Friday, October 17, 2008

Ceiling Wax

Ok, I admit it. Until about the age of twelve, I thought it was ceiling wax instead of sealing wax. Somewhere in the back of my mind was the nagging question, "Why would someone need to wax their ceiling." On realizing the correct spelling I had one of those "Duh!" moments. At any rate, this weekend I'm officially taking my second apprentice, Zophia Boreka. The plan is to have a reasonably authentic reproduction of a medieval apprenticeship contract, and for that I will need sealing wax.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, medieval sealing wax was made of a combination of beeswax and resin. Since this is a sort of cooking (kind of, maybe, well ... it's heated in a pot), I figured I'd give a step-by-step description of what I did, complete with pictures.

The Raw Ingredients

beeswax, about 40g

resin (frankincense), about 20g
purchased from Stony Mountain Botanicals

What Was Done

I put the wax and resin into a makeshift double boiler. While I used a bowl I didn't care about in anticipation of not being able to get it clean again, getting the wax off turned out not to be too much of a problem.

ingredients in bowl on top of pot of boiling water

It was at about this point that it occurred to me that it probably would have been easier to melt the wax first and then add the resin powder. It still worked, but probably took longer that it would have. I'll try it the other way next time.

the stuff melts slowly

As I stood over a pot of melting beeswax and frankincense, I realized that this stuff smells really good. It has a sort of sweet-citrus-piney scent that just begs to be a glaze for ham. Please note however that no matter how yummy this stuff smells, do not dip your finger into the hot molten resin and under no circumstances should you taste it.

(no, I didn't do either - but it was really hard to resist the temptation!)

I thought I had a picture of the wax all melted, but apparently the gremlins erased it.

block of commercial candle dye

This is the remains of the block of candle dye I bought at the local craft store. I suppose I could have used a medieval colorant, but then again most of the things they used back then to color sealing wax were really dangerous. I'm not sure how much of this stuff I used - I just kept putting in shavings until I thought it was dark enough.

all done melting and coloring

So all that was left was to pour the wax into a disposable muffin tray I happened to have handy and let it cool. You can see in the picture below where the wax is already hardening around the edges.

a convenient form for the seal blanks

all cool now

Once they're completely cooled, the seal blanks pop out of the foil tray pretty easily. There is something disturbingly familiar about their shape though.

not a peanut butter cup

When it's time to use the wax this weekend, I'll warm it up by putting it in hot water (or maybe in a microwave). This should make it soft enough to press around the pendant cord that is threaded through the document, and also to take an impression from my seal matrix. That's the theory at least. I suppose I should test it out beforehand, eh?

1 comment:

Steph said...

Oh, how cool! I'm interested to know how the final product works out. I just recently learned how resin can be used in artificially aging paper, for an "antique smell." I'm not sure it's the same type you used, but now I have something to research!