The cell size that this method produces is 5.6 mm. I
did use my plates to make some brood foundation some years ago, but I
found the leaf press more productive and so I relegated my
'Herring plates' to the job of making section and cut comb
foundation (which they do admirably).
Making blank wax sheets suitable for embossing can be
achieved by one of two methods:-
This method is the one that I use and requires a special double tank
with the inner part containing molten wax and an outer water bath,
containing release agent rather than water,
that warms the wax and keeps the dipping boards wet. This also serves
to re-warm and lubricate the plain sheets when they are about to be
(Ensure that the plywood used is 100% waterproof)
The sizes quoted are suitable for making oversized foundation that can
then be trimmed to size using a template and a 'pizza cutter'
The strip of timber across the top is merely there to
act as handles. The main panels are of 9 mm plywood which is
thick enough not to warp and gives a certain amount of weight to the
item, which makes the dipping easier.
The double tank
Shown with slabs of expanded polystyrene insulation around three sides.
There is a heating element on the bottom surface of the tank and a
thermostat is incorporated. The thermostat is set by trial and error
as the wax temperature does not seem to relate to the dial setting.
Thermostat is set higher than required for keeping the wax
just molten as the liquid wax temperature is depressed by the constant
addition of small chunks of fresh wax. The chunks are made by smashing
wax blocks that have been left out of doors when it is frosty... a
smart blow from a hammer is then all that is needed. I make sure that
all chunks are smaller than the top joint of my thumb so that they
melt fairly quickly.
If I were making this tank from scratch... I would add an
extra section to the front so that next wet board to be used had a
place to drain, and cool slightly, whilst the first was being dipped.
The third board would be 'in soak'.
To use the dipping board method it helps to have several
boards so that the ones that are not being dipped can be kept wet in
the front section of the tank. Take a wet board... shake any loose
water from it and dab the bottom of it on a towel to remove excess
water. Dip it in the
molten wax to within a couple of millimetres of the top handling
strip, withdraw it and allow to cool for a few seconds repeat the
dipping and cooling until sufficient thickness of wax has built up.
(With the temperatures that I use it takes four dips for 'normal'
thickness or two dips up to the red line for making cut comb
Whilst the wax is still warm and 'cheesy' trim all the wax
from the three edges of the board with a smooth, but blunt, knife (I
use an old dinner knife). The two resulting sheets of wax can then
be peeled from the wet plywood and stacked with paper between them to
prevent fusion. The stacking also helps to keep the sheets warm for
the embossing stage of the process.
This method requires several wooden trays and is the one that Mr.
Herring himself used to demonstrate. The trays need be kept wet in
some way, but the double tank is not required.
The dimensions of the inside of the tray should be the same as the
dimensions of the dipping boards in the table above.
To form a sheet in a tray requires a large container full
of molten wax and a 'cheap' plastic jug from a supermarket. The trays
need pre-soaking in water for 24 hours prior to starting the process.
Take a tray and allow excess water to drain from its surface, dip the
jug in the wax and pour a generous amount into the tray. Place the
jug safely on a suitable surface and, using both hands, roll the molten
wax over the entire inner surface of the tray and pour back any excess
into the melted wax reservoir. As the wax solidifies take a blunt
knife and run it around the inside angles of the tray rim, peel off
the waste wax from the rim then remove the sheet itself. You can stack
this sheet and repeat until you have a pile to process or you can
place the still pliable sheet between the embossed plastic plates
(brushed with release agent) and pass it through your wringer to
produce a fully embossed sheet.
However your sheets of foundation are produced they should
be stacked with interleaved paper and allowed to cool to a 'normal'
room temperature before they are trimmed to final size... This is
because a considerable amount of shrinkage will occur and if the
trimming is done with the wax too warm the sheets will end up
undersized when they finally cool down.
The wheel type pizza cutter is used to trim the oversized
sheets of finished foundation to exact size, simply because prolonged
and repetitive use of a knife wears away the edges of the template
which then produces sheets that are too small to fit the frames
Templates for final cutting will depend on the exact nature of the
frames that you use. I have several... Some are steel and some are
aluminium. They are rectangular in shape and are not illustrated,
apart from one that has a profile for a special purpose that is
shown at right (the hole is for hanging on the wall and the intricate
shape enables the foundation to be fitted into
1/3rd width mating frames).
I do this job in winter... I use a room with the radiator
thermostat set 'flat out' and I have an electric fan heater running at
two kW as well, which makes the room uncomfortably hot for most
people, but it allows all the equipment to be at a high temperature
(approximately 40° C which keeps the wax sheets pliable... So
pliable in fact, that they are in danger of sticking together which
means I have to interleave each plain wax sheet in the stack and each
sheet of finished foundation with tissue paper. The tissue paper gets
soggy with release agent, but dries out in a crinkly fashion and can
be saved for re-use. The crinkled nature helps to allow air flow for
cooling of the finished, but untrimmed, sheets which otherwise can
take several days to cool.
Release agent the original text calls for "Stergene", but I
use washing up liquid (any brand) and I add a dash of lemon juice as
well for acidity (I also like the smell). The Herring leaflet calls
for 40 ml of detergent per gallon of water, but I merely add enough to
make the water feel 'silky'.
Using a wringer (a mangle in some parts of the country).
The wringer should be firmly clamped to the table and as the plates
are fairly long, you will need adequate space for the plates to exit
from the rollers. You also require enough space for several stacks of
wax sheets and finished foundation.
With the two plastic dies facing each other and the guide holes at the
same end place a wax sheet between them, dip the wax sheet in warm
release agent to slightly soften the wax or if your conditions are
warm enough brush the plates with the release agent using a
paintbrush, then put through the mangle. Open up the dies and peel off
the finished foundation and stack for later trimming.
The two plastic sheets are self aligning simply due to the geometry
of the pattern, but there are a pair of holes in the leading edge of
the sheets that makes alignment foolproof.
There are many variables in this process and you may need
to experiment with timings, temperatures, roller pressure, release
agent concentration and number of dips, to get consistent results.
For instance... Not mentioned in the text above, but in my very warm
conditions I make the first dip on the first board and then suspend it
on two pegs to cool. After that I dip the second board for the first
time. Then I then swap this for the cooled one on the pegs and do the
second dip, again swapping and second dipping the second board. This
alternate sequence is necessary because the hot conditions slow down
the cooling rate. The variables may lead to some wasted time on your
first attempt, but please do not be put off by initial failure.
Perseverance and practice will enable you to become quicker and the
process becomes enjoyable as you get better at it. The hot working
conditions are also a boon to sufferers of arthritis and joint pain.
Written... 21 December 2001, Revised... 24 December 2001
Revised... 13 Aug 2002