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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Folks seem interested in the wax making process, so I decided to post up a little photo essay that (in a different form) I posted on a different forum about the wax making process.

This is a recipe attributed to Jim Leisenring; his original text will be written in blue. I have made a few different recipes, and like this one quite a bit, particularly for a summer wax. Note that this will make TYING WAX, not dubbing wax.

Note that it's pretty sticky, so gloves are highly recommended.

Chapter 3 - Wax

Waxes for fly tying are like hooks - there are all kinds. The wax which I have found to be entirely satisfactory is made according to an old recipe of L. Harrington Keene's as follows:

Melt one half pound of the best white turpentine resin

add one ounce of pure white beeswax

which should be paired off or chopped up into small pieces.

Simmer for fifteen minutes, allowing it to melt and mix thoroughly with the resin.

I waited for the mixture to melt and begin come together / simmer before I began the timer. It actually melted quite quickly. The above picture was about two minutes on low; that below was after four or so.

A close up of the melting rosin. It's really striking beautiful stuff.

Once I got to this stage:

to be continued

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I began the timer

A note on this stage: I turned up the heat somewhat to be sure the mixture was actually simmering... and there was a considerable amount of piney smoke. I am not sure if the smoke was a necessary side effect -- that is, if it needed to be truly simmering and thus smoking, or if keeping it under a simmer, and thus less smokey would have been just as effective. Further testing will tell, I suppose. But the smoke was rather substantial:

(Although it looks like there's a fire, it's just the setting sun). I went downstairs to my daughter's bathroom and borrowed something (she's off at college and won't miss it).

And of course, I had this:

As he says later, when stirring this simmering wax remember that it is extremely inflammable and therefore dangerous.

Now add one half ounce of fresh lard I didn't have lard, but I have it on good authority that Crisco works just as well.

stir slowly while the mixture simmers just below the boiling point for another fifteen minutes

Time's up!

Pour this liquid into a basin of water.


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Discussion Starter · #3 ·

Do not touch it until it has had a chance to cool because your fingers will be badly burned.

After it has cooled enough to permit handling, pull at it and work with it, as taffy pullers do with taffy, until it has a light colour and even texture.

It's best to put on a video of something you've been wanting to watch, because the pulling will take some time.

Stretch it like taffy: stretch, twist, fold. Repeat. Then repeat again. And so on.

Roll it into pieces about the size of hickory nuts, wrap them in wax paper and store in a cool place.

I'll be honest, here. I'm a city boy, and I had to look up the size of hickory nuts. And found that there are several kinds, and several sizes. So I ball parked it.

Some interesting things and initial thoughts:

Here is some of the stretched (below) and unstretched (above - more honey colored) wax.

I was surprised by how sensitive to temperature this stuff is. While I was rolling it, if I rolled it too long, it became quite sticky and hard to deal with. This led to a ******** situation -- until i figured out that I could run the sticky ball under the faucet, running cold water, for a minute or two and it would become manageable again. I would suggest that making the wax on a quite hot (low 80s F) and muggy night was a poor choice -- it'd probably be a lot easier on a cool fall night (when one could still have the windows open, if one chose that path).

When I realized that, I put the big lump into the freezer briefly while I rolled out a 'hickory-nut-sized ball,' only to find that in less than five minutes or so, the wax had, essentially crystallized.

Once out of the freezer, however, it quickly thawed and became quite workable.

Before I poured the mixture into the water for cooling, I poured a small amount directly into a silicone mold, which then went into the freezer for cooling. Some time later, I discovered that the pulled wax was far superior to the unpulled wax -- the poured wax was too, well, solid and crystalline, and took too long to soften.

Other notes: I subbed natural beeswax for white beeswax, Crisco for lard, and I'm not sure if what I have is 'the best white turpentine resin.' At a future date, I will try this recipe with white beeswax to see how significant the color difference is -- and if it has any effect on coloring/not coloring the thread. I'll also wear gloves next time when pulling the wax, as it did get sticky for a while (although that led to the discovery of the significant effect of a slight decrease in temperature, from the cool water).

Thanks for following along.

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Nice process....smoke means too things - hazardous fumes and an increased likelihood of reaching combustion point for the rosin, which is highly flammable.....be careful, take your time and work it out on a lower heat for a longer time.

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Haven't made wax, but Ive made taffy with my mom when I was a kid. (My mother makes Martha Stewart look like an amateur).

Taffy is pulled on a marble slab, in cool weather. We always did it in the fall, cooking up the taffy in the kitchen, then going out on the porch to pull it. It is pulled on a marble slab as it provides the coolness to keep the tackiness at a level that isn't a problem. I think it would work well with this, as the wax looks very similar. Just lay the rolled up wax on the marble, trap one end under the heel of your hand, lift and pull the other end away. Then fold it back over on itself, reverse hand positions, and repeat. And repeat, again. More. Some more. More. Oh you're not done yet, young man. Keep at it.

My mom is awesome, and always made it fun, but the pulling is dull as hell after the first five minutes. There were seven of us kids and we only made taffy a couple times because we all burned out during the pulling phase.

But I think a marble slab, outside on a cool day, would make the pulling go much better.

I use the slab now to prep wax for sculpture work.
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