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Jewelry Tutorial - Carving Wax Egrets /  Cameo

Wax Carving -  Egrets


I start this tutorial off with wax carving an Egret. I want to carve a cameo of about 30mm by 30mm for use in future picture pendants. So I am going to carve it, then cast it into silver, finish the master, vulcanize it and inject it for future use. This part will concern itself only with the wax part and wax in general.  These pictures are no Geographical quality (grin) but they hopefully will get the message across. Also, this is how I do it. There are many, many other ways of achieving the same result and some that are probably better than mine. However this is what works for me. Any comments and questions can be e-mailed to (that's me)......

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I like Ferris or Matt purple wax. I buy it in sheet and block form from All the tools I shown are by and large handmade, but Kate Wolf sell excellent sets of tools. 

This  is the wax sheet

These are the ten top tools I use.  The first four are pickers with pictures below. Number five is just a pin for heating to build up wax, no. 6 is a bristle brush, no 7 is a riffler file that has been bent (pic below) no. 8 is a Barrette needle file and no. 10 is a scalpel. I use pencils as permanent holders, and then I spray then different colours, so white are always ball frazers of various thicknesses and black are always tapered points of various thicknesses, etc,etc. Make finding the things easier when they are all in a pile and you are on your 3rd glass of wine! (Grin)

This is the picker. This is my most useful tool of all. It is simply an old burr that I ground to a point and heated it up to soften and bend it. Then I polish it up. I have various types of these, and they go into a pin vice.

This is a Riffler file, which I heated up with a torch and bent upwards. Very handy, and since I onl file wax with it, there is no need to re-harden it.

A  dental diamond bur, also heated up and bent. I have various shapes of these.

A bent ball frazer, probably my second favourite tool next to a pick.


So now we come to the actual start of things. The subject is a White Egret, a bird common in Botswana and where I took the picture. After I sized the picture in Photoshop I printed it out. Exactly the size I wanted. I also printed out the picture in full size and, for that matter I have MANY other pictures of the subject that I am carving stuck up around me. Never carve from memory alone.
So here I have used masking tar to stick my small picture onto the purple wax. Nice and flat and neat. I used to use clear adhesive as well and sometimes I still do but it can seep through the paper and cause some loss of clarity. Now I take my scalpel and cut through the paper and into the wax, leaving a thin line

Like this--- birds are easy, but were I to do a face or something more defined, I would obviously put more lines in. Not to many though, because otherwise they become confusing and you get lost. Now it is tine to use tool no 1 the bent, polished pick. The thin one first...

Like this. Here I am defining the shape and carving the background away. As ol' Leo said, I am removing all the stuff that doesn't look like an egret...

By now I have removed quite a lot and I am starting to look at the thickness of the final piece. I want about 2-3 mm. When I have the right thickness, then I file the back away, toward the egret, until the surrounding wax becomes transparent. Then it is easy to cut the remaining wax away, using tool no1, your pick.

Like this.. Now I sprue it up and cast it using a centrifugal caster. Once I have it cast, normally in silver that is mixed in a 97% alloy (because it casts easy and is easy to engrave) I will then re-sprue and vulcanize for mass production, should that be the need.. Below is a typical pendant where I would use this type of product. I have sold the first egret pendant that I made so I am showing my Fish eagle one. Anyway, you get the idea...

This ends the "How I do it". I hope is was clear enough. The Jewelry Tutorial on Basic Spin Casting will show you how to cast your wax model. If you have any questions or wish to be notified of any new tutorials that are posted, email me at

Even though this is a free Tutorial, there remains a contractual obligation to the intellectual property of Hans Meevis. It is not permitted to copy this tutorial content in any manner whatsoever, be it in print or otherwise, nor be published online regardless as to whether a back link is included.

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