Fighting with a wax injector

6 years, 4 months ago 34
Posted in: Doll Accessories

My New Year’s resolution this year was to learn a bunch of new technical skills that would enhance my art practice of making dolls. Specialization is good, but diversifying one’s skills opens new doors to creativity and discourages stagnation. Creating a large, porcelain Enchanted Doll this winter/spring, had given me a fantastic opportunity to expand my skill set, but I also decided to learn the art of wax injecting.

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When I decide to learn something, I usually jump in with both feet and commit 100%. So, I bought all the necessary injection equipment and began to practice. While my new wax injector and I are still getting to know each other, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Until I tried my new Brocade corset moulds. They were difficult to inject and it took me nearly 6 hours of non-stop injections to figure out why I was failing. I tried different temperature settings, I experimented with pressure and viscosity, I tried every method of clamping I could think of….nothing was working.

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I knew the mould was entirely injectable, since my jewelry technician had already pulled a few decent waxes from it earlier. It was all about the subtleties of the injection technique, while my failure to succeed at something I just started was totally normal. Still, the fact that I was failing over and over again for 6 straight hours without seeming to progress even a little, was really unsettling me.

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I was baffled at my uncharacteristic inability to make it work, because grasping the basics of how something works usually comes easier to me. It shocked me that my most sincerest, consistent efforts were not being rewarded with some measure of success as they usually are. And that’s what I mean about reaching a certain level of skill and comfort, and then plateauing and eventually stagnating without new challenges.

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Long story short, I eventually got it to work, but the experience of prolonged failure really took me down a notch. Like they say; When at first you don’t succeed – try and try, and try again.

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I really love my new wax injector, by the way. While before I had to rely on someone else to inject my rubber jewelry moulds, now I can do it myself. Having said this, doing everything yourself is not always the most efficient or the right way, because it takes time to get very good at something. Sometimes one just has to let the specialists do their special things which the rest of us can’t or won’t. We always have to consider the ratio of returns on one’s investments.

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But in this case, I think that having this wax injector was worth the investment of a 6 hour learning curve. Although in truth, it will take me years to become an injecting virtuoso. The main thing is that it will ultimately enhance my art practice by injecting a new dose of creative freedom into it, and that ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s all about.

34 Responses

  1. Anthony says:

    Fascinating!!!!! I get so discouraged when something doesn’t turn out as planed that I often end up abandoning the project, it is so encouraging to hear you don’t give up no matter how many tries it takes!!! I have to give this a go every now and again. P.S. I love the brocade corset with all the holes in it, for a second I thought it was a new corset mold, it’s so beautiful and delicate <3

  2. Phoenix says:

    Marina, do you mind explaining SHORTLY why you need a model out of wax in order to make a piece out of silver/metal??? I am not into jewellry and I am really curious how this is tied together oO

    • Mai says:

      Phoenix, the process of casting metal is mysterious to many, but many artists use the lost-wax casting method. These wax injected pieces will be joined together in a tree-like structure with connections called sprues, and then suspended in a plaster-like material called investment, and placed in a kiln. The entire investment will be heated, and the wax injections will melt, leaving behind (in Marina’s case) corset-shaped cavities in the investment. These will be filled with molten metal. Once the metal has cooled, the investment will be broken open to reveal solid metal castings. I hope this brief explanation has demystified the process somewhat. :)

      • Marina says:

        Thank you for explaining it so eloquently and clearly, Mai. It made me want to make jewelry all over again, even though I already am.

        • Mai says:

          Thank you for sharing your journey with us…including the challenging moments. It takes courage to reveal the less-than-perfect attempts along the way. (And really, I think a six-hour learning curve for mastering wax-injections of this high level of detail is pretty darn successful. ;) )

          • Phoenix says:

            Wow, thank you so much for your detailed explanation Mai!!! I really appreciate it :-)
            Hugs and have a good weekend!

  3. HeatherBee says:

    Are you using the wrong wax? Is that bee’s wax in your injector? Don’t use bee’s wax, if it is. You need a much thinner, lighter wax. Forgive me if I am mistaken, but you may simply need to try different waxes with your new machine until you find the right one.

  4. Bertha says:

    They already look so good in wax! You are Jack of all trade and good in everything!

  5. Marina says:

    It’s not bee’s wax.
    It’s a low viscosity jeweler’s wax, specifically formulated to be thin and runny for fine filigree injections. It was recommended to me by the jeweller who’s been injecting my moulds for a few years. I’ve also been working with various jeweler’s waxes myself over the last 10 years; carving them, sculpting them, melting them etc., so I know enough about wax to not put bee’s wax into my injector. That would be crazy.

    • HeatherBee says:

      Yes, it would be crazy, that’s why I was asking.

      I am also a jeweler, and you’d be surprised at the things I’ve seen different jewelers try out in their equipment.

      I hope that the process of wax injecting becomes easier for you. I remember learning wax injecting when I was in college with a very delicate piece that one of my professors said couldn’t be done, but I DID finally do it. It was a great feeling and cast very well. Good luck.

  6. jacci says:

    this has nothing to do with the wax injector, though it seems it has been an interesting albeit challenging process. but I love that sketch behind the wax injector and little Echo sitting there. it looks kinda like an Esher-type piece, though I am guessing you or someone else drew it, still it reminds me of his drawings. just wanted to say its an interesting piece and caught my attention right away, before I looked at the rest of the photo. Esher is one of my favs. but awesome that you’re expanding your knowledge of your craft, to be an artist always requires growth, and you take that extra step always, and do it wholeheartedly which is great. kudos.

    • Crystal says:

      The learning process always amazes me. I once saw a man hold a deck of cards in the air with one hand and then cut the deck with his one hand. I took a deck of cards and sat there a long time till I could do it, and I did! The brain learns, it’s so amazing.
      Now you don’t have to wait and rely on anyone else to do this for you. I love the corsets in the last picture that have spaces around the design that goes all the way through, maybe there will be a choice of solid or airy?

  7. Sonia Anne says:

    Thanks for sharing, Marina. I think that most of us do not really know what skills and patience, you really need, to produce these kinds of beautiful things! I just wish that the corsets will be offered for sale, dreaming….

  8. gdfgssdg says:

    Thanks for another interesting post Marina. Can you tell us who did the framed drawing?

  9. Cloudy says:

    Have you considered using a silicon mold instead of plaster (if that is plaster) Pinky seal works nicely.

  10. Daphne Williams says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I myself had tried for months to teach myself how to sculpt. It was very frustrating to me since everyone I have ever met have told me how artistic I was…but this was a level of skill I had never tried before. Like you, when I want to do something, I get that mind set and keep at it for a very long time until I get it right…but after months of trying to sculpt and all the money dumped into it, I decided to leave the sculpting itself up to the professionals. Over the years, I have taught myself how to pour porcelain doll molds, clean the greenware, fire it to bisque, china paint the dolls including the eyes, wig making, sewing…etc….but was unable to learn how to sculpt. I have even been teaching myself how to knit over the past year…I want to make beautiful knit sweaters for the dolls I make. Having said all this, I understand your frustration with the injection of the wax molds. I cannot even imagine how upsetting it was for you since your soooo talented….but I hope I have at least a certain understand of it. Thankfully you did learn how to do it and your willing to keep on working with it until you are professional at it!!! Glad that it finally did start working for you. I wish I hadn’t given up on trying to sculpt when I did because I sold off most of my supplies….and the ones I still have keep calling my name daily. I am seriously considering trying it again soon and hope the results are better…..for now, I am going to keep working on my knitting skills and learning new stitches. I find it absolutely fascinating how you can take thread and turn it into such beautiful things just by using certain stitches! Thanks for sharing this story with us….I am so thankful I found it because it does make my desire to try sculpting again a little stronger but I would one again need to purchase some supplies. Have a beautiful and wonderful day!!!!

  11. Karolina says:

    I have an unrelated question – is the framed sketch in the background of first photo made by you or some other artist? I’m sorry for your struggle with wax but the sketch caugth my eye and I can’t stop thinking about it :-)

  12. That is really amazing. Thanks or the insight.

  13. Lenasha says:

    You have incredible patience!

  14. Eileen Webb says:

    The detail is awesome in your wax. Your vent cutting had to be just crazy!! am running into a similar headache on highly detailed waxes for jewelry – I would describe them as stylistically similar : large, thin & flat (proportionally) with perforations. What wax (mfg & brand) did you end up using, and what was your temp and pressure setting. It looks like you have the same arbe pump unit that I use and were using an rtv vacuumed vs vulcanized mold.

    I am looking at tweeking the viscosity of my wax which seems to be a bit too hard and brittle (new rosey pink pellets). Running at 140 -150F, 8 – 10 lbs seems to be close to good usable end product. Any suggestions?


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  17. Moon says:

    Hello Marina,

    Accidentally I saw your wonderful dolls. (Through Google search) So I can’t believe your artworks with my own eyes I saw now. Your works seems like a fantasy. They don’t have a reality because it is too beautiful. I was really impressed. Your passion and delicacy are so wonderful great. This is my true feelings. You’re really wonderful artists. I will often come to here, for I want see the your wonderful work. I’m rooting for you. :-)

    If you’ll excuse me I’ll only one question. Wax injection machine of the photo, is it hand pump style? Wow, I’m glad to see this photo.
    I’m a Jewelry Designer and consider buying hand pump wax injection now because of various reasons. However, everybody tell me it’s not a good idea. They recommend to me buy the automatic compression injection machine. Have your injection uncomfortable to use? You seem as satisfying and I agree with you. If you’ll excuse me, please tell me the pros and cons of the hand machine to me. It will be a great help to me. Thank you! (* I am a Korean. Please give your patience if there was a mistake in my English. I’ve been trying to keep a polite. If there was a rude expression it is truly a mistake.)

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