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Irreverent Encaustics #6

January 30, 2021 #6

A little more snow today but still not quiet enough! Coming from South Texas and having lived in Palm Springs/Palm Desert California for much of my life, I love to watch the snow fall! See Baby Girl and friends over to the right? They were leaving as I walked out onto the porch but stopped and looked back to see if I had a bread bag with me! Haha! Well, there’s still another month left of cold weather so maybe there ‘ll be more snow to come.

I have a few more encaustic tips I want to pass on today. If you have any questions please ask or if you’re struggling with a problem, just click on the CONTACT link and I’ll help if I can. I don’t collect email addresses, you’ll never receive any offers, special discounts or promotions of any kind. All the tutorials in this blog are free, no fees, no subscriptions. The only remuneration I will receive is a very minuscule one from Amazon for listing their products, which are the very same products I use almost daily. If you click on a product photo I have listed at the end of the post, you will go directly to Amazon and even if you don’t purchase the product, I will get credit for ‘sending’ you to Amazon. It will cost you absolutely nothing and it may add a few pennies to my coffer. In fact you may even find an item has been marked down and receive a discount. Every little bit adds up and I promise it will either go to more deer corn for Baby Girl and her friends or wax for the pot!

Now, back to where we left off yesterday . . .

Painting with a thick layer of brushed on wax . . . Picking off a dog hair as I go. Don’t be concerned that you’re covering up your paint, we’re going to blow most of it off with the torch. Gosh, I wish you could have seen how smooth and bubble free that wax was!

This is my favorite desk top wax pot. I practically use it every day if I’m working on small pieces. It’s no longer being marketed so I find one now and then on eBay. I used to buy them for twenty something dollars and have paid as much as Forty dollars lately. I use them in classes so I have several. Get one if you can! Maybe two. Look for Ranger Melting Pot. They were also first on the market as SUZE something or other, same product. It was used for another purpose but is perfect for my use and I don’t have to fire up a big griddle, etc.

If you work with encaustics and sometimes notice tiny/tiny little specks of hard resin on the surface of your work, that is caused by heating and reheating your wax over and over. The demar resin begins to revert to it’s original crystallized state. By using this smaller pot you will use up the wax and replenish the pot and never have that problem. Never ‘add’ to the melted wax, use it up, clean out the pot and start a new batch.

Ok, I discovered the lack of detail and repositioned the camera!  hopefully I’ll get better at this as I go along.

Brushing on what I call ‘humpy’ wax layers that I will ‘skim’ pigment onto later . . . Now, another little trick. Which reminds me of Peggy Taylor, my favorite watercolor teacher of all time . . . When I would say ‘trick’ she would say, “no, no, no, La’Nelle- never say ‘trick’, say ‘technique’!” So, in Peggy’s honor . . . Here is another of my favorite encaustic ‘techniques’! We’re building up humpy-like areas, shaped like clouds or waves. Wax drizzled and dabbed along from side to side. As much or as little as you’d like. You can always add more later or carve more out, so no worries, just drizzle away.

This is another little heated tool I use almost daily. It comes with several different tips and there are others I buy separately and even one I can no longer find and have to have made by a local metalsmith. I’ll put a link at the bottom. It’s actually a wood burning tool but back in the day, when I couldn’t find a small encaustic tool, this is what I finally settled on and have been using them ever since. It comes with it’s own regulator dial which is very accurate as well as handy. I have such a beautiful, smooth surface here (brag/brag) that I need to ‘rough’ it up a bit for what is planned next. I’m very lightly passing the ironing tip back and forth over the wax and as I do I create minuscule little streaks and valleys.  Oh, there’s my favorite coffee mug in the picture! Made by local potters David and Becki Dahlstedt of Mt View, Arkansas. I love their work!

Until I learn a bit more about uploading photos and videos you may have to click on the words ‘FullSizeRender’ or on the ‘img’ followed by a number to see the videos.  I’m working on it!


Here’s the piece up a little closer. Hmmm . . . Looking like clouds and rough waves!


I just realized . . . Those hands in the video are my grandmother’s hands!!! How did that happen??? But, back to the hot tool and wax. I’m using R & F encaustic wax with damar resin added and R & F encaustic pigments . . . a titanium white hot stick- I like the way it breaks up and moves with the torch flame quicker than the blocks, also using grays, sky blue and a wee little lilac. First the white then a touch of the other colors in no particular order. I’m adding a tiny amount of pigment to the ironing tip and just barely hitting the tops of my ‘humpy’ areas and trying not to allow any pigment to melt down into the crevices.

Now to the sculpting . . . Almost my favorite part! I’m even using one of my old sculpting tools. Now I want to carve out anything that would look unnatural in clouds or splashing waves. Any vertical lines or color-heavy areas that just don’t look as if they should be there. I’m also going to smooth out any bubbles or sharp color edges. I have tools for that but if it’s a tiny little spot I’ll just use my thumb-nail, my secret tool! OH- and another encaustic trick (technique) . . . How to patch a bad spot! Don’t know if you can see but there were a couple of little holes that I ‘plugged’ with a bit of the colored wax I’d just scraped off another area. I put the tiny little ball of wax in the spot and smear it over with my thumbnail. It’s possible to do this since I’m working on a warm piece. As long as I heat seal it later the ‘patch’ will be secure! After carving a bit I want to torch some areas enough that the pigment spreads . . . You’ll see it happen.




Those sides are a mess. A quick way to clean them up is with the hot tool and the ironing head. There are lots of other attachment heads but this is the one we’ve used today. Just iron the wax and wipe off.


After lightly torching it needs a little more ‘sculpting’ and patching. I see now I’m going to have to come up with a way to get the camera in closer. I’m not sure you can see the detail involved here. I’ll take some really close-up stills of the finished piece.

Oppps . . . My piece is cooling, harder to carve without gouging! I forgot to mention, the carving goes a little easier and with less mistakes as long as the piece is warm. I use a wax mixture a little on the heavy side with damar resin so my wax dries pretty hard. Yet another encaustic trick here . . . I use, what I call, my lizard warmer! It’s actually a sort of heating pad that you can put underneath an aquarium to keep pet lizards, snakes, etc warm. It’s a constant level heat, never too hot to rest my hands/arms on and keeps my boards warm enough to work with easily. Many times I will have pieces in various stages of completion and any cooled down work should be warmed before you begin to work on them again. I have the lizard warmer on a board on top of my trash bin, always on, and can plop an encaustic piece on it anytime. It never gets too hot. I’ll put a link below for the IPOWER reptile heating pad. Now, back to the carving/sculpting and hole filling.

The end result . . .

Turned into a pretty little piece, I think. It will display nicely on an easel or framed. I love doing these little watercolor based encaustics!

Let me know what you’re working on. Any suggestions for a how-to post? If you have any encaustic questions or if you’re having a problem with a piece, I’ve probably had the same problem somewhere along the way, let me know. I’ll be glad to help if I can, just click on the contact link at the top of the page and send me an email.

See you soon with more encaustic tips and tricks! Stay safe and stay healthy!


This is the hot tool I use. The particular tip I use in the tutorial is no longer available but I have them made locally. I prefer this tool because it has the variable temp dial.

I buy only R & F pure encaustic wax with damar resin. I’ve tried many different kinds, I’ve even made my own mixture and grind my own damar resin but for ease of use this is what I use most often. I do add a little extra finely ground damar because I like the very hard and glossy finish. It is a little harder to work with and harder to clean up. This is a great product, it’s very light in color, filtered, pure 100% bees wax. I buy in much larger quantities but here’s a link for 1 lb. Just be sure you get the filtered bees wax and not soy or another type of wax.

If you’re a beginner I suggest you begin your encaustic pigment collection with a set of just a few basic colors and go from there. This is a good starter kit plus you get a nice encaustic cradle! You can mix a good variety of colors with just these few basic colors included in this kit.

You may not start off using slotted encaustic brushes but if you stick with encaustics you will want them. They hold more wax without releasing too much of it at a time when touching the board and it seems to stay liquid longer. I love them and use them exclusively.

My lizard warmer . . . Again it’s not something I started off with but once I found out that these things existed I had to try it. You do have to keep your work warm while carving and scraping and the only way to do that is to constantly be heating the back side with a torch or laying the work on a griddle, etc. A back and forth process. Once I realized I could adapt this product to my purposes I never looked back. This thing is perfect for keeping the work warm. A constant heat it’s never too hot, I can rest my hands, arms etc right directly on the pad and never worry about melting my work. Also, if it’s sturdy enough to have a heavy aquarium sit in top of it that means it’s certainly strong enough for my use.

This set of inexpensive sculpting tools are all I ever use for scraping and carving encaustics. You will need something like this because there’s waaaaay more carving that goes on in encaustics than you may realize. These are the very same sculpting tools I use every day, on large or small work. My only other favorite tools I use are some professional tools my dentist gave me. He saves his broken (OUCH) dental tools for me! One end is always good! haha! DO- ask your dentist to do the same for you! Tell them about encaustic art and I’m sure s/he will be happy to oblige!

I have several torches and have always liked Tivoli creme brûlée torches the best but I have not been able to find them lately. This Sondiko torch seems to be exactly the same torch, just with a different name. I prefer these small torches for small pieces because my arm doesn’t tire as it does holding the big cumbersome canister torch aloft. The reason I like this torch in particular is because I can dial down the temp and get a very soft flame and don’t take a chance of ‘blowing a hole’ in my work! Beware of the torches with the sharp, pin-prick flame!

I always make sure I have a supply of butane on hand. It took me just one time to run out in the midst of a project and have to go to town (28 mile round trip) for a new supply! A tip for filling your torch . . . Hold the torch upside down and seat the butane can tip into the filling hole and press the can down. Have a good grip around the handle of the torch, as you feel the ‘cold’ under your grip move up towards the can that means the reservoir in the torch handle is filling with the very cold butane. As the cold feeling reaches the ‘top’ where the can is inserted into the torch handle you can be assured that the reservoir is full and remove the can.

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