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The encaustic iron and edges with Andrea Bird

How to Finish the Edges of Panels with the Encaustic Iron

There are a variety of ways to finish the edges of an encaustic painting

The edges of encaustic paintings/panels can be treated in a variety of ways. Some artists mask the edges, and then remove the tape and paint them in acrylic or chalk paint.  Shou Sugi Ban is another option.

Finish panel edges with Encaustic Medium and the iron

It is also possible to cover the edges with encaustic medium. An encaustic iron, in combination with the blowtorch, is a great tool for this.

Recently, I created a large body of work on panels that were 2″ deep, and I wanted the edges to read as ‘wood’…. no colour added to the encaustic medium. I used the yellow, natural medium, (the colour of honey), fusing the first layer with a blowtorch, to really sink it into the wood surface. The second layer I fused with the encaustic iron, which gives a smooth surface. If you don’t use or have a blowtorch, then fusing both layers with the encaustic iron is fine.

Coloured wax can also be used, using the same method as above… but you will likely need a few more coats to create an even surface. The more intense the colour (e.g. more oil paint/pigment added to the wax), the fewer coats you will need. Sometimes artists will match the colours on the edges to the colours from the piece, or just choose one colour that sets off the painting nicely. I’d recommend neutral colours, but it depends on the look you’re going for. In some cases, a bright red can be wonderful!

It is best to use the ‘nose’ area of the iron as you move across the surface of the edge. It allows for more control. It is important to keep the iron moving in short light strokes, with a medium to light pressure being exerted. This takes a little practice. The temperature of the encaustic iron should be two notches down from ‘low’ for enough heat, but not too much. Overlap each stroke as you go, to create a smooth surface.

I tend to angle the substrate back, with the face of the painting up, so that any drips will fall off the back edge, rather than over the surface of the piece.

Finish the edges before you start to paint

I recommend taking care of edges at the beginning of your painting. If you wait until the end, it may impact on the surface and create problems. The edges can be buffed after they have hardened or cured, to a high shine, as desired.

How do you finish the edges of your encaustic paintings?

I would love to read your comments.

If you liked this post you may also want to read about Ironing over Drips

About Andrea Bird

Andrea Bird graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto. She has been teaching and showing collage and encaustic for over 20 years. She is madly in love with the process of painting with beeswax.

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7 thoughts on “How to Finish the Edges of Panels with the Encaustic Iron”

  1. Jillian Schleger

    I cover the edges with medium which blends in with the colour of the piece. But have trouble with dings and chipping. I love the look of the drips and wax on the sides and would love to continue to cover the sides as such.
    Any thoughts or tips on getting around the sensitive nature? Shellac?

    1. Hi Jillian,

      Yes this is a problem drips are sensitive. This other post about Ironing encaustic drips is one way to preserve the sense of them but yes the edges can still be damaged.

      A floater frame with a large float is one way to protect the edges. You can sort of see it in this detail shot of one of my paintings

      drippy edge of encaustic painting in floater frame

  2. I have been using clear shellac on my edges. I tape them with painters tape before starting the piece and then clean the edge, pull off the tape, sand smooth and then use the shellac. It gives a nice clean finish, clear wood, seals the edges and less work than using medium. Looks about the same. it is also not toxic like other wood sealers. The only problem I have is that it looks slightly unfinished. i think if I used several coats that would give it more of a shine but usually I am doing the edges the day before a show. 🙂

  3. I am working on wood that is just 1/2 inch I can’t afford to frame 8 large pieces, so I am attempting to do a wax edge to finish the plywood. I find it hard to apply enough medium in the white to get coverage. I am on two coats by dapping the brush along the edge then ironing. It seems to just slide right off. i will lower my heat on my iron I think that is part of the issue.
    Any other tips?

    Thanks Andrea, a class with you is in my near future.

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