Encaustic Technique #5: Working With Wax

studioshot41

Mmmmm. Beeswax. I just ordered 25 beautiful pounds of it from Swan’s Candle Making Supply. I’ve always ordered from R&F Encaustics (and their wax is lovely, too), but since I’m on the west coast, it’s great to have found a source here in California (and their customer service has been great- as I found out when I botched my initial order… ahem.).  I also ordered some microcrystaline wax- I’m adding a small amount to my beeswax to improve the tack in the clear layers that I use so often. I’m blending in about 1/10 microcrystaline, and it does seem to be improving the adhesion of layers. This has been a concern of mine as my paintings grow in size. I often find myself trying to find a balance between adequate fusing and avoiding disturbing my layers. It’s a tricky thing.

As you can see from the (slightly blurry) picture above, I’ve also adjusted my set up to accommodate larger amounts of wax at a time. I’m using a single burner with an adjustable thermostat, a small pan, and a thermometer. I’m finding that I really have to keep an eye on that thermometer! I used to melt smaller amounts in the small bread tins you can see on my palette, above, but it takes 45 minutes to melt a batch, or longer if it has damar resin in it, and I’ve needed more than that at once. I tried using a crock pot, but found that the temperature was unreliable, and that having it sit for long periods of time melted eventually turned my wax a deep amber color. I ruined quite a lot of wax that way. So far, this is working great- the only downside is that if a drop or two gets on the burner, it smokes up the studio, and reminds me that I really need to get fans in there and stop relying on my windows for ventilation!

The next thing I want to try is a torch for fusing. I’m hoping that it will speed up my process a bit. If anyone has a favorite torch, I’d love to hear about it… fewer people use torches for fear of lighting things on fire, so it’s harder to find recommendations, but I’m looking for one that is not too heavy, and has an adjustable tip, so that I can fan the flame out, or concentrate it. I’ll post about it when I’ve found one that I love.

4 thoughts on “Encaustic Technique #5: Working With Wax

  1. Mea

    I have been working with wax for several years. Iuse either a regular butane torch, withan adjustable nozzle or a heat gun. The heat gun is slower and I like it for small pieces but I usually work on large pieces 3X4 and up so the torch does a better job.

    Reply
  2. Rodney Thompson

    I am a true convert to the torch for fusing in general. My favorite torch is the Iwatani which has two contols, one for gas flow and one for airflow. By turning down the air flow the flame becomes a wispy soft feather that can gently caress the surface for delicate fusing. At full flow the torch can fuse a 12″x12″ piece smooth in seconds!

    Reply
    1. LisaK Post author

      Hi Rodney, Thank you so muchfor the recommendation. I went to my local hardware store, and bought a little butane torch, and couldn’t even figure out how to make it work. I’m going to return it, and find this one that you are talking about. I would like to speed up the fusing process, as all of my “little dots” take me hours on end. If I’m going to spend hours and hours doing something, let it not be fusing! 😉

      Reply

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