In this post you will see the basic, fundamental items you will need to have on hand to make your encaustic wax medium, as well as the process of making the medium itself. While you can buy premixed encaustic medium, making your own is much more personal and fun. The first thing the keep in mind when making your encaustic wax medium is safety. Hot wax WILL burn you. Remember to wear long sleeves and pot holders or some sort of hand protection.
Variable temperature is best.
Must have temperature control.
These will get ruined over time, horse hair / nylon work well. Horse hair brushes will come apart in the application of the wax the nylon brushes will not.
Get these at any grocery store. Used to put wax medium in to cool. Mini bread loaf ones are best.
Used to weigh the materials for the wax medium.
There are various products for the beeswax. Pellets melt best but you can get blocks of the wax as well.
This acts as a hardener for the wax medium and can be found at most art stores or art supply websites.
A pot and a metal bowl will work. Find a bowl with a handle and pour spout.
China Hat Strainer
This is a basic pointed strainer, found at food supply or grocery stores.
Used to filter the wax medium.
Used to monitor temperature
MAKING THE WAX MEDIUM
- Take the damar resin pieces, they come in rock form, and place them in a plastic bag. Using a hammer crush the rocks into a powder. A mortar and pestle will work best for this process as well, but a bag and hammer are much less expensive. Damar resin will melt and incorporate into they melted wax easier in powder form.
- Weigh out the beeswax and the damar resin. Use an 8:1 ratio for this mixture. Using the food scale weigh out 8 ounces of beeswax and 1 ounce of damar resin. Keep these separated. You can use an 8:2 wax to resin ratio but I would’ recommend more than that amount of damar. The more damar incorporates into the encaustic medium the more brittle it will be once cooled. This can lead to cracking over time. The damar both strengthens and increases the melting point of the medium.
- Fill fill the pot half of your double boiler with water and get some extra water on hand in case you need to add to the pot. Place the pot on the stove or heating element.
- In the metal bowl half of your double boiler place the 8 ounces of wax and set it over the pot. Bring the water to a boil. Use the thermometer to get the wax to a temperature of 145ºF – 150ºF. WARNING The flash point of beeswax is near 400ºF, be very careful when doing this part over a gas range. Electric works best, avoid gas ranges and open flame if possible.
- Once the wax is melted slowly stir in the resin powder. Bring the temperature of the mixture to 175ºF. 175ºF is the melting point of the resin, generally. Stir the mixture constantly until the resin is completely melted and incorporated into the wax. Once it’s all meted and there’s no resin sitting in the bottom or floating around it’s ready to strain. It can take a while for the resin to completely incorporate into the wax.
- Take a napkin NOT A PAPER TOWEL and unfold it. Line the china hat strainer with the napkin and hold it over the foil container. Pour the wax medium through the napkin and into the foil loaf container, or whatever cooling vessel you’re using. The napkin will strain out all the insect and leaf segments / impurities from the mixture. Do this over cardboard or wax paper. This will help keep wax from getting everywhere.
- Set off to the side and allow to cool overnight.
- You can line your cooling vessels with wax paper and use the wax paper to wrap your cooled block for storage.
- If you play around with different wax to damar resin ratios you can scratch the ratio directly onto the cooled block before storage.
- Save cardboard for future projects to surround your work surface.