Making oil sticks or pastels from bees wax and linseed oil, based on a recipe at Slade Knowledge base by Kenneth Leslie.


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Changes to the Slade process

Don’t waste time trying to set the sticks in clay or dough, simply support them with a (relatively) tall jar or jug. In this article, I’ve used the melting tins, though you should use a more reliable support – even standing the sticks inside the tin would have been better!

Use a kettle to boil water and melt wax in a bowl of hot water. This avoids a having naked flame or a hot-plate near wax, linseed oil or turpentine (all flammable), though keeping the wax liquid takes some effort, boiling and changing the water.

Take care

Many of the materials used in this are hot and flammable – wear gloves and have a fire extinguisher to hand.
Before they are bound in paint, all pigments should be treated as toxic – wear an appropriate dust mask and plan how you will clean up spills before you start.
Read the MSDS for your materials, think about what you are doing, and reduce your risks.
I cannot be held responsible for the consequences of any actions you take following this process.

How it’s done

Empty mouldsTake lengths of kitchen foil (about 20″) and roll them around a broom handle to make pouring moulds.

Fix the moulds upright. I used a dough base here, but found that I discarded the base in favour of a supporting jug.

Prepare the pigment for mixing. Pour it into a tin can or similar. Add a little turpentine to help wet out the pigment, and mix together in the can. Pour the pigment/ turpentine mixture onto a grinding plate (plate glass is recommended, I use a kitchen tile), and grind together with a palette knife.

Melt a quantity of bees wax. I used a bowl of water boiled in an electric kettle. This would be easier over an electric heater, but be aware that wax, oil and turpentine are all flammable.

Beeswax pellets tend to clump together as they softened, and had to be cut up – in my case with a palette knife. If you are using lumps of beeswax, you don’t have to be too nice about breaking them up.

Mix in linseed oil to about 1/4 to 1/3 the volume of beeswax (a glass container would have been easier to gauge). The wax may start setting around the cold oil, but more heat will soften it.

When the oil/wax mixture is blended, add some of it into the pigment/ turpentine mix, and blend the whole. Again, you may need some heat here.

When this is thoroughly blended, pour the mix into a mould and allow it to set. I had a minor leak, but this could be handled by squeezing the foil tighter at the source.


Oil stick after pouring, this one leaked at the base, but otherwise seems OK. It would have been better to rest the hot wax stick inside the tin (see next photo)!






Seen here are tin cans for mixing and pouring the oil/wax mixture together with a palette knife for general stirring and mixing, bees wax pellets and a couple of tiles – one used to grind pigment with turpentine, the other as a pouring base for the foil wrapped pigment sticks.


The next day

After cooling

Stick unwrappedThe stick laying on it’s mould, now unwrapped.





Mark Making

And it works!





Compare sizes

After sealing the leak (see above), I supported the stick at an angle while setting – you can see the resulting slope here. I can see potential advantages to starting with this angled surface, and it may become a deliberate feature.




Click the photos in this article to see larger (clearer) versions