Carving a silver mirror wax model

A few weeks ago I took another class with Jens Torp.  Last year we asked him if we could do a wax carving which would then be cast in sil...


A few weeks ago I took another class with Jens Torp.  Last year we asked him if we could do a wax carving which would then be cast in silver.  Jens agreed to our plans and he encouraged us to all come up with our own designs for a mirror. 

After a lot of research and sketching I decided to try and copy an existing mirror of which I had found a photo on the internet.  I scaled the photo down to the right size so I could use it as my design.   At the moment I can't find the photo of the original mirror in my files, so I will show you that at a later time.

Below are some of the photos I took during the class.

This is the result after three days of hard work!  Nowhere near finished, but we still have 6 months until the wax carving is sent off to be cast.  I should be able to get it finished within that time, don't you think?


We started with a block of wax, which had to be sawn to the right size and thickness and then filed to be absolutely flat, smooth, straight and with right angles.   Then the first measurements of the design are copied onto the wax.  These are my friend's hands working on precise measurements.


On the back we had to cut a rebate for the mirror glass.  Many tools are used to get this done: a scalpel and ruler to get the lines straight, ball cutters, scrapers, small chisels, files etc.  Anything to get to the right depth and getting it perfectly flat (which is hard, I'll tell you!)


But, as you can see I did manage to get the rebate nice and flat.  The next step was to cut out the overall shape on the outside.  Even though this shape wont remain like this as I will cut leaves and curls into it, the goal is to get it as symmetrical as possible before you start to do any carving. 


 A good deal of time was spent getting it symmetrical.   In this photo I wasn't quite finished with that yet, but the basic shape is appearing.  I the background some of the tools I was using.  Basically, anything that works for getting the shape you want can be used. 


 
On the third day I got the two feet finished.  At first it is difficult because you have no idea how deep to carve, getting the tools to work for you and trying to get the right shapes!  Well, it is still difficult but we can't expect to be as good as the master (although we sure all would like to be!).


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64 comments

  1. Wow that looks like intricate work. Sometimes you just don't appreciate how much time and effort goes into something like this.

    If you don't mind me asking, what wax are you using? It looks like it would carve well

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    1. We used special jewelers carving wax blocks for the lost wax technique. There are three degrees of hardness in the wax we used, green=hard wax, blue=medium wax and pink=soft wax. As you can see in the photos we used the medium wax ;-)
      I don't know the brand name of the stuff, but I am sure if you google çarving wax' you will come up with something. I have seen several jewelers carving wax blocks online which had slightly different colours for the degrees of hardness, but as I said we used blue which in this case was a medium hardness.

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  2. Oh!Quelle chance de pouvoir suivre ce stage. J'ai hâte de voir la suite de ce travail!

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    1. Yes I am very lucky these classes are held each year close to where I live. Always fun and lots to learn!

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  3. Hey Josje
    you have done a lovely job with the frame, well done. It's fascinating how the process is made. I look forward to seeing the final mirror.
    x

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    1. Thank you Simon. The process was new to me as well. I couldn't quite comprehend how the wax was replaced by silver in the casting process, but now I understand.

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  4. Wat een prachtige spiegel.

    Groetjes Xandra

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    1. Dank je Xandra. Nou, het moet nog een spiegel worden en ik hoop dat het als ik alles gesneden heb nog steeds aardig eruit ziet ;)

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  5. Leuk om het zo stapsgewijs te zien. Het is weer vakwerk wat je doet.Het word vast een hele mooie spiegel.
    Liefs
    Maria

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    1. Dank je Maria. Als je het naast het werk van Jens houdt zie je meteen dat ik nog héééél veel moet leren, haha.

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  6. How much work! But I'm sure will be wonderful. :)

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    1. Yes, none of us imagined it would be that much work! Only one of the students got her mirror carving finished, with some help from Jens ;-) The rest of us have a lot of homework ;-)

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  7. Josje, so much work involved into a small mirror.
    It will be beautiful,I already know.
    That's truly something far beyond my capabilities, you are so clever at everything.
    I'll look forward the next steps, Rosanna

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    1. Oh you won't know that until you try Rosanna! And if you get stuck there is always Jens who will help you along....and then you get frustrated because if he does it it seems só easy....;-)

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  9. Josje,

    Such a lot of precious time has gone into this frame and i am sure once it's finished it will be a very precious item, so well worth the effort.

    Fi x

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    1. Yes Fiona, when this is finished I think I'll be very pleased and regard it as one of my treasures. Lots of work still to do until then....

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  10. Replies
    1. Yes, more work than anticipated! I hope to get better (read: faster) at it.

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  11. Looking good, carving wax is fun!
    Getting it perfectly flat is easier with a simple jig you could make from wood that holds a scraping tool at depth.

    The jig that holds the scraper bridges across your wax piece. A screw locks against the tool allowing the scraping blade to be raised or lowered and locked into position. You can get some idea of how to make one by looking at woodworking tools called "router planes". But those tools won't have the bridging feature and they have a bent tooth scraper versus a nearly vertical scraper similar to a straight chisel which will be more suitable for wax.


    By also incorporating an edge guide you will be able to do an accurate width of mortise registered against an edge.

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    1. Sounds like a handy little jig Karin. I'll keep it in mind for a next time!
      We didn't have any jigs available during the class. I must say it did give us a bit of a feel for the wax and which tools to use before we started carving so that was good. Of course Jens does this kind of stuff with one hand behind his back while reading his texts using no jigs ;-)
      So all we needed was a little bit of practise, about 30 years or so should do the trick.

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    2. It does not take 30 years to get proficient at carving wax if you do it everyday.

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    3. Haha! No it doesn't. I don't think I'll be doing it every day though. But in all seriousness, I have seen how only a few days of practise with a good teacher can improve me considerably.

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  12. A working jeweler! How nice, Josie! Good!

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    1. Well, only going through the steps of learning how it's done. I would not dare call myself a jeweler!

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  13. What a wonderful job you are doing on it! I know already it is going to be beautiful. The design is lovely.

    I adore carving wax! There are so many different types of casting waxes. There is a soft dark brown one that can be almost used like clay. I still have a lot of wax but with mine you have to use a hot tool. I have lots of old dental ones for that. Also a alcohol lamp. You can't use a candle to heat your tool because it leaves carbon deposits on the wax.

    Here is a weird tip for your carving wax. You can sand it with a old nylon stocking! You just cut off a bit and stretch it over your forefinger (holding the rest in your hand). Try it. :-)

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    1. Thanks Catherine. Yes I expect you have experience in working with waxes. Working as a metal smith has such a wonderful array of techniques! If I had known this when I started university I might have switched to the silver school.
      My friend is a dental technician and uses soft waxes and methods you have described as well. She brought all of her tools to class and tried different techniques in combination with the hard wax we used in class. One of her handy machines was for heating up her dental tools which allowed her to perform a quick repair on a little mishap. But even with her years of experience, this carving was new to her and not at all easy!

      Thanks for the tip with the pantyhose! I will definitely give that a try!

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    2. Josje, There is also something called a wax pen. It also uses a different wax. THAT I have to buy!!! Maybe Jens can tell you where to buy one there.

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    3. That sounds like a great tool to have! I'll look into it. Jens doesn't use many gadgets, just a block of wax and a few simple tools. I'll ask him if he knows about this tool. Thanks!

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  14. Nice! It's gonna sparkle, that's for sure. I know you really like working with silver, but for this technique you've got to capture the characteristics of the wax first. It is wonderful to model once you get a feel for it. The lost wax method has great potential too if you are gonna make a master. Unfortunately the investment in equipment is quit substantial, but I take it Jens facilitates you all in this. Enjoy this great opportunity! Definitely gonna follow your steps in this intriguing field

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    1. I really enjoy getting a feel for all of the aspects of working with silver, including now working with the wax. Yes, as with many art forms, the investment in tools and machinery is what is holding me back from experimenting with it. I would have liked to buy a pottery kiln as well, but the cost (and size) of it has led me to abandon that road.
      Yes, Jens facilitates in the casting etc. In October we will be stating the second stage of the job, finishing the piece after it has been cast. This is something we have all done before, but still takes a good few days!

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  15. A great work. I like the design.
    Bye Faby

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  16. Lovely Josje, it is going to be wonderful. There is so much I would like to learn in mini, now if I could just figure out how to live to a 1000, that's about how many years I will need.

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    1. Oh yes, so would I! But you are concentrating your talents in a few fields only, and gettting incredibly beautiful results! I should be doing that more I think, I do a bit of this and a bit of that with O.K. results, but never specialising in anything. Oh well, I am having fun!

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  17. Wow... that is just amazing...such a lot of work, but the end results are going to be fantastic. Imagine, a beautiful mirror made by you. Something to be very proud of. Learning something new is so rewarding.
    xoso
    Sandy

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    1. Absolutly Sandy! I am having so much fun learning this and it will be one of my treasures once it is finished, I am sure!

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  18. They already seem to be very beautiful, delicious will be! It really can be difficult because of meticulous, very precise work. I think it also should take care not to break it down. How soft the wax?
    ANDA

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    1. Thank you Anda! The wax is quite hard and will take quite a lot. It doesn't melt or get sof when handling it, and wil take some bumping or scratching. I think we were all afraid to break it in the beginning, as some of the edges on it are only 2 mm thick (and I stil need to do some carving on that!) But after a while you do get a feel for it. Still, I hope I won't break it!

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  19. So great !
    I am speechless ! Because it seems (to me) so unreachable - I am not sure the word is correct - and so impossible !
    Wonderful ! I can't wait seeing the complete process.

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    1. Thank you Marie-Laure! I think it would be great if all of you could try this, because I am sure many of you would do very well. It is a shame that only a few of us are able to take these classes. I know I am very lucky to live so close to where these classes are taught!

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  20. Josje, The mirror already looks like it will be stunning! How exciting for you to be learning all about the lost wax method working with metals. Your carving is coming along beautifully! I look forward to seeing the final piece!

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    1. Thank you Patty, yes it is exciting! Of course the actual casting won't be done by us, as it is a very specialized process, with expensive equipment. But the actual carving and then finishing of the silver cast will all be done by us. I look forward to seeing the final piece also ;-)

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  21. It looks amazing already and with such a good instructor I'm sure it'll be wonderful when finished. I would be terrified of slipping and chopping a big piece off! Gill x

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    1. Thank you Gill! The very first start of the carving is very scary, especially the part where you start carving the actual design on the front. And yes, you do make mistakes and it won't be perfect when finished, but none of use chopped a big piece off and I hope we won't when we finish it at home!

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  22. So far everything looks marvellous. This is all new to me so I'm really keen to follow your progress through to the end.

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    1. Thank you Irene! I hope to show more photos of the progress this summer.
      I went through you old posts on your blog yesterday and so enjoyed it!

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  23. A most challenging project! I have no doubt but that the end result will be everything you hope it will be. I am looking forward to seeing it when it is completed.

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    1. A challenge indeed! It is pushing all of us in the class to do something we're not sure we can do. There was a lot of doubting going on during the class, I can tell you! We always look at the teachers skills and expect to do as well as he, which is totally unrealistic of course. But I must say we are all doing really well, and I expect to see a couple of beautiful mirrors appear when we finish them in October!

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    2. Josje, I just know that your mirror will be a beauty to behold! I have a lot of confidence in your skills because I have seen what you can do!

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  24. WOW!!
    Was für eine herrliche Arbeit!!!! Ich bin begeistert und bin gespannt auf den fertigen Spiegel

    Liebe Grüße
    Alexandra

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  25. Hello Josje,
    You're off to a greats tart. The detail you've carved into the wax is beautiful. I can't wait to see progress on this piece. You're work is always so inspirational.
    Have a wonderful week,
    Giac

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    1. Ha yes, the start is there...and now for the rest! That is a bit daunting I must admit. In a few weeks I shall have some time to work on my miniatures again and I will start on finishing it. We will see what happens ;-) Thanks for your kind words!

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  26. Enhorabuena por el talento que tienes, es un fantastico trabajo seguro que quedara perfecto.
    Me encanta!!
    besitos ascension

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    1. Not perfect by a long shot ;-) but thank you Ascension!

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  27. Hi Josje,
    You've done a lot of work during the workshop.
    It's allready looking nice.....and in silver it will be stunning I'm sure.
    And with Jens help you all will succeed I'm sure.

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    1. Yes it will be fun to see this cast in silver, maybe even partiall gilded as well! For the final carving we won't have Jens there as we'll be doing this at home, but for the second part of the work (finishing the silver casting) we can expect his help again.
      How is your work going? Only 1,5 months left, right?

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  28. The carving looks really wonderful. This is a really special project that most of us wouldn't even think of attempting!

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    1. Thanks Norma! Well, if you have a class like that available in your area, you just have to take it, don't you?

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  29. Ziet er erg goed uit tot zover Josje,
    ben erg benieuwd naar het eindresultaat.

    xxxx Conny

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    1. Hoi Conny! Ja ik ook...;-) Nog een half jaartje wachten!

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  30. Es un trabajo muy duro que luego tendrá su recompensa porque te quedará precioso el espejo. Besos

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  31. I hope so! We'll have to wait and see...
    Thank you Sionchi!

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