This is the most important part of your jewelry wax carving. I will say it again. This is the most important part of your carving. Do not miss these steps!
The most important part of the wax carving process is making sure every thing is square. By square I mean all of our angles are at 90 degree angles. Yup, everything! It doesn’t matter if your design only has curves in it or if you are carving a miniature 2 x 4 piece of lumber. Everything on our wax must be square to start. I will also say this is the most boring of all the steps but necessary.
When picking a piece of wax to carve it should be big enough to hold your design. Make sure if you were to cut out your design that it would fit on the block of wax. If you are lucky enough to have a copy machine you could make a copy of your design and cut it out and place it on the wax. This is a technique people use. I like to leave myself extra wax around the design, About 2-3mm extra.
I use a small wood saw and a plastic miter box I got at a hardware store to cut my large wax bars into a usable size. It works great and it’s cheap.
I am going to walk you through making a ring that holds a stone. Keep in mind as we go that all the same techniques apply to pendants, earrings or anything else you need to make. For instance the difference between a ring and a pendant is that a pendant does not have a ring shank. Everything else is the same.
If you have your chunk of wax cut out and everything fits on the wax you are ready to start. Think about your wax block as having a top, bottom and four sides. Use a black magic marker to mark the top and bottom. Just put the letter B for bottom and a letter T for top.
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Start at the top and file the surface flat. Use your square tool to check for a consistent flat plane. In this photograph I am removing all of the inconsistent parts. There will usually be highs and lows in the wax and the goal is to make everything flat. Often this can be difficult for beginners so take your time and check your angles regularly.
There are two different sets of teeth on the file. A coarse and a fine tooth. Depending on how rough your piece of wax is will determine which one you use. I usually start with the coarse side of the file to remove as much of the wax as I need and then move to the fine tooth side of the file. This saves time and gets you to your guide line faster.
Work across the wax keeping your file flat against the wax. Make a few passes and then turn the wax clockwise and file again in the same manner. By turning your wax every few strokes you help to prevent over working one side of the wax block which can cause it to become lopsided.
After you have filed and you feel you are getting close to having a flat surface use your square tool to check for a 90 degree angle between the side of the wax and your newly filed surface. Slide the square tool along the wax forward and back. Hold it up to a light source and look for any light between the square and the wax. If you don’t see any you are ready to move on. If you do make adjustments to the wax by filing down any high spots that are not flat.
Once you have one side flat you can use it to make all the other sides symmetrical. Re-mark the wax with the letter T for top. Now pick one of the four sides. Try to find the flattest of the four. Lightly file it just like you did with the top of the wax.
Note: The goal is to create a 90 degree between the top and your first side. All the other angles will be determined by this angle.
Mark you first side with a number #1. Put the handle side of the square to your first wax side.
Turn the wax block clockwise adjusting each side with your file to become a 90 degree angle. Look for any light between the wax block and the square. File the wax down until there is none. Then move on to the next side. Once you are done you should be able to move your square to any side of the wax and not have any gaps between the wax and the square.
One problem that often comes up is that the block of wax you are using isn’t a true square block. If you run into this problem you can trim on side down. I find it helps to have all of you sides at square or 90 degree angles before trimming the wax.
Here is how I trim the wax. First start with all of your sides square. Using a dividing tool measure the top of the waxes shortest side. Set the divider to that width and scribe along the longest side. Here is a photo of me making the scribe mark. This is not always a necessary step but if you need a wax block perfectly square this is how I do it. There are many styles and designs that may require rectangular shapes. Think of this as something you can keep in the back of your mind until you need it.
After you have made your scribe mark you can then cut off your unwanted section with a saw frame and a spiral wax blade. Then simply refile the cut end until it is square with the rest of the wax block.
Here is a photo of me filing the end square.
After you have your top (marked T) and your sides square you should then file and square the bottom. After you are done mark it with a B for bottom. We are ready to start marking our guidelines.
If you have done everything correctly this next part should be relatively easy. You will want to scribe the across center of the wax block dividing it into four squares. I use my divider to find the center. Also scribe a center line around the block of wax.
Follow the scribe line all the way around the wax. You can see me making the scribe line to the side of the wax. Work your way around the wax until you reach your beginning mark.
Once you have your guidelines marked on the wax you are ready to add your design. The benefit to having everything square and having your guidelines on your wax is that this allows you to map out and plan your design transfer.
From here you can turn this wax into a ring, a pendant or even earrings.
I will be adding more posts on more advanced wax carving. The steps above are the most important beginning steps. Just remember to square every angle and add your guidelines.
I hope this helps you. Happy carving!
All the best, Michael Seiler
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