this is the wax cabinet in my studio. from left to right on the top – bleached food-grade microcrystalline wax in mineral spirits and/or orange solvent; unbleached microcrystalline was in mineral spirits and/or orange solvent; some unidentified concoction of microcrystalline and solvent.
on the middle shelf, a couple of empty jars, and behind them an old jar of bleached beeswax and turpentine, which i am now loathe to use; three jars of beeswax and orange oil, and my latest batch of unfiltered beeswax with orange oil.
on the bottom shelf, from top to bottom, i have what’s left of a ten point slab of beeswax in the mailing box; sitting at the edge of the mailing box to the right is a 2.5 lb chunk of unfiltered beeswax by ebert honey out in iowa ($3.75/lb). under the mailing box is a slab of microcrystalline wax, the cheapo dark stuff, and next to it is a chunk of bleached microcrystalline wax. under that, still in its bag, is another huge block of dark microcrystalline.
it’s so nice to have a full pantry.
Making Encaustic Medium
since i just got 5 lbs of unfiltered beeswax, i thought i’d make up a batch of encaustic medium myself. i’d let jim do all the previous batches. how hard could it be? we got a used electric skillet some time ago, so i just plopped half of the block into the skillet and turned the temperature on low. less than 200F, which was the first number on the dial. the wax melted quickly, turning brown in the pan (because of all the debris). i kept lifting and turning it, which was foolish, because every time i did i splashed liquid wax all over the place and had to scrape it off once it had cooled.
figuring out how much citrus solvent to use was the tricky part. jim didn’t remember the proportions he used last time, and discovered that the proportions differed according to what kind of wax he was using. so i did some quick figuring. 2.5 lb translates to 5 quart jars of liquid, if wax weighed what water weighs, which i have no idea. but i figured if i put in a quart of orange oil to 5 quarts of melted beeswax, i wouldn’t be going far wrong. i wasn’t looking to make a thin gel out of the wax and solvent, but i didn’t want it rock hard, either.
when the wax was all the way melted, i took the element out of the skillet just in case, and stirred in a quart of citrus oil. and then i lifted the skillet and took it over to where i had jars all ready, and poured it in. well, i dripped it in. the hot wax wanted to go right over the side of the pan and drip down off the bottom, so i stuck the leg it was dripping off of right into the jar, and let it go. i ended up with some wax on the paper under the jars, but it wasn’t too bad. i filled the jars almost to the top, and when i got to the bottom of the skillet there was a whole lot of debris, so i poured all that into another jar, so i could use it deliberately on some project. then i wiped out the skillet with a paper towel while it was still warm, and put everything away.
don’t put the lid on hot wax until it has melted unless you want a vacuum seal that won’t quit. i waited until it was all the way cool, on jim’s advice, and it was fine. if you leave the top on too long, tho, the solvent will begin to evaporate.
and now it’s sitting in my pantry shelf waiting to be used.