Excerpt From Wolf's Precision Wax Carvers

Educator, jeweler and tool maven Kate Wolf reviews the basics of wax carving and how to get the most out of these quality tools designed to perform for years.

Last edited: 11/9/2020

The Tools

Using only files to carve wax is extremely limiting. Wax offers little resistance to a file, it is easy to catch an edge and file unevenly. The file blocks your view, making it difficult to see how the file is affecting the surface of the wax. Files leave rough marks on the surface of the wax that need to be re-moved. Files, wax burs and cylinder burs are great for roughing out the overall form. These carvers and the techniques shown in this booklet are ideal for transforming a roughed out wax into a refined, precise wax model.


Tool Details: #1 Scribe, #2 Small 90° Tool, #3 Carving Knife, #4 Diamond Point, #5 medium Hollower, #6 medium Rake Hollower, #7 Detailing Knife, #8 small Hollower, #9 small Rake Hollower, #10 medium 90° Tool with safety edge, #11 Pavilion Tool with safety edges, #12 Tapered Triangle, #13 small Rounding Tool, #14 medium Rounding Tool, #15 Undercutting Tool, #16 Concave/Convex, #17 large Hollower, and #18 large Rake Hollower. All have edges (beveled, 90°, 120°, or rounded) designed for specific purposes.


Chatter is an imperfection of the surface of the wax caused by vibration (flexing, skipping and grabbing) of the tool while scraping. (A) To avoid chatter: continually alter your angle of approach as you scrape the surface of the wax. When using thinner tools, position index finger on blade of the tool, close to wax. To get rid of chatter: (B) sweep diagonally across the corduroy-like surface, taking all the high spots down until surface is smooth. For best results, while scraping, adjust the angle of the tool until wax is removed with every stroke. When turning wax on a flex shaft or lathe it is important to support the tool firmly and position index finger on blade of the tool, close to turning wax. Pivot the tool slightly to get rid of chatter.


Knife tools #3 & #7 are carving, shaving and scraping tools. (A) Use the tip of the beveled Knife to 'Relieve Corners'. Make a cut from scribed corner to hole, making it easier to open up pierced out areas. (B-C) Use the back edge of the Knife as a scraper. Lay Knife flat on the surface of the wax, slightly lift up long front edge of the Knife and scrape toward yourself. If material is not removed with each stroke, adjust the angle of the tool until you achieve the optimum cutting angle. (D) The beveled edge of the Knife is ideal for shaving wax. Remove wax a sliver at a time.


(E) Use Tapered Triangle Tool #12 to refine pierced out areas, making the corners crisp and the windows flat and smooth. Put Tapered Triangle Tool in window, with face of tool flat to surface. Shave from side to side. (F) Spin the Tapered Triangle Tool to open up holes. (G) The 90° Tools #2 & #10 are used to hollow out areas with crisp corners and to open up channel settings and bezels. 90° Tool #10 has a safety edge on one of the long sides. To open up bezels, scrape with downward and outward pressure. Pivot tool as you scrape along a rounded surface to maintain the optimum cutting angle. To lower the flat seat without opening up the bezel wall, let the safety edge of 90° Tool #10 ride the bezel wall while scraping the seat.


(H-I) Pavilion Tool #11 is used to carve seats for facetted stones, adjusting a 90° seat to a beveled seat. Let the long safety edge ride on bezel wall, while scraping the 90° seat with the sharp pavilion angle of tool. To open up bezel walls without adjusting beveled seat: allow the safety pavilion edge to ride on bevel, while using outward pressure to open up bezel walls with long, sharp edge of tool. (J) Concave/Convex Tool #16 is used to round forms. (K) Hollowers #5, #8 & #17 and (L) Rake Hollowers #6,#9 & #18 are used to refine concave surfaces. Remove the bulk of material with wax burs, then with overlapping strokes, scrape wax toward yourself with hollowers.



For full access to Kate's lessons on wax carving and the creative options offered by her innovative tools, shop "Wolf's Precision Wax Carvers" book.