Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Only Wish I Was Waxing Poetic...

I am, in fact, waxing anything but.....  I've been working on the Roman wax tablets since Friday, not continuously, of course...but, off and on.
The first thing I did was to sand the edges of the tablets down.  I then put them in the oven on the warm setting so that the wood could heat and allow the wax to saturate it.  The instructions I was using said to set up a double boiler to melt the beeswax.  I didn't have one, so I used a pot with an aluminum pie pan on top.  It worked perfectly.
I had previously read that before painting the full amount of beeswax into the recessed area, to paint some of the beeswax on to slake the natural thirst of wood.  I did that...  I then added between a fourth and a half of the small square of wax dye to the natural colored beeswax and mixed it up. One resource said to paint the beeswax in the recessed area using smooth strokes with minimal to no overlapping.  So, I took the now sage colored wax and began painting it into the tablet with a 1" paintbrush.  I had, the wax was cooling pretty quickly while I was doing this and it just was not looking smooth at all. 
You see....not smooth.  I even tried using a medicine cup to dip some of the melted wax out and pour it onto the tablet, but that only added small increments of wax at a time - which cooled in patches.

Jacob was excited and immediately tested it out.  We didn't have a stylus made, so I let him use a nail.  It worked pretty could actually see what he wrote.

Here I am melting down a chunk of the beeswax with the red wax dye.
I put it on the tablets in the same way I did the sage....painting it on with a paintbrush.  I really wasn't satisfied with the way they were looking.  After I used the brown wax in a different tablet, and took the aluminum pan off to cool, I noticed that the wax in the pan had cooled nice and smooth and looked great.   Which gave me an idea!  I could possibly put the tablets in the oven on warm, let the wax melt totally, and then it would cool nice and even.  I put one in and voila!  It worked!  I put the remaining tablets (except one) in, melted the wax to a liquid, and then turned the oven off and let them all cool.  They looked dramatically better!

Even though they looked better, I now realized that the wax was too thin.  I needed more in the tablets.  One of the tablets had a crack in the wood that went through the recessed area and to the other side....meaning if I put it in the oven, the wax would just turn to a liquid and run out the crack into my oven.  I was pondering how to fix it, when I decided I could just melt the wax in a separate container and pour it onto the tablet in enough quantity to completely cover the recessed area, thereby making it cool smooth and even.

The one on the left is the tablet with the crack.  This method worked so effectively that I decided to fix the remaining tablets in the same manner.  I melted the wax in the microwave and then poured it into the tablets not minding if some ran out of the recessed area and onto the margin.  I was so happy with the smoothness of the wax!!  And there were no air bubbles...which I read could occur.  After the wax cooled, I simply scrapped the excess wax off the margins with the edge of a knife.  (I did nearly cut my index finger off with the serrated edge, but you probably won't need to worry about that...LOL)
See how incredibly smooth that brown wax looks?!?!  Man, I was so happy.... when I took the picture, I hadn't finished the orange tablet, so pay it no mind. :)
We used orange, sage, and brown dye.  I'm excited to see which one shows the writing the best....if there is a difference at all.
I tied one of the tablets together with hemp string.  I think they are going to look great.
We still have to make a stylus to go with each tablet.  I was thinking of buying dowels and whittling them to a point on one end and somehow making a flat or ball shape on the other end to smooth the wax after writing.  I am also planning to let the kids use a woodburner to make a simple design on the front of their tablets.  I really hope they work ...  I know there was the question as to the beeswax having the proper writing consistency because I was using wax dye instead of lampblack.  I had originally intended to do one with lampblack just to see the difference, but I didn't.  Hopefully, these will work and the kids will get a feel for how writing was done long ago.  I know I've definitely learned alot and thoroughly enjoyed the process.  :) 

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