View Full Version : Need advice on working with beeswax

06-10-2006, 04:32 PM
For my latest project, I will be starting with a piece of raw (unprimed) canvas and gallery-wrapping it around a frame made of 1x2's with a piece of thin plywood paneling on the front. I will be applying dye or making markings on the canvas before wrapping it.

Once the canvas is wrapped and attached, it will be coated with beeswax. I've never worked with beeswax before, but my intent is to have it permeate the raw canvas, but allow whatever colors and markings are on the raw canvas to show through, even if slightly subdued or blurred by the beeswax.

I'm using the plywood panel as a base for the canvas to keep the weight of the beeswax from making the canvas stretch or sag. It will also allow me to iron the surface when applying the beeswax.

When I wrap the panel, should I apply glue to the panel before wrapping it, or will the beeswax do the job of making it adhere to the panel well enough. If I do glue it, what kind of glue? Elmers?

Any other hints are greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. :)

06-11-2006, 09:58 AM
Since this is somewhat experimental it might be of value to make two small panels, say, 12X12". One glued, one not. Proceed with your process and see what happens.

Beeswax is such a delicate material, would it not be advisable, and this is out of total ignorance, to maybe check out the encaustic clear materials instead.

The gallery where I show recently had a piece of sculpture made with twigs embedded in pure beeswax. These "cards" of beeswax were very yellow and very very delicate. Just touching them would leave marks that were nearly impossible to remove. So the works were handled with cotton gloves and very minimal handling at that. Concerns I have would be the temporary nature of these works if heat were to intense. In theory, if placed in a house like mine that is closed up for extended periods of time without air conditioning might destroy a work of this nature. Would the same apply in this situation, I don't know, I am just bringing up the possibilities I see.

Mary Woodul
06-11-2006, 01:11 PM
I think Howard has given you good advice. The beeswax should be unbleached, pure beeswax. The best way to melt it down would be with a hot gun, but I would use a very thin layer of the wax and apply it molten. Keep the wax on a hot plate to keep it warm while applying and then go over with the hot gun to fuse. I have heard of using damar crystals to harden the wax but I have found through experience that it has taken my pieces a year to hardened to a brittle consistency. In the meantime they are very vulnerable to scratches or indentations. These pieces should not be left in the hot sun or in a warm environment, ever. You would have to glue the canvas to the panel, the wax will not do it.

I hope this helps.:)

06-11-2006, 02:08 PM
Thank you both for your advice. I'll probably do a bit more reading about encaustic and additives before starting. It's good to know that the beeswax itself will not make the canvas adhere to the wood, as I had been considering coating the wood first for that very purpose.

06-11-2006, 05:18 PM
I think beewax can be hardened by adding parrafin wax, like the canning jar wax in grocery stores. Some craft stores sell it also. I am not sure what the correct percentage is of beeswax to parrafin wax to harden it though. I think I've read about people adding caranuaba wax also, but not the kind you wax your car with, that's too soft. There was a thread somewhere here I think that mentioned clarifying beeswax also. I believe it said something like boil the beeswax together with water and vegetable oil over low heat. Not sure how that works, I haven't tried it. The idea is to get the impurities like pollen etc out of the beeswax so it doesn't yellow over time. The panel under the canvas is a good idea, as wax tends to be brittle and could crack if your canvas flexed. You can purchase a cradled panel from Ampersand also, instead of making your own. These just some things I read about here and there, not things I have tried myself, so a little testing with a small amounts of material would be good idea if you decide to pursue any of this.

Mary Woodul
06-11-2006, 05:48 PM
Now that Paul mentions reading about it here, there is this link but also take a look at the helpful links thread.


06-11-2006, 05:56 PM
While I'm planning on working with natural, unbleached beeswax, I do have a block of something called synthetic beeswax that I purchased a few years ago and have never used. It was made by a company called Mangelsen's, but I don't have any more information about what it really is made of or whether it could be mixed with the natural beeswax.

06-12-2006, 06:24 PM
The more I read about beeswax, the more I'm wondering if it will be right for this project. I mentioned that I would be using dyes and markings on the raw canvas, but what I'm actually doing is applying rust to the canvas. I'm using rusty metal to transfer the rust to the canvas by allowing extended contact between the metal and canvas with periodic applications of water to promote the rust.

From what I've read, beeswax will remove or prevent rust, which makes me wonder if it will cause the rust stains on the raw canvas to dissolve or become blurred as the rust mixes with the beeswax. I'm thinking now that maybe I should just use an acrylic sealer, such as PolyCrylic once I've mounted the canvas on the supporting frame, instead of using beeswax for a coating.

Any ideas?

Mary Woodul
06-12-2006, 07:53 PM
You would have to let the rust dry and I would seal it with fixative but I can't guarantee anything. Why don't you take a piece of white cloth similar to that of canvas and glue it to a small piece of board to see what happens. If the idea of the use of the wax, was to seal with, I would go with the acrylic sealer.

08-31-2006, 05:42 PM
The R&F encaustic paints site mentioned above is a great reference for technical information about this wonderful medium. Go to the forum on the site and you'll see a wealth of discussion topics from newbies and well established artists who have been working with encaustics for years. I have had many of my questioned answered before I even knew what to ask!:wave:

08-31-2006, 05:51 PM

Thanks for the advice. Here's the result of my first use of beeswax. The canvas was allowed to sit exposed to the elements with rusting metal sitting on it so that the rust would bleed into the raw fabric. Then, the canvas was stretched over a plywood panel with a 2" cradle, so it ended up as a gallery-wrapped canvas. I used a thin coat of Elmer's glue to adhere the canvas to the panel.
For the beeswax I brushed on a blend of about 1/2 natural beeswax and 1/2 synthetic beesax. I didn't add any damar resin this time around, but perhaps I'll try that in the future.

09-07-2006, 10:12 PM
Well, it came out a-ok Mark! Does it have a title?

09-07-2006, 10:43 PM
Well, it came out a-ok Mark! Does it have a title?

Yes: "Elemental 1"