Teaching Pysankarstvo:

Wax Removal


There was a time when I used liquid organic solvents to remove beeswax; although a slow process, it was safer in that you could avoid the scorching and dropping of eggs which can happen during candle removal of wax.

It turned out that the solvent which worked best for this (it was of similar density to water and allowed the eggs to submerge), Carbosol, was bad for to the environment, and it was understandably banned.  Since other solvents don’t work nearly as well (the eggs would not submerge, the process took much longer, the fumes were strong), I returned to one of the old-fashioned ways of removing wax–with a candle–for both my own work, and for classes.

The Slavko Nowytsky movie that I show in my classes demonstrates how to remove wax with a candle; I point this out while my students are watching it.  I also bring up several important points:

  1. remind them to open the wax plug on emptied eggs before beginning to remove the wax (otherwise the egg might explode when heated)

  2. tell them which papers to use to clean the wax off of the egg; it is usually the paper towel at their work station, but sometimes we have dedicated stacks of other paper towel for this purpose (cheap, thin ones).  It is never the Kleenex.

  3. discuss fire safety (tie back hair, remove excess paper products from the tables, don’t play with candles, etc.)

  4. tell them that an emptied eggshell can get QUITE HOT, so to be careful not to overheat it and burn one’s fingers or drop the pysanka

  5. remind them to heat the egg NEXT TO the flame, not above it, to avoid scorching and soot deposition

Additionally, once students get to the point of needing to remove the wax I (or an assistant) will demonstrate the technique at each table on the first finished pysanka that becomes available.  While demonstrating, I will reiterate the points above. I will remove some of the wax, enough that the technique can be seen and understood, and then allow the student to finish de-waxing it.

Note: in classes where emptied eggs are being used, it is quite reasonable to use a heat gun for wax removal.  This speeds up the process significantly.  However, the students will miss out on learning how to do more traditional wax removal, and I believe this is an important skill for them to learn, as beginners will often work on full eggs at home, and may not own a heat gun.

It may be reasonable to have a heat gun around for demonstration purposes, or to use one to do a final wax clean-up after the student is done doing candle removal.


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