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How to reclaim wax-covered boards

How to Reclaim Wax-covered Boards

I had an interesting chat with a group of encaustic painters last month about reusing boards. Being stuck at home and having to rely on delivery for our art supplies, we are getting better at reusing what we already have in our studios rather than always buying new.

If you’re like me, you have a stack of boards in your studio—some are old paintings, others were experiments or demo boards in a workshop. You can rework an encaustic painting—adding new layers on top—but sometimes you just want to start over from scratch.

If you have a wood panel (or several) that you want to take back to the bare wood, follow these steps:

Beginning with a layer of clear encaustic medium will seal the panel, you will be able to scrape back to a pristine panel to begin again. However, if you didn’t begin this way, you can follow these steps…

How to reuse a wax-covered wood panel

  1. Use your torch to heat up the panel and start to melt the wax

  2. Use a paint scraper to scrape off the molten wax

    When you scrape off the board you will likely just throw the wax away but you may be able to reuse the encaustic scrapings if you filter out any debris.
    If the scrapings come off in clean ribbons, you can reuse them in other works.

  3. Repeat 1 & 2 until you have removed as much of the wax as you can

    Pay attention as you melt and scrape, you may not need to go all the way back to the bare wood. Some of those old layers may form a great starting point for your new painting.

  4. Sand the surface of the board

    This is an optional step but it really helps if your goal is to get back to bare wood. A power sander is great for this.

  5. Paint a layer of encaustic gesso on the board.

    Another optional step—Encaustic gesso will cover over old marks giving you a cleaner surface as you start fresh.

As Mum always said, “waste not, want not”.

Have you reused, reclaimed, repurposed an old encaustic painting? Leave a comment below.

You can also join the All Things Encaustic Facebook Group and post photos of your paintings.

About Ruth Maude

I enjoy experimenting with a variety of encaustic materials, techniques and tools. Everything I learn pushes my creative journey in new directions. I share what I've learned with other artists through my blog All Things Encaustic.

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13 thoughts on “How to Reclaim Wax-covered Boards”

  1. I didn’t get around to reclaiming the ugly painting on the board. My friend/student turned it upside down and said – there! And it worked! Sometimes you have to look at it from all angles. Pat Ellson

  2. I recently reused an old painting that was in a few shows a while back, one of my 1st in my encaustic journey. I melted the 1st few layers, scraped back but as you mentioned the underpainting had so much colour and texture. After a few layers of a new colour and some carving back whala…..new painting with wonderful underpainting and texture peeking through…thanks Ruth your truly an inspiration and I love how your open to sharing…

  3. I am almost an expert at this
    Just today I reclaimed a board from an old painting. After heating it up I started to scrape back but did not have to go all the way down to the bare wood. Beautiful colors appeard, I added some new ones and have now a nice small abstract painting. The old painting had birds and fence posts and grass.

  4. This is helpful. I hadn’t thought about the sanding but I can see how that would help remove the residue. Plus, I like the phrase “reclaim wax-covered boards” better than my “well, that one didn’t work so what do I do with this panel now?” phrase.

    1. Is there anyway to reclaim a piece that had a photo glued to it with Yes! paste? Would I need to try to sand away the photo and paste? Is that possible?

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