How To: Using wickless sealing wax

The easiest way to explain is to watch this video on YouTube!

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A butane torch is recommended for melting wax.  The most important feature is a jet of flame that can go sideways – if the flame only goes straight up, wax can drip onto your lighter  and make a mess (maybe ruin the lighter!), but with a sideways flame it can drip cleanly where you want it to go.  I’ve found the best torch is one found in Home Depot in the Tools section, it’s a Benzomatic brand with a gooseneck like a barbecue lighter.  Bernzomatic goose neck torch

You can also use the type of torch normally used for finishing creme brulee or brazing plumbing, however these can have a very large flame that is more difficult to control. Torch-type cigar lighters also will work, but they may overheat more quickly.

Always use caution to avoid burns from flame or hot wax. Children require adult supervision. Always remove signet rings from your hand before using to make an impression. The ring will get hot, and wax can come around the sides to contact skin directly.

After dripping the hot wax on your document or envelope, stir the puddle a bit with the hot end of the stick. This is to shape the puddle, remove bubbles, and make the color more uniform (especially for metallic colors). You want to let the wax get just a little tacky before impressing it with a seal. For best results, moisten your seal slightly before pressing it into hot wax. If the seal is cold, breathing on it like you are cleaning a pair of reading glasses should be enough.

The hot end of the wax stick will be hot for up to one minute after making a seal . For best results, have a smooth ceramic or metal surface to rest it on while setting your seal. Aluminum foil usually peels off pretty well too.

Your seal or ring will also be very hot – place this on a heat resistant surface for at least a minute before touching the business end.  If you are making many impressions in a short period of time, you may cool the seal on an ice cube – just be sure to dry it very thoroughly before using it again.

Buy sealing wax here.

Designing Your Own Custom Wax Seal or Signet Ring

Customers often ask me, what designs work best as a wax seal or ring? If you already have an image, the easy answer is to just email it to me and I’ll tell you what will work or what changes are needed.

There are some basic details that I almost always need to complete an order:
Your desired image (jpeg preferred)
Your ring or seal size (either try on sizing rings at a jeweler or try this)
Shipping/billing address
Material choice (options and pricing are at http://shpws.me/ooJ4)
What color sealing wax you want with that and how many sticks

Please hit “Request Custom Order” on our Etsy Store for a free design evaluation and price quote.

The two biggest influences on cost and design rules are material and size. Most designs will be about 3/4″ (19 mm) in diameter. This is about the size of an American penny. Most rings will be close to this size, unless your ring size is exceptionally large or small, and all stock seal designs are made this way. 3/4″ seals are less expensive than larger designs, and more efficient with wax – typically about 30 impressions per stick of sealing wax.  I have managed to get 40 impressions out of a stick, with much experience and using a minimum amount of wax.

The largest seals are typically 1″ (25 mm) diameter, slightly bigger than an American quarter. This gives a larger canvas to work with, and is recommended especially for complex designs or a logo surrounded by text. The downsides are higher cost and using more wax, typically closer to 20 impressions per stick.

Seals don’t need to be round – I’ve made triangles, squares, and a leaf shape in the past, many other shapes are possible.

For materials, there are two categories: stainless steel (which can be plated in bronze, nickel, grey, black or gold) and the cast metals (silver, bronze, brass, gold or platinum).

Stainless steel on Shapeways is actually a stainless steel powder, with bronze holding the powder together. This is a lower cost option, but the available detail is lower. Details in your design generally need to be at least 0.040″ (1 mm) wide, which is like drawing with a dull pencil. Usually it’s best for white space between lines to follow this rule as well. There are exceptions and tricks to get more out of this material, such as using layers. Think of it like using different colored pencils to represent details cut to different depths in the stamp, where any place two different colors meet shows as a line on the final seal. Remember that the line width rule applies to each color, and this works best if each color is a larger, shaded area. Letters are generally limited to large monograms, 1-4 characters.  Rings are no longer available in Stainless Steel.

The biggest difference for the cast metals is the minimum line width is half the size, 0.020″ (0.5 mm), like drawing with a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil.  This allows for more detailed artwork and more text.  Small sections as thin as 0.010″ (0.3 mm) can be made, but are not recommended as they don’t always fill with wax properly.
Polished Silver is the most requested material for signet rings, giving fine details at a reasonable cost without concern for tea staining (though some people do have a reaction to silver). It also has a very short production time.
Bronze and brass give the same level of detail to seals at a lower cost than silver, but production time is much longer. Gold or rhodium plating is available on Polished Brass.  Another point to consider about these two materials is something called “tea staining.” Some people have skin chemistry that reacts with these metals with prolonged contact (such as wearing it as a ring). This is a relatively rare and harmless but unsightly brown discoloration that does wash off. I’m told that gold plating or applying clear nail polish to the skin contact area can sometimes prevent the reaction, but I can’t make any guarantees.

Gold and Platinum have a very high cost per cubic centimeter – please DO NOT order these materials through the Shapeways template, as a change in ring size can have a big price impact. Please email orders@lightbringerdesigns.com to request a quote.

These are all more guidelines than rules. Thanks to the flexibility of 3D printing and experience with over 80 unique seal designs, I’m constantly surprising myself with what I can get away with.  You will always get a proof sheet emailed to you before the design is committed to production, showing a rendering of exactly what it will look like.

Please note that all delivery times assume domestic (USA) shipping – international post and customs can cause unpredictable delays!  Also, with any product being designed for the first time, there is always the possibility of unexpected delays in production.  The best defense against this is to order early.

Using your Wax Seal (VIDEO)

If you’ve ever said (or heard somebody say), “A wax seal looks cool, but how do I do that?”, this is your answer.  Learn what tools and products you will need, how to use them, and where to get them.

We’d love to hear your comments and questions – what else do you want to know?  Any ideas for future videos?

Special thanks to Karma Pictures for help with videography and editing.