In this tutorial I will show the different stages that went into carving this little mushroom out of wax. It’s just a basic and simple base relief that I have done quickly just to show you how it works. I will try and cover other areas of carving soon, such as rings, shrinkage, clasps etc. By carving wax you can create your own pendants, earrings, bracelets, rings or even sculptures. You can make a one off piece of jewellery or multiples using just the original pattern. At the bottom of this tutorial, I have also included a PDF list of equipment, useful websites and books on the subject that are handy if you want to start carving wax.
Materials and equipment I used;
Ferris blue wax
White china marker
Washing up liquid
Micro motor and assorted burrs
Large wax file
Small assorted files
Tissue paper and ear buds
Wolf carving tools
Very fine sandpaper grade
1. Draw or trace an image onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Turn the paper over and trace the lines of your original drawing.
2. Cut a piece of wax with either a saw which is slightly larger than your image and cover the smooth upper side with white china marker. Place your image over this and secure with masking tape. Start to trace over your drawing with a scribe firmly enough for it to mark the wax underneath. Remove the paper and go over the lines in the wax again so you will have a strong image.
3. Mix a small bit of white tempera/ poster paint with a tiny amount of washing up liquid and paint the mixture over you wax image then leave to dry for a few minutes. When dry, remove the excess paint from your wax with white spirit. You should have a crisp, clean image on your wax now.
4. Now it’s time to cut the image out. I do this by using my frame saw first, and then using my micro motor with the largest burr attached and finally using my large wax file to file right up to the edges. If you can acquire a selection of small files, these are great for fiddly and awkward edges (I will post a full list of my files in a PDF at the bottom of this tutorial)
5. You can start removing wax from the back of your image now too. You can do this using a micro motor and burr or even filing it away with your large wax file. I opted for the micro motor as it’s the lazy way!
6. As we are doing a base relief, it’s time we started rounding off the edges and creating depth. I start rounding off the outer edges first with my carving tools and then I used the image lines as a guild to start creating depth so it will become 3 dimensional, like in the picture. Always create the high and low points and overall shape before you start adding the details. (There is a stage during carving when you think you have ruined it or you want start all over again. But keep on going! I have felt like this with everything wax I have carved so far but I have kept on with it and in the end you will have something that you will be happy with. Constantly look at your wax, what you have done so far and your reference image if you have one. If you carve a bit too much away…you can always add more melted wax. If something snaps, you can always fuse it back together. If at any point you start getting frustrated with it, have a break and come back to it. You will see things differently after a break)
7. Once you’re happy with your basic shape, and all the curves and different levels of the carving have been created, you can remove more of the excess wax from the back of the carving using either burrs or scraping it out with carving tools. By removing excess wax from the back, you will use less metal when it gets cast making it lighter and keeping costs down. Hold the wax up to the light to gauge where to hollow it out. The light blue bits will be thin whereas the darker blue bits will be thicker. Smooth the rough lines as much as possible for evenness.
8. We need to now smooth the surface of the wax. You can do this in a number of ways. I start by lightly brushing a fibreglass eraser over the surface to get rid of scratches and lines. Then I use a very light grade sandpaper. Lastly, I go over my wax with white spirit. Don’t rub to much though as it wears away the wax.
9. At this point, when your surface is nice and shiny and the back of the base relief has been hollowed, start adding the details. I used a hot wax worker to melt dots of wax shavings on to the top of the mushroom. I added a small amount of detail to the top of the stem and under the mushroom’s cap too. I then slightly filed over the cap again (when wax has been melted and cooled it becomes a lot harder so you will have to file it a bit more forcefully than normal) Add talc with a fine brush and use magnification to see the details properly.
10. Once you have finished all your details and you are happy overall with the shape give it another smooth over with the fibreglass pen and make sure there is no paint, china marker or talc left. Add a circle of spool wax to the top of the cap by using the hot wax worker if you want to make it into a pendant. (note, I applied talc to show detail in the picture)
11. You should now have a wax pattern ready for casting.