Assessing Wax for Small Scale Portraiture

I look for different characteristics in wax primarily based upon the size of sculpture I am working on.  My assessments here are based upon trying to find a good mixture for 1/3 size portraiture.



Left to Right Top row first.

  1. Joe’s new injection wax red #700-6252
  2. Davis plus a white crayola
  3. Cx5
  4. Davis plus a little orange and yellow crayola
  5. Joe’s new injection wax aqua #700-626
  6. Davis
  7. Joes Aqua and a little hard red.


The salient features that I assessed the waxes against were as follows.

Translucency vs. Opacity:

If the wax has any translucency you are seeing INTO the sculpture instead of interacting with the surface.  This surface fog of translucency hides details and slight variations that can easily be seen when using an opaque wax.  Therefore I want opaque.


I want the wax to be hard enough to get a crisp ridge line for the eyelids.  But it needs to be soft enough to smooth easily and to be carved down with a small wire tool.  By the time I get it into wax I hopefully will have a decent enough likeness that I won’t have move too much wax around.


I want a nice easy to look at non-fatiguing color.  I want it in a value range similar to the model whose likeness I am trying to capture.

Melted Viscosity:

I want the melted viscosity to be low.  If it has high viscosity then it takes longer to buildup in large areas because you have to wait for the wax to cool before adding more on.

Melted Color:

The color of the wax when it is melted is often darker compared to the wax when it is in its’ solid state.  Having the melted liquid color of the wax match its solid color is a small but appreciable luxury.  It makes matching the areas of buildup with a hot wax-tool a little easier.

Current Favorite Blend:

In the past I typically used the same recipe for wax as the bronze sculptor William Davis.  He used a mixture of 2B2 and AB43 both from J.F. McCaughin M.Argueso and Co.  Because AB43 is super hard and the 2B2 is very soft you can easily get a hardness you desire by melting them together.  I start with roughly one part hard to two parts soft.  If it still feels too hard or soft I just add a small chunk of the opposite.

This recipe feels really good to me.  I have been using it roughly 9 years so it has a definite advantage.  There are a few slight drawbacks.  When you make a really hard mixture it is brittle.  The other drawback is only evident when you are working on a small scale.  If a .5 millimeter variation is important to the form then the translucency is such that it hides the slight variations of the surface.

With this project I added some white crayola to the mixture with pleasing results.  It makes the wax opaque in addition to making it slightly lighter.  The melted color is pretty consistent with the solid color.  I have noticed that if you add a lot it makes the mix much softer and a little flakey.


The readability of the surface of Cx5 is clearly the best in this lineup.  It is pretty hard to work with though.  In a hard state it is too hard to move around and in a melted state it is too viscous.  I haven’t yet learned how to walk the narrow temperature range between the two.

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