Studio Update: Fire


Meet my new best friend in the studio. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get on board with a torch. I’ve procrastinated about it for months, and didn’t realize that underneath that procrastination was fear. Until I was in Carmel for the IEA retreat in October, and was faced with a bevy of torches, waiting to be tried. It was the last morning, and a wonderful demonstration had been given by Pamela Blum. We were invited down on the floor to try out some of the techniques she had demonstrated, and I found myself hesitating around the torches. I hadn’t even realized I was afraid of them until that moment. Linda Womack saw me, and must have sensed my trepidation; she rescued me with a two minute lesson that has cured me of my torch phobia! 

I went out as soon as I could and purchased a basic torch, with a few necessary frills: an adjustable nozzle, and an automatic ignition trigger. It’s a Bernzomatic propane torch from Home Depot, and it cost about 35 dollars. 


I don’t know how I got along without this thing before! It works so well for every application, that I haven’t pulled out my heat gun a single time. It is much more gentle than the heat gun, and doesn’t move the wax around nearly as much. I can even fuse lightly while a large piece is upright on my easel. I think it produces a glossier surface than my heat gun did, too.

And the best thing about it is-  its fast.

Well, maybe the best thing about it is that I haven’t lit my hair on fire yet. So far, so good.

12 thoughts on “Studio Update: Fire

  1. Margaret

    I found this review of using a torch very helpful. I’m relatively new to encaustic painting and I am finding the heat gun blows the wax too much and it is either too hot or too cool depending on my settings and the closeness/distance from the work. I can’t seem to get the happy medium. Like you, the idea of an open flame puts me off. You’ve given me something to think about now. I like the idea of a glossier surface too.

  2. amyf

    Wow – thanks for this post. I’ve been afraid to try it as well because of the flame (and because I have kids!). I will have to think about it some more too.

  3. Stephanie Clayton

    This is timely for me- I’ve just begun studying encaustic. The goal is to begin using this wonderful medium once my studio cools off a bit (Caribbean winter is coming…)

    I definitely want a smooth surface and more control; so I’ll try the torch instead of a heat gun.

    Glad you shared this. Thank you.

  4. Diane Bailey Haug

    OK, Lisa I am going to have to face my fear as well. I think I told you my grandfather and his father were both fire chief’s and put the fear of fire into me~~~Since they are both dead I should become a fire starter….Thanks for posting this.

  5. Trace Willans

    I have wanted to try encaustics for years but was put off by all the electricity needed for the heat gun, now I know I can use gas I am ready to jump right in. Only if I wish to have a refillable gas bottle I can’t have the auto start, how important do you think that is and do you find the fat boy gas bottle heavy to use?

    1. LisaK Post author

      I’m glad you are encouraged! I unfortunately have no experience with the refillable bottles. Though I know that some artists use large refillable tanks that sit on the floor, and then they have a hand held nozzle for the flame that is attached by a hose. This type of set-up might work well for you. As for the filled canisters, they last a long time and are not that heavy.

      1. embracingencaustic

        Hi Trace and Lisa, sorry for jumping in on this late but I just found this post. Lisa, thanks for linking to me! If you want a refillable canister or a lighter torch you can use a much smaller creme brulee torch from a kitchen store. They use butane which burns a little hotter so you just move a bit faster with it. The butane doesn’t seem to last as long as the propane but it’s still pretty inexpensive. If you really want a powerful butane torch Google “Iwatani torch.” That’s what I got for Christmas. Oh yeah! I hope to see you soon Lisa…

  6. Tina

    what wonderful, beautiful work! I am also a convert to the torch- I use the Iwatani pro torch and absolutely love it. Finally I can get that glassy smooth surface that I have admired in other people work! I work in the attic of my house, which filled me with great fear initially, but I am very careful and have a fire extinguisher at my feet. The heat gun does a great job for some things, but I can’t imagine not using the torch now.

  7. Sally

    I have been thinking about the torch just as all of you have said, but it is a fearful thing. Especially when my husband is afraid I’ll start a real fire with it. He has one and I’m about ready to go get it and try. Until you try it you don’t know how it works. I am looking for a smoother surface on some paintings without as much scraping. Lisa you have a wonderful blog and your work is beautiful. Thanks for all of the info.

  8. Trace Willans

    If you set yourself up properly there shouldnt be any problems. I have a piece of cement sheet underneath what I am working on which protects the whole area and I have had no problems. Just make sure if you are using matches to light the torch that you have a handy container to put them in. Just in case they haves’t gone out completely.


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