Using pens on wax

Piece of wax with pear shape cut out, hand with a marker is drawing a fin shape at the point of the pear

Draw your design

The most straightforward way of using a pen is by drawing your design straight on the wax. Rollerball pens, permanent markers, and even regular ballpoint pens draw great on wax. Especially if the surface is filed.

Oval shaped piece of wax with a turtle shell pattern drawn on with marker

If you’re sure you can go straight to permanent marker. But if you’re indecisive like me, you can first use a rollerball pen. If you don’t like what you’ve drawn, you can easily wipe it away with your fingers and try again.


Time to add some height differences but can’t visualise it clearly? Draw in some guidelines.

Side view of a piece of wax with a few lines drawn on to visualise an ice cream shape

Marked everything with dividers, but the lines don’t meet? Draw in some guidelines.

Wax ring blank with marked lines and a drawn line connecting the two

Can’t mark the corners of a stone setting? Draw in some guidelines.

Piece of wax in a fish shape, with marker the outlines of the fins are drawn and the point of a pear is drawn on as well

It’s so quick and easy to draw in a little guideline. You don’t even have to be very precise with them. It’s there as a reminder. To keep the shape you’re going for clear in your mind.

Wax looks terrible for the longest time before it starts to look good. Having the guidelines helps you keep the end goal in mind.

Do not touch

Whenever I have something that I don’t want to file/pierce/shape, I color it completely with permanent marker. It’s my DO NOT TOUCH THIS PART sign.

When I file the second side of a ring parallel to the first side, I color the lowest part completely.

Hand holding a wax ring, other hand is coloring part of the ring with marker

This makes it easier for me to file all the higher parts down to the same measurement as the lowest part. File everything but the pen!

Hand holding a wax ring and other hand is filing the ring, you can see pen marks on the side of the ring that isn't being filed

I file, I measure, and I increase the colored part until the whole ring is the same measurement.

When a marked design has a lot of lines and I could easily get confused which line I’m following again. I color in the whole part I’m keeping.

2 green pieces of wax with a flower pattern marked on. The right one has the flower colored in with pen to clarify the shape

This way it’s much harder to pierce to the wrong line. Learned this one the hard way!

These are just two examples, but it works for everything you don’t want to touch. You move your piece around so much when working on it. It’s easy to get confused about what part is done and what isn’t. A quick permanent marker on your done side, and you won't get confused again.

Perfect fit

When you make two separate pieces that need to fit together, it’s difficult to get the fit perfect. Enter the rollerball pen.

I’ll use a fitted ring as an example here, but you can use this technique for any two parts that need to fit together perfectly.

You first make one piece completely (in this case the solitaire ring) and then make the second piece to fit. I have the basic shape for the fitted ring and the cutout is almost the correct size.

Hands holding a solitaire ring and a fitted ring together, the fitted ring is unfinished at this point and doesn't fit yet

To get the fit perfect, I use a rollerball pen and color the side of the solitaire completely.

sHand holding a solitaire ring and the other hand is coloring the side of the solitaire with marker

Then I push the solitaire and fitted ring together.

Hands holding a solitaire ring and a fitted ring together

The pen will transfer from solitaire ring to fitted ring in all the places the two rings touched.

Hands holding the fitted ring, showing the cut out. You can see small bits of pen on parts of the cutout

Now I know EXACTLY where I need to remove wax to get the fit better. All the places that have pen need to be removed. That's the wax that’s preventing the two rings from sitting perfectly together.

This is a long process that you have to do over and over again. Apply pen, place two pieces together, remove wax where the pen transferred and do it again.

Hands holding a solitaire ring and a fitted ring together seen from the back. Solitaire and fitted band fit perfectly now.

Until you have a perfect fit.

Permanent marker?

They might be called permanent markers, but they’re not really permanent on wax. When you’re constantly touching your drawing, it’s going to wear off quickly. You can just reapply marker as you go, I do this especially with the do not touch application, or if it’s just a guideline I’m not strictly following.

If the drawing is something you have to follow exactly, you can go over it with something sharp and get it in the wax. Anything sharp will do: scribe, carving tool, push pin. With your drawing marked in the wax it’s not the end of the world if your marking on top of the wax fades and disappears.

Comment below and let me know if these tips were helpful!