crafter
thanks a lot for the valuable info, i've tried some wax before but i wasn't pleased with my results, so i'll give it a shot again with this new aproach, cheers.
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:iconweapon-x-1973:
Weapon-X-1973 Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2008  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks again Trev!
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:icontonyzcustomz:
Tonyzcustomz Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2008
Great info for people just starting for someone new to another. I have a few suggestions on the two most important products though. First off is the wax pen, WAY to much to pay for one, you can get a better quality one than that for half the price, just search "TouchAmatic Wax Worker" in ebay and there are a few sellers that sell it for around 150 all the time. Second dont use an alcohol torch, to much wok with having to light and squeeze it all the time, instead look into a butane torch you can get them for really cheap(3-10 dollars) and the refill butane tanks last forever and are only a few bucks as well. Just be sure the Butane Torch has an easy on of button and an adjustable flame/intensity. These two tools are the most important part of wax sculpting(besides skill and practice) and good ones will make your life so much easier. Hope this helps.
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:icontrevorgrove:
TrevorGrove Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2008  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for the additional info! I encourage anyone else reading to add to this within the comments. I get asked about wax sculpture a lot, so it's nice to be able to point people to this.

I haven't tried a butane torch. The alchol torch is absolutely essential for me, so I'll be looking into this! (not for the 'squeezable heat' but for heating tools)

Wax pens can definitely be obtained for a better price, like you said. I'll have to ammend that! Do you use yours often? I just don't find myself turning to it too much.

thanks again!
Trev
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:icontonyzcustomz:
Tonyzcustomz Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2008
No problem, just trying to add more to an already great article.

I tend to use my hands the most when working with wax but I don't recommend it to anyone who doesn't want really calloused and hurting hands when first starting out. Heating tools is really the best way to do anything with wax though. A wax pen can get to hot and burn the wax so you must be really careful and so I tend to use it for things such as details and textured as well as taking large chunks out of areas I need to cause it is easy with constant heat. I am sure others will say the opposite and just love their wax pens. To each his own methods though.
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:icontonyzcustomz:
Tonyzcustomz Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2008
This is a really good Butane torch even though it does cost a bit but shipping is free and pretty darn fast(to California at least). Built very well and has a really broad range of flame control.

Link to item- [link]
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