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Respirators

Whether or not a respirator is helpful to have in your arsenal of tools is contingent upon what you expect to use it for- mixing pigments, while painting, et cetera.

To further elaborate, respirators require filters that protect you from certain fumes and particulates and vary with each type/model of filter cartridge. They are a proven preventive measures with many products; however, encaustic's obscure exsitance makes it difficult to find accurate data. This conflicting data about respirators and there effectiveness against wax fumes or rather encaustic fumes are frustrating to say the least; I am not going to add to the confusion by adding my own unfounded data.

Rather, I will focus on other preventative measures that could help you reduce risk; which I mean read Encaustic Safety Precautions and ventilate your studio space and/or ask a trusted expert on chemicals and respirators. As for particulates there is fairly well known data- just remember to read the packaging and purchase the one most effective for the job.

Ceramic

Clay has been a pigment in paints and the building block for pottery and ceramics for centuries; it can also offer up an array of possibilities when working with encaustic.

The porous qualities of ceramic allow the paint to seep into the surface before lying on the surface; left at this stage it has a dry, rough appearance and a more natural ceramic like feel. When more paint is layered on the surface it becomes like any typical substrate (wood, etc.).

Ceramic also holds heat longer than traditional painting substrates and this allows more working time. More working time keeps the encaustic soft and pliable; allowing you to manipulate it in ways that become difficult when it has cooled (see alla prima). Objects can be shaped and later attached, glazed traditionally or painted with encaustic. Relief, texture, and writing are just a few things that come to mind.

There is also the question of high fired versus low fired clay. Personally I have used both low and high and found little difference in encaustic; however, more often than not low fired is recommended.

Beeswax

The main component of encaustic is beeswax, the secretion made (of course) by bees which is used to build hives or honeycombs. The wax is white in its most natural form, when first secreted by the bee; however, impurities like pollen contaminate and discolor the wax giving to shades of yellows and browns. Contaminants are either filtered, bleached (chemically or naturally) to return it to this white state.

The stability of the wax is one reason these so called contaminants are removed. Additionally they dilute the concentration of the pigment added to give encaustic its color. In combination with a hardener (damar, carnauba, etcetera) and a pigment, the wax can not hold the addition of the contaminant without losing its ability to stay structurally stable. Consider the contaminate in the ratios when choosing to use crude or unrefined beeswax to prevent such problems. However, these ratios can be difficult to gauge and it is suggested that you only use a very small percentage of pigment. The recipe should include the contaminate as part of the combined collection of pigments that make up the necessary percentage. And when making your own concentrated encaustic colors use pharmaceutical grade beeswax. This is particularly important when making white encaustic paints.

To learn more on making your own encaustic paint read How to Make Encaustic Medium and Paint.

Carnauba

Carnauba is a non-toxic hard yellowish to brownish wax from leaves of the carnauba palm used in food, cosmetics, automobile and furniture wax, and as discussed here- to temper encaustic paint (use no more than 5%). Keep in mind that ratios vary with the added use of damar resin.

Carnauba wax has a very high melting point of 180-187 °F (82-86 °C). It is extremely hard and nearly insoluble. It is also a renewable resources.

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Revisiting old topics and filling in holes is quite a chore, yet a necessary one, one that will offer more quality information. For example: recent activity and questions surrounding hardboard and/or masonite, has directed our attention to fill in the blanks on that topic (currently under revision/addition), as well as, more about gesso (specifically encaustic gesso) and other topics (search the tabs), all are in the works. 

Prior years were to get as much general information as possible up and available- a starting point. More and more however, new topics are focused and detailed, and old ones will be getting revisiting; removing any possibility of confusion. 

I should point out that this is a one person operation (takes me awhile to get around to everything, ohh yeah, I should make some art), Anyway, where was I?, oh! one person operation..., even though I tend to refer in posts and topics as we, it is to remove the need to revisit things later when it really is we. All of this whilst working, making art, and whatever may be the case.

As always, I welcome any opinions, comments, and questions- simply contact me.

Thank you
Sincerely
Jonathan Parks