How To Sculpt in Wax pt 1

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TrevorGrove's avatar
By TrevorGrove
Well, as promised, I thought I should write up a little information on sculpting in Wax. It's not the first medium one would think to work in when starting out with sculpture, but it does offer a lot of benefits.

That said, though, it's probably not the best medium to use if you're JUST getting interested in sculpting. It's primary benefit is that it allows for lots of clean sharp detail, which is something that's valued in the collectibles field. But we all know detail doesn't equal good work. :) As a prerequisite to wax, I think it would be best to start out sculpting in Super Sculpey. It's easy to get your hands on, and everything you learn from working with it is applicable to wax sculpting.

But if you're wanting to dive in and try wax, here's some help with getting going:

I personally use a few different kinds of wax with my sculptures. All of which are mixed and offered through private 'dealers' I guess you would say. ha! is an excellent resource for getting your hands on a variety of waxes to begin with. Gary offers a WIDE variety of different waxes to try, ranging from very hard to quite soft. Of course, when talking about wax, even the softest grade is quite hard compared to clay.

Choosing a grade that works for you is sort of dependent on how you like to work. I would suggest ordering samples of Willow Product's various waxes to give them all a try. You probably won't know what you prefer until you dive in and start working with it all.

Another option is Toxic Mom Studios wax, otherwise known as TMS wax. It's my favorite wax for sculpting faces, because it allows for an extremely clean surface and tight detail. If you just starting out with wax, it's not necessary to get this, but I do highly recommend it for headsculpts. TMS is made by Ralph Cordero, and you have to contact him directly to order some.
It can be difficult to get in contact with Ralph sometimes, due to his VERY busy schedule. Making wax isn't his full time gig, so be patient if you choose to contact him.

As I said, though...It's not necessary to start with TMS wax. I would still suggest you get some samples from Willow Products, as those waxes are very nice and fully capable of making great sculptures.

So, what is the consistency of wax compared to, say, Super Sculpey? Whereas Sculpey can be molded with your hands, Wax as a general rule, cannot. The softest grades of wax can be worked with your hands, but they must first be warmed up, either in a pan over a stove, or with a heat gun (hairdryer)

Wax is hard, and must be built up into forms by dripping or brushing it at a near molten temp. As it cools, you can drip and add more wax onto your sculpture. What Wax lacks (har har) in speed at the beginning, it more than makes up for when it comes to refining and finishing your piece.

As mentioned above, wax can only be worked with by using hot tools. I'll start to get into all of that in the next 'installment', as this is already getting a bit dense. :D

© 2008 - 2021 TrevorGrove
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beausmithfrog's avatar
What Wax lacks (har har)

DougOrama's avatar
I've been thinking about trying wax for sculpting (once I find some) because I'm tired of Super Sculpey shifting on me with handling after I've finally done some decent work on a project, plus the armature work is a major pain, especially if you don't get it perfect the first time and need to adjust. But I don't even know how much wax I would need. I'm trying to make human figures that are around 15 inches tall. How do I figure out the amount of wax needed? And can a firm filler be used to save wax, like styrofoam or something? When I took a sculpting class many years ago we did styrofoam with wax over it and had our work cast in lost wax process.

It looks like willow isn't selling wax any more. Do you have another second best option to try? There aren't many sellers than I can find, and the ones that do seem to be a bit of a pain.

TrevorGrove's avatar
I recommend Ralph's wax, you can order here:

I use castilene to fill out my sculpts and avoid armature. That way if I carve down and hit the 'armature', it's still a form of wax that can be sculpted. I hate hitting armature wire.

most people rough out a sculpt in clay, make a quick mold of it, and transfer to wax.

Wax is a great medium, I hope you enjoy it. As far as how much to buy......for a 15" statue it might be good to have around 5 pounds on hand. It's hard to say.
DougOrama's avatar
Good stuff to know, and thanks for the link, too. But isn't castiline even more expensive and harder to get than sculpting wax?

I like the idea of the rough sculpt molded for starters. Why not do it with parrafin? Is that not workable enough in case you cut in too deep?
kworking's avatar
I just want to begin by saying you are fantastic!!!! :faint: Um, I was wondering if I could add glass eyes and hair if I were to start using wax? I'm not super good at sculpting, in fact I've just started. But I want to know what options are out there, and I like to use hair and doll eyes. So if you don't write back that's fine, I'm a huge fan of your work and thanks for your time. :bye:
ChaoticLandscape's avatar
Thank you for your wisdom :)

I used to sculpt with nsp hard, but when I started my studies then work as dental technician, I saw what we could o with waxes, I ordered samples from willowproducts, and a cheap waxpen from a chineese ebayer. WP waxes are fine, but the little "chips" (sorry, used google translate on this one) won't dust out nicely, it's a little sticky on itself.
How is TMS wax ? I've heard a lot about it, how sharp can be the details etc.
And you're right, the alcohol torch is THE tool to have.
Danosuke's avatar
I've heard some sculpt in NSP and then mold and cast in wax for finishing. do you ever do that? Do you think that may be more work than just starting from wax?
TrevorGrove's avatar
That is a common method, for sure. I've tried it before, but for me, I just prefer working in wax or castilene from the beginning. Wax shrinks when you pour it, so you have to account for that in your initial NSP sculpt. There's no wrong way of doing things, though, just whatever works for you! :)
ssflipo13's avatar
I just started working with the wax we use at my work. We shoot wax into molds of rings. I believe it is paraffin wax. Pink in color. It is easy to work with. I use a heat pen to design what ever comes to mind. But I was looking for something to coat it with that will harden when I`m finished . Do you know of anything that will stick to wax and harden ?
Hi, started sculpting in wax and at the moment i am constantly running back n forth to the oven or using a hairdryer to melt n smooth the wax, is it possible to use a mini heat gun or butane powered gun (these are so far the options i can thing of) and would u recommend getting or making an alcohol burner to heat up my tools?
TrevorGrove's avatar

I use my alcohol torch almost exclusively. The one I have is from a company called "Buffalo". You fill them with denatured alcohol and it burns clean so you don't get soot on your tools. I heat my tools up over the torch and you can also squeeze the bottle to get pinpoint heat (like you might with a heat gun)
I occasionally will melt up a pot of wax when I'm roughing something out, but for the most part, I just use my alcohol torch. It's one of the universal wax tools, in my opinion, though many people disagree with me there. I hardly ever use a waxpen, though many people use those almost exclusively to add wax to their sculpts.

lmk if you have any other questions,
thank u, I was curious why people were using alcohol burners, plus the fact i was worried that usin a butane heat gun would be far to aggressive for this type of medium. I would definitly recommend willow products as well, i have recently purchased some fuse wax and have found it to be a decent wax as i have come from plasticine. I do find it a bit harder to work with especially building a basic form, but fastastic when its cooled. Thanks again for the advice.
spinery's avatar
After reading your journal entries few weeks ago, I've been slowly researching wax sculpture, but it's hard to obtain sculpting waxes round my place... However, I've found a recipe for a sculptor's wax consisting of:

2 parts wax (beeswax)
1 part paraffin
7 parts rosin

I will experiment with the proportions and rosin softness grades eventually, but was wondering if you had any experiences with homemade wax before... I wanted to consult you about it, since you wrote this great tutorial.

Thanks a lot :)
TrevorGrove's avatar
It's great to hear you're experimenting with making wax. I have never had to make my own, as I get my waxes from a couple of places here in US. It's a shame you can't get your hands on any, but I admire that you would make the effort to produce your own!

I know Tim Bruckner makes his own wax. He told me back in the day that you really just have to find what suits your own sculpting style, and I would agree. I would imagine the day will come when I have to make my own wax, but for now, I'm clueless about how it's made! I did have a recipe a while back, but I don't think I still have it.

Thanks for the note,
spinery's avatar
Artshops in Poland are awfully overpriced and undersupplied. As if making art was some sort of a luxury. :/ Guess that's the local market specificity... As a result, I don't seem to have a choice :D

Wax is superior to anything I've seen when it comes to textures, smoothing, detail... and accidents, like hitting a smoothed plasticine surface with a fingernail or the other end of the tool or something. It's really THE thing for detailing and texturing... Actually, those journals of yours got me rolling. Like a poison drip into the ear, hehe. Hamlet-style. :lol:

Bruckner does some badass sculpts, but I somehow can't imagine popping out of the blue asking for a recipe :P

I did some research... rosin isn't very pricey, and is meant to increase the malleability of the wax. Paraffin makes it softer, more receptive to smoothing chemicals and less temperature-resistant. And then, there are the complex recipes... like these:[link] I guess I'll try raw beeswax for starters and will start to mix in things later... Pop out a piece or two. I'll drop you a line with the results if you're interested.
TrevorGrove's avatar
Yeah, we REALLY take supplies for granted over here stateside. Wax is actually somewhat difficult to come by here, save for the very limited number of suppliers within the industry itself. You know, should try emailing Ralph about his TMS (Toxic Mamma Studios) waxes. Did I include a link to that in my tutorial? I can give you his email address, and you can contact him directly to purchase some wax. it's very fairly priced.

Ralph makes his own mix, and it's fantastic for this kind of work. sands to a beautiful finish, gives you excellent control and lends to texturing. I would bet he is willing to send international, so you might want to hit him up!

Then again, taking the time and learning the discipline of making your own wax is a very worthy effort, so I can't fault you for continuing to do that!! You can fine tune your mix to your own liking... But if you're aching to try out a sculpt, I think Ralph would be willing to sell you some of his wax. LMK and I can get you his email address.

spinery's avatar
Yes, you did provide an email to Ralph... But I think that even if he decided to give it away for free, the overseas delivery costs alone would kill me :P

The thing I'm looking forward to most right now is the capability to SAND the wax... When I first heard I can sand it, I almost fell off my chair. So many possibilities opened up...

I found most components available through woodworking and renovation stores... the PESSIMISTIC costs are going to be about $20-30 per kilogram, or $40-60 per lb... I should be able to get ANY mix below that price.

I'll let you know how it goes and upload something to test texture detail... IF I'll get a good mix somewhere in the first 70 attempts :D
Weapon-X-1973's avatar
Thank´s Trev, for the fraternal spirit and patience in initiating these real class!

Helder X.
MarkRaats's avatar
Way to go mate....

Waiting for the next installment...

Cheers for sharing
Darmael's avatar
Yes, please continue!
maddmaestro's avatar
Thank you so much for this!!!! I have been wanting a wax tutorial and now you have blessed me with one. Keep it up please!!!
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