Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jewelry School Adventures - Wax Carving

Last year when I first learned of the existence of Jewelry Studies International in my own hometown, I was dismayed to find that I'd missed Kate Wolf visiting to teach wax carving. So I resolved to take the class when she returned this year. Last week I finally got to take a workshop with this master wax carver.

Our first project was learning to get the feel of the wax while simultaneously creating a matched mirror set of simple hearts. Kate is an innovator, and most of the equipment and techniques that we used were invented by her to solve various technical issues. I first carved wax in an introductory jewelry class with Claire Holliday a decade ago. The green, blue, and purple waxes we used then are still available, but so are these gold colored forms that look much more like metal.

Next we moved to carving a bezel to fit a pear shaped stone. I removed some of the bezel wall, but haven't yet completed the carving and hollowing out. Time to get out the carvers and get to work.

Both the hearts and bezel started out as a solid block of wax like this one, where I've started working on a bezel for a long pear stone.

A few days into the course, we were finally let loose on the lathe. Our flex shafts mounted into collars to spin sections of wax rods, which we then tooled by hand with gravers. I went wild and cut many different bezels and rings.

We also learned to attach the bezels to the rings.

And to add decorations via relief wax and carving.

Finally, we learned to do complicated layout for an asymmetric ring to be carved by hand. We didn't have time to do all the work ourselves, but we saw one completed in class.

Kate is a fabulous instructor - patient, innovative, funny and encouraging. If you have a chance to study with her, I highly recommend it. However, prepare for the tool-ordering frenzy on the last day. You won't know how you lived before Wicked Sticky, color coded carving tools, a belt sander for your flex shaft, and a zillion other treasures.