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Irreverent Encaustics #4 . . .

Today is the day! I plan to start each blog entry with a photo of the view from my studio.

Here’s the view from yesterday. This is Baby girl and her friends.  Her mother China was raised here and Baby Girl was born here. She’s four years old and loves white bread. I give her a couple of slices every morning.

Here’s  the view from the studio today, 30 degrees outside and we have a wee little snow! The Barnie rooster just brought his two favorite ladies around to the front for a photo op.

We’re almost ready to burn some wax! But first let’s discuss encaustic tools and materials and what you’ll need to get started.

Unfortunately encaustic art requires a whole different set of tools. I’ve put together a list of what I use most often in my studio and I didn’t run out and buy it all at once. If fact most of the tools I use are not necessarily made for encaustic art at all but they’re tools that I find work best for me.

I’ve put together a list along with photos of my suggestions (why I like it/why I don’t) and links to the items that can be found on If you purchase anything from an Amazon affiliate link I have provided here I will make a few pennies (and I do mean a few) maybe even enough to buy more wax and a little corn for the deer! I love encaustic art, I’m in my studio almost every day and because I sometimes take a little different approach to encaustics, I’ve long thought about an encaustic blog. I hope, as you get to know me, you’ll realize my only objective is to pass some of that encaustic love on to you!

That said, please do use the links I’ve provided not just as a purchasing point but as an exploratory tool. Let’s say you click on the link I have listed for a heat gun . . . I’ve listed that particular heat gun because it’s the one I use and it’s one I’ve had good luck with. I teach encaustic classes here in my studio and if I’m using one tool I have several others just like it. So, let us say you have clicked on the link I’ve provided for the heat gun, you’ll go directly to that heat gun on Amazon. BUT, if you scroll down a bit you will see many other heat guns that are available. Some will be more expensive, some less. Some will have more reviews others less. You WILL need a heat gun but you don’t have to buy the one I have suggested.

Fire extinguisher . . . Smoke Alarm . . . Enough said!

I will never suggest tools or supplies that I haven’t personally used myself, many of them I use daily and you’ll see them in my photos and videos . . . And I will only suggest an item that has a 4-1/2 to 5 star rating. When I buy online, I’ve learned from experience, to pay attention to the reviews.  I almost always buy from Amazon because of their great return policy, which I have used many times.

Whenever I can I’ll tell you about a less expensive alternative if that is what I use. I may have a photo up of a particular item but will tell you to search from that link. Encaustic tools and materials are expensive. Enough so that many artists that would love to try encaustics simply don’t because of the cost involved. I started out with a very few tools and materials and so can you.

I still use cat food cans and sardine tins for pigment pans. Although, I have, long ago, thrown out the clothes pins and paper clamps I once used for handles. After dropping a few pans of hot wax I confiscated a batch of spring clamps from my husband’s work shop and never worry now about pre-releasing a pan of hot wax!

Right now, before we go any farther . . . Make a note to yourself, to remind (often) your spouse or partner of the health benefits of eating sardines on a regular basis! You will need the cans! OR, get a cat.

Here are a few unorthodox tools I use in my encaustic art. When I first began working in encaustics there were no encaustic tools, not that I ever knew about. After a few years along came an encaustic griddle that I absolutely had to have. If I remember correctly it was an R&F product which consisted of a one burner hot plate screwed (with four bolts and wing nuts) between a piece of wood and an aluminum plate. And it cost almost $200.00. I had to have it. I still have it, I’ve never used it. I did turn it on once to make sure it worked but I prefer my $50.00 counter top pancake griddle. JoAnn’s has a beautiful encaustic hot palette/griddle for $600.00, looks pretty much like the one burner R&F hot palette, a hot plate under a piece of aluminum. I may be mistaken, it could be way more hi-tech, I’m just going by the online photo, haven’t bought that one, not gonna.

There is a downside to the counter top grills (as well as many of the other hot tools I use) their thermostats are unreliable, they cycle up and down. It gets too hot and turns itself off, it cools down a bit and turns itself back on, etc. I’ve had different ones over the years and it seems to be that way with every one I’ve had BUT there is a fix for that. A power regulator. In fact all the tools and griddles I use I run through one power strip plugged into the heat regulator. I first set the regulator at 200 degrees, plug the power strip into the regulator then plug my grill and tools into the power strip. There we go, a solid pulse of power, no powering up and down, and all the tools are the same temp.  Another beautiful aspect of this arrangement is . . . If you get a power strip with an on/off switch, with one click you can turn off ALL you hot tools at once. After setting paper towels on fire (twice) I will never leave my work area for any reason without first flipping that off switch.

The first countertop griddle I used I bought on eBay. The first handheld hot tool I used was a cheap wood burning tool. Although I’ve bought many different tools, irons, griddles, etc over the years, I still prefer my countertop cooking griddle, my travel iron and a wood burning stylus to most of the expensive ‘encaustic’ tools. Encaustic medium and pigments, the one place where we can’t cut corners, are costly enough.

My number one piece of equipment is no longer being made. I use it daily. It’s some sort of electric wax melting pan and just the perfect size to keep right next to my work area for melting clear wax which I use almost constantly. I have several of them and can only find them on eBay, as far as I know. They have been marketed under several incarnations and names, always the same exact design, most recently they were sold under the Ranger name. When they first came on the market they were $20.00 or so. I have paid up to $40.00 + tax for one on eBay when I was desperate. I use them for classes. Today I checked eBay and there were four available. A couple at around $30.00 and a couple more up for bid. If you want to start out doing small encaustics this is a must have. Do what you have to do to get one, even two if you can. It’s called a Melting Pot by Suze Wienberg, was sold by Ranger.

Today I’ll list what is needed to prepare a palette for an encaustic piece as I do, using materials that I use. All the pre-cut wood palettes and slabs you can order here on this site, just go to ‘Browse Work’ and click on supplies. The wood cradles I buy on Amazon.

First we’ll prepare the board. You can use either Encaustic Gesso or . . . Why not try my preferred method for small works. Canson 140# watercolor paper on a cradle or wood panel. I buy over sized pads so I have less waste. First measure your board then measure the size of watercolor paper to fit the board and cut the paper.  Next apply the Best Test Rubber Cement to the board and then apply a coat of the same to the back side of the watercolor paper. The back side being the side down as you tear it from the pad, the bumpiest surface goes up, the shinier side goes down . . . Apply the rubber cement to the shiny side and let both sides dry completely.  Be very careful with the next step . . . There’s no second chance with this step . . . Without touching paper to wood, visually align the two and slowly press the glued sides together.  Place a piece of copy paper over the top and burnish or otherwise press the paper to the board to assure a good adhesion. It’s best in the beginning to cut your paper a little on the large side and trim after this last step because using rubber cement in this manner does not allow for repositioning and all the repositioning type glues I have tried do not stand up as well for encaustics.

First you’ll need the board backing or panel. I have the 5”x 7” panels and 4”x 4” and 5”x 5” blocks for sale here under ‘Browse Art & Supplies’ and the cradles you can find on Amazon. If you’re just beginning I would suggest you start small. Just remember to buy the best size watercolor paper to fit the pieces you will be doing so as to not have waste. Here are the cradles I prefer and they come in various sizes . . .

Although I buy the rubber cement in 32 oz cans I keep a small glue pot handy and refill as needed from the larger can. These small bottles also have an applicator brush . . .

Here’s the larger 32 oz can. I never buy anything larger. This size will last a couple of months . . .

Do check around on this watercolor paper because some of the best bargains are the 3 packs. it depends upon the size wood panels you want to use. For instance if you want to use 5”x 7” wood panels buy a pad such as a 10”x 14” that will give you four pieces of paper per sheet without any waste. If you planned to work on 5”x 7” panels and purchased an 8”x 10” watercolor pad you’d only get one piece of paper per sheet and have lots of waste. Canson is not as expensive as some other watercolor papers but is perfectly fine for encaustics.

If you’d want to give encaustic gesso a try, and I suggest you try both, the gesso and the watercolor paper. Just to see which you have a personal preference for. I really don’t think one is any better than the other for any reason, it’s just that I prefer the paper and maybe that’s because I also love watercolor and still do a little watercolor now and then. When using the gesso I always apply three coats and dry between each coat so it seems to me that the gesso takes a little more time.  Here’s the encaustic gesso I use . . .

A quick and easy method to finish off the edges of your panel or board if you use watercolor paper is to trim the paper closely then sand down the edges. Holding the board in your hands, using minimal pressure, sand in a downward motion against the paper edge to soften the sharp edge.

The last step to the board preparation is to finish the raw sides. I most often use a black acrylic paint all around the side edges. Rarely I’ll use a white or gold but most often black. Apply with any old brush, I usually use my finger.

That’s everything you need to prepare your ground for encaustic painting. Next entry we’ll get to the wax!  Stay happy and healthy and create some art!


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