How to Use Sealing Wax &
Other Sealing Wax Information
How to melt the wax and make an impression.
Why we like torch lighters for melting sealing wax.
Regarding the use of matches to melt sealing wax.
Regarding sealing wax sticks with wicks.
The differences between flexible sealing wax and traditional sealing wax.
Dealing with the postal service.
A special note to brides and their fiancés.
Why use sealing wax? A little philosophic meandering…
Historic trivia about sealing wax.
The scents used in Atelier Gargoyle Flexible Sealing Wax.
How to melt the wax and make an impression.
Melting the wax.
There are several methods of melting sealing wax: matches, torch lighter, regular lighter, alcohol lamp, spoon-over-candle-flame, spoon-with-melting pot, glue-gun, etc. We prefer to melt sealing wax directly from the stick using either a torch lighter or a common match. Hold the stick in one hand (your more dexterous hand), and the torch lighter or match in your other hand. If using a torch lighter, aim the flame at the end of the stick, right over the area of your paper where you want the wax to drip. If using a match, hold the match under the end of the stick, and as the stick gets hot, the wax will drip down, through the flame, onto the paper.
Stirring and shaping the puddle (very important!).
Once you have melted a tiny puddle of sealing wax, somewhere between the size of a dime or a quarter depending on the size of the seal you are going to impress upon the wax, you then begin to shape the puddle of wax into the shape of your seal (round, square, oval, rectangular), using the stick of wax as the stir tool. Stirring brings any air bubbles to the surface. Stirring also allows you to feel when the wax begins to stiffen a bit. After doing several seal impressions, you will develop an ability to sense when the wax is at the perfect temperature to take the sharpest, most detailed impression possible.
Creating a moisture barrier.
There are two things we need to be concerned with at this point:
- what sort of wax is to be used, Atelier Gargoyle’s flexible sealing wax or J. Herbin’s traditional formula wax; and
- what material is the seal made of.
If using J. Herbin’s traditional formula sealing wax, a moisture barrier MUST be created on the face of the seal before impressing it into the wax, no matter what material the seal is made of.
If, however, you are using Atelier Gargoyle’s flexible sealing wax, and the seal is made of metal (gold, silver, bronze, brass, copper, or steel), than a vapor barrier is NOT necessary.
But if using a seal made of stone (such as carnelian agate or bloodstone), or of ceramic, glass, terra cotta, or plastic, then a moisture barrier MUST be created or the sealing wax will cling to the seal. Both traditional and flexible waxes will cling to these kinds of seals even more tenaciously than they cling to the paper! Sooner or later this is a small disaster that will have to be dealt with by everyone who uses sealing wax. Nail polish remover or acetone will remove sealing wax of any sort from the seal, as long as the seal is not made of plastic. Acetone can destroy plastic seals.
There are several easy methods of creating a moisture barrier on the face of a seal:
- The simplest is simply to breathe on the seal just as you might breathe on your glasses if you were going to clean them. This is amazingly effective, and it's our own preferred method.
- Lick the face of the seal. Also simple, and it works.
- Nose oil works too! Simply rub the face of the seal on your nose. This works better for people with big greasy noses than people with tiny dry-skinned noses.
- You can brush a bit of oil on the face of the seal. Use oil very sparingly. It’s easy to use too much, and this will cause a disappointing loss of detail in the impression.
- The ice cube method is favored by glue-gun users. Place the seal face-down on an ice cube in between impressions. This causes condensation, especially if the seal is warm from the previous impression.
Impressing the seal, when and how.
The sealing waxes we sell are purpose-designed to take crisp, razor sharp and accurate impressions from the most intricately designed and finely detailed seals ever engraved. Some technique is required to achieve perfect impressions. This can be learned with a bit of practice. Atelier Gargoyle flexible sealing waxes melt at a slightly higher temperature than traditional formula sealing waxes. Consequently they cool down and set up more slowly. An advantage of this is that you have more time to melt your wax, shape the puddle, and then impress the seal into the wax. The pitfall occurs when you impress your seal into the wax too soon. How can you tell if you’ve impressed too soon? The wax seal will be shiny. The sharpest impression will have occurred when the wax seal appears to have a matte surface as opposed to a shiny surface. Practice and experience will soon lead to instinct as to just how long to allow the melted wax to cool before impressing the seal into the wax. Once you’ve firmly placed the seal into the puddle of wax, hold it still for about 5 seconds, and then slowly peel the seal away from the wax.
This whole process is “playing with fire” so we feel the need to say a quick word of caution. We have, at various times, burned our fingers and accidentally set fire to stationery and envelopes and tablecloths. Take care. Watch out for body parts, especially fingers, hair, and noses. Don’t let children do this unless supervised by a responsible adult. The wax is still very hot for several seconds after you pull away the seal, so don’t touch the new seal impression right away, let it cool. Melt your wax in a well-ventilated area that’s free of extraneous paper or other easily flammable things.