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Wax Modeling

Wax Modeling.  Creating a bas-relief design in a wax media – natural or synthetic – as beeswax or paraffin. Coin and medal models are excellent for wax modeling because they are relatively small, do not need an armature (as do larger models), and the wax can be carved with extreme sharpness and with great detail. Wax is pliable when warm, yet hard and ductile when kept cool and undisturbed. wire tools are used for carving wax, they can be used at room temperature or heated for easier cutting and carving. The wax model will not shrink, as clay would do, and becomes very hard in time, though it is not considered a permanent media, but more for creating models and patterns. Artists who prepare their design in wax, often cast their model in plaster for use by manufacturers.

Modeling in wax using wire tools is often aided with a tiny bit of oil. Experience wax modelers will rub their wire tool across their nose. Ironically facial oil is one of the best for use with wax. One modeler stated that when he is doing a lot of modeling and drawing the tool next to his nose notes that the body tends to secrete more oil as needed (as if there is a faucet he could subconsciously control this flow).

Portraits are excellent for wax modeling as the wax has somewhat of a naturalistic feeling like human skin (and is the reason it can be colored and given hair for statues in waxworks museums). Wax portraiture was widely done prior to the 19th century, when it was superseded somewhat by photography.

See modeling.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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