Toolbox: My Wax Scraper by Andrew Bick

In our weekly feature we ask artists to describe one tool they couldn’t do without. Here, Andrew Bick discusses the wax scraper he uses for his mixed media works—and, occasionally, to remove dirty words from vandalized paintings.

My wax scraper is a plain object, too simple to be called an invention but totally effective for its purpose. On my master’s degree at Chelsea in the late eighties I started routing lines in architectural salvage wood and filling them with poured molten wax. The idea was to create striation as negative voids of light in dark space, a sort of drawing in reverse. The effect depended totally on the wax and wood surfaces being completely flush. To do this the wax had to overfill the routed groove then be shaved back with a flat blade. I made a little egg-shaped piece of 25mm plywood to fit the hand and wedged a Stanley blade in the base, perpendicular to the handle.

This still does a perfect job today. I am on my fourth handle and umpteenth replacement blade, the only improvement being to put a single layer of insulation tape over the blade before jamming it in. That way it grips tightly.

Recently I used this to restore a work from a private collection. For legal reasons, the collector cannot be named, but at one social event, someone snuck into the room where the painting was hung and scrawled on it “Bankers Suck”. With my little hand tool, it was quite easy to scrape this flat again, so no trace of the legend remains. Of course I carefully documented this for future use.

Andrew Bick, Gate / Grid / Tree / (Notes/on/Concrete)

From 14 April until 26 May 2018 at von Bartha, Basel