When I am teaching a workshop, I am always asked about the process of making your own Encaustic Medium. I have decided to lay it all out for you here, so you can decide for yourself whether to invest in the process, or leave it to the professionals!
It’s really just a matter of deciding if you’ll be using great quantities, in which making your own would then be a good idea, and if you have the time and the interest. I personally love making Encaustic Medium. It warms me up to the play at hand; I find it relaxing…and you can’t beat the smell! Besides, I (and my students) would quickly go broke if I didn’t make it myself for my workshops. It really keeps the cost of an encaustic workshop down!
Here’s what you’ll need to do it right:
- Unbleached pharmaceutical grade beeswax (buy at least 5 lbs.)
- Damar Resin (1 lb.)
- 2, yes 2 (I use 3, even better!) Electric Skillets with lid and temperature gauge
- 1 measuring cup you can ruin (one or two cup quantity)
- 1 Wooden Spoon you can ruin
- 1 Sieve you can ruin
- Microfiber Cloth (look in the automotive section of the drugstore)
- Paper Towels
- Nitrile disposable gloves
- Optional: Silicone Mat or Silicone Bowl
- Ventilation (I have a vented kitchen fan above my encaustic station. You might use a window with a box fan blowing out. By the way, that’s a bad plan for those of us who have actual winters!)
Here we go! Click on the first picture to get the full tutorial:
Put skillet on “warm” and add as much beeswax as you like for the ratio you are looking for. I use a 5:1 beeswax:resin ratio for Encaustic Jewelry; I use 7:1 for Encaustic Casting; I use an 8:1 for Encaustic Painting; and I use a 9:1 for my beginner Encaustic Painting Students, which is who this batch is for.
Add the Damar Resin Crystals.
Cover you skillet and raise the temperature to 150* then after the beeswax melts, to 160*. This is my station. The medium I am cooking is in the center.
Come back in an hour or so and check out the happenings. Looks like STIFF Taffy. It’s stuck to the bottom. Raise the temperature to 170* and leave it for a couple hours.
But not smooth or soft enough….Here’s where I spike the temperature to 200*.
Stir it for a good while. There’s no way to get it to mix without stirring the dickens out of it.
That’s better. Stir it down to the last lump of the dirtiest tree sap you’ll ever find. All the junk, from bark to insect parts gathers right here. You should see the gunk in a 5:1 batch! Anyway, I get the lump as tiny as possible and take it out onto a paper towel. Now that you mention it, I always add an extra lump in the beginning because I know it’s dire end!
Get your micro fiber cloth going in the sieve, in the warm neighboring skillet.
Cover the sieve while it warms. Turn the temperature up to a nice 150*.
Pull the thermostat out of the first skillet and pour that beautiful buggy batch of medium into the fiber laden sieve.
Hey! It all fit- what do you know? That’s the benefit of heating up your sieve.
Wipe out the bottom of skillet number one so he’s ready to go again.
Cover the sieve full of medium. It takes a little time to drain through into the warm skillet. Actually, it normally only drains halfway because of the sheer height of the medium. Therefore pop your thermostat back into skillet number one…..
And transfer the sieve over to skillet number one when it’s drained halfway. This photo is of me pulling the sieve out of the first skillet after the last has drained.
Eventually I place the empty sieve into the third skillet to reuse, and I pour the two half batches of medium together. But you could just lay your sieve down on Foil, Silicone or immediately get the microfiber out of the sieve while it’s warm and into the trash. Here is the cooled, clean batch of Encaustic Medium for my beginning FAVA students. I like to label everything!
I usually make two batches at a time in my three skillets, and it’s a bit like a juggling match. If I’m really cranking, I do my last pour into a Silicon Bowl, then I wrap, label and stack my beautiful slabs. I was a little low on supplies when I made this tutorial so I didn’t give you the grand circus of wax juggling and pouring. At any rate, I hope you enjoyed yourself and maybe learned something!
Until next time! –Linda