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I want to make a detailed pendant out of cast silver as a gift, but when doing detailed work, and the wax starts to get thin, it breaks.

Is there a way to minimize breakage when working with this wax? some sort of medium to hold it on? If this doesn't exist, is there a way to gently mend it so it can still endure being cast in a kiln after repair?

For reference, the work always has one flat 'face' that can be laid on a table or other surface, but for accuracy in detail work, I often have to hold it or easily control if it moves or not. The item I'm working on currently is roughly the size of a quarter.

This is what the wax looks like: enter image description here

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As I recall there are grades of microcrystalline wax available in different hardnesses and melting temperatures, so do try others.

I have always used a moldable base to support detailed work. Pitch mixed with Plaster of Paris is the old reliable method. This can be softened with a propane torch, the work pressed in, and upon cooling - you have firm support and if you slip, the pitch won't damage your tools. It's also black which provides strong visual contrast so you can see what you're cutting. If need be you can cut away the pitch in areas where it's in the way. Use chisels for this, a rotary burr will gum up unless you're using a coarse tooth at low speed.

Bees wax is used similarly either pure or mixed with stiffeners like plaster or diatomaceous earth. Plasticine works on some jobs, but vibrations from rotary tools tends to loosen the fit more than beeswax or pitch.

Pitch can be removed with turpentine or mineral oil which won't affect most waxes.

See "The Complete Metalsmith - An Illustrated Handbook" by Tim McCreight, Davis Publications, 1982

  • wow this was a super helpful answer, thanks so much! – EmRoBeau Jan 5 '18 at 13:11
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Is this to make a pattern for investment casting? If so, any wax or plastic (with no filler like Fiberglass) can be used.

When I worked in the industry they made patterns of paraffin wax and used beeswax blend for attachments. As I remember, they mostly used soldering irons for shaping. The molds were burned out at 1700°F; this may be different in the jewelry business.

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