by leessilver on October 14, 2010

By Lee Epperson
The build up process is a technique where wax is layered upon layers of wax. The design is slowly built up by this layering on of wax.

This paper will describe one of many methods used in the wax build up process. With practice the artist will develop textures and styles of their own.

The advantage of making a model out of wax is that you can get textures that can not be obtained any other way.

In the buildup method of making a wax model the wax is melted onto a tool. The melted wax is then drawn on previously built up wax. Wax is continually layered on the wax model until the desired shape is reached. This process allows many shapes in design and texture that can not be conveniently made by any other methods of model making.

These rings are examples of models built with the wax build up process. Note the texture the buildup process produces.

The bezel around the stones was produced with the wax buildup process.

The temperature of the tool and how it is used can produce different finishes on the wax. The model may also be held near an alcohol lamp to smooth the finish. It is difficult to get a smooth uniform finish on a build up model.


The basic tool used in the build up method may consist of dental tools or home made tools. The tools must be designed so that the melted wax moves onto the tool and the melted wax on the tool moves from the tool onto the wax model.

The shape is dependant on how much wax you wish to deposit onto the wax model.
Pointed tools can be used to deposit small drops of wax onto the model. Larger flat tools will deposit more wax.

Wax has a tendency to flow towards the heat. Larger sections of the tools will cool slower than small tips. The wax will flow away from the tip if the shaft part of the tool is large as compared to the tip.

The tip of the dental tool is heated slightly in an alcohol lamp. Do not overheat. The wax should not burn.

The heated tip of the tool is pressed into the buildup wax. Melted wax flows onto the tool tip.

There are several waxes that may be used in the build up process. Most of the buildup waxes are on the brittle side.

These are two types of waxes that may be used in the build up process. Normally build up wax melts and cools very rapidly. The wax is normally hard and brittle.

Just about any wax can be used in the build up process. Some will work easier than others. Each artist will experiment with different waxes to develop the technique they want to use.

The tool with the wax is then reheated slightly. The wax is then drawn on the previously built up wax.
The process of heating the tool tip, picking up wax and reheating then drawing the line is repeated until the shape of the design is reached.
The process is very time consuming

If the wax and tool is heated to much the wax will flow over he design. If it is not heated enough the wax will not flow onto the model.

Any wax that does not conform to the design can be scraped or cut away. The spot where the overheated wax flowed must be allowed to cool before trying to add more wax. Wax will flow on to heated spots.

The model is shaped by continually heating the tool, melting wax, reheating the tool then drawing the wax line.
The process will create a model that shows lines between each layer of wax.
These lines can be smoothed out by running a heated tool over the wax.

This is what the side of the built up line looks like. The top and sides are very irregular.

The hot wax forms a fillet between the previous wax and the tool.

There are electrically heated tools that help make the build up process easier and much faster.

Unfortunately this wax build up tool is no longer manufactured. The front end and the tube of the tool is heated. It has a lever on the front that controls the amount of wax that flows from the tip. The trigger controls the start and stop of the wax flow. Pink sprue wax is placed in the center of the tool. If you ever find this tool for sale buy it. It is extremely handy when doing wax build up.

This photo shows the tip of the discontinue electric pen being used to build up wax.

This photo shows the tip of an electric was pen being used to build up wax.

This is what the final build up project looks like. Note the texture. If a smooth texture is desired the model may be held near an alcohol lamp till the wax melts slightly. The surface texture is more at the whim of the tool, alcohol lamp and wax than the artist.

The lines on this bracelet were first built up as described above. Wax was then drawn to the side of the lines.

The lines of this bracelet were built up as described above. The design was then drawn on the top surface of the lines.

Wax dots can be created with a pointed tool. The tool used to make these dots has a small ball end. The wax can also be drawn into long rods. The blue rod is .1 mm thick and the yellow rod is 1.6 mm in diameter.

The diameter of the rod can be varied by the size of the tool, the amount of wax on the tool and the type of wax used. The first layer of the rod must be melted into the base if the base is carving wax. If this is not done the rod will not be securely fastened to the base carving wax.



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