Filling The Lute Player’s Cracks, or, My Most Favoritest Tool I Ever Made (and another esoteric beauty that was purchased)


Since one of the critical components for conserving The Lute Player was filling several cracks with pigmented wax for cosmetic purposes, I spent a fair bit of time with my favorite tool I have ever made.  Made from a scrap of vintage ivory I bought from David Warther, this combination spatula and scraper was made just for working wax, and made just for fitting my hand.


I made the tips as curved, one wide (~1/4″) and one narrow (~1/8″), and roughly triangular in cross section.  The flat surface, on the outside of the curve, provides excellent material manipulation and flattening.  The edges work magnificently at trimming wax fills.

I shaped the blades with files and sandpaper, then polished them sharp with 600grit sandpaper wrapped around a 1″ dowel.  For maintenance I do the same with even finer sandpaper.


When it comes to making wax fills in cracks, my favorite tool is this variable-heat stylus that is made to use in assembling wax models for lost-wax metal casting.  While I do use it for that purpose, I find I use it more often for melting wax for linear fills.

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Using this tool I flow in an excess of usually pigmented wax into the crack.


Then  with my ivory tool I carefully scrape off the excess.  The tool is so great that It rarely disturbs the material on either side of the fill.


Once the gross removal is complete I burnish the area with coarse weave linen to pick up any last little bit of the excess wax.

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And with that the wax filling is complete and the surface is ready for inpainting and final toning.