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Cera Colla wax emulsion >> Wax Cera Colla Painting, Secco Murals >> Making sapone di cera

Message started by Admin on Jul 5th, 2007 at 9:47pm

Title: Making sapone di cera
Post by Admin on Jul 5th, 2007 at 9:47pm
This is about using a pre-made store bought ammonia water and comparing it to using dry ammonium carbonate to make cera colla, more accurately called, sapone di cera.

Hi Don,

I am in Italy. A good supplier mail-order is Kremer Pigmente, and indeed I got the bleached wax from them (plus pigments and other things,  they've got wonderful stuff). By the way, did you use bleached or normal beeswax?

I used normal beeswax.
> It's all in the amount of water and ammonia, the ratio would be 10% ammonia into 1 part water = 100% (equals the store bought  Industrial strength ammonia. Normal ammonia for washing windows and stuff has soap in it) plus another 100% water and 100% wax.
> Mine made a silky smooth like vanilla pudding storing thickness emulsion. I thin it with ammonia water to paint with it.

> You are probably right. Cera Colla means glue wax but they are both  emulsions. What would be the translation for wax soap?
> Did the glue wax you made separate at all, ever?

Since soap is sapone (nowadays, I have no idea at the time of Giotto)  it would be "sapone di cera" o "cera sapone" (but in modern italian we do not specify a material the latter way). Perhaps an even more  modern term would be "cera saponificata" (saponified wax).

The emulsion did indeed separate at one point: Initially I took it too soon away from the stove and into a cold water vessel, then,  unhappy with the milky consistency, I reheated it, causing it to  effervesce while mixing it. Eventually it separated into a thicker mass on top of a liquid. [This also happens when making soap, as the  soap salt separates from the lye (and glycerin).] I kept on mixing  and the whole mass became a vaseline like thick fluid.
I did some researching and think in the case of wax soap it is not glycerin that separates, but principally triacontanol, an alcohol  that is also a growth stimulant for plants.

I will try a batch without making the mistake I did and see if it  turnes out any different.

Also, you mention the term wax-soap at one point, this is indeed  the  name Doerner gives to it "wax soap" and I think is the appropriate one. I have made several batches of olive oil+lye  soap, and the  transition from the milky liquid to the final  product was similar, if  faster, to what I get when making hot  process soap. The liquid suddenly thickens and turns to something  like vaseline.

Yes, it's important to keep stirring because it does happen quickly. And you keep stirring until it is cool.

Before making a new batch of sapone di cera I made a different  experiment, forgive me if I take your time reporting this!

I prepared, or better attempt to prepare, some shellac ink. An ink  recipe lists as a base 18 parts water (I think too little with my  alcali, I had to add another 8 parts as it turned to a jelly when  cool), 2 parts shellac, 1 part borax. Since I haven't got borax in the house, I decided to use another alcali. Guess what: ammonium  carbonate...
Mixed in water and cooked in a double boiler. Even more evidently than with wax, at one point the shellac forms a blob (like jellyfish)  that floats over the liquid. Keep on stirring at boiling point and it finally dissolves. As I said I had to add an extra 8 parts of water  and reheat as it had cooled down to a jelly similar to animal glue.  When reheated, I added a pinch of ammonium carbonate, and a gelatinous mass formed again, that went away again by cooking and stirring.
I added vine-black and indigo, half a teaspoon each (over a total of  150ml water, before evaporation) and a teaspoon of boneblack  (imitation ivory black from Kremer) 'cause it was not black enough  for me.. As it is it does not flow readily from a nib, too much surface tension, perhaps it is more an ink for brush application. It  is unsurprisingly very waterproof and a bit too shiny in thick layers.


On 25 Jun 2007, at 07:59, Don Jusko wrote:

I also had to toss my first mistake away because the water was too cool.

I think that is the point. In a double boiler I cannot get the wax +  water + ammonium carbonate mix hot enough. Also, I have far too much  water. I will try next by melting the wax with very little water and  put the ammonium in boiling, or just, water (the solution will bring  the temperature down anyway) and then mix it to the wax like you did.
Did you have any problems given the cream colour of the yellow wax? I  am making some with yellow wax now (same problem as before, of  course) and it comes out like a nice cream, I would like to eat it.

I had a look at your page paint1881.htm and I think it's very good!


Hi Giuliano,
I have updated my web page to include all of your terms for wax soap.
And tried to work out the percentages to include all three components as a ratio.

It's all in the amount of water and ammonia, the ratio would be  1:1:1/20..  10% ammonia in 1 part of water (equals the store bought  Industrial strength ammonia. Normal ammonia for washing windows and stuff has soap in it) plus another 1 part water. That's 2 parts water, but one of the parts has 10% ammonium hydroxide in it.
That would be about 5% ammonium hydroxide if you doubled the water. Ammonia is 5% or 1/20 or 5/100 or 1.125. Water 200 parts, wax 200 parts, ammonia 5 parts or, 100:100:2.5

On my web page I say,
Ammonium carbonate or ammonium hydroxide both will make Cera Colla. I used a common 'Industrial Specification' 10% ammonium hydroxide as ammonia water found at Ace Hardware and diluted it 1:1 with more water. Heat it to where it is just starting to boil before you pour it into the melted wax.
The 5% ammonia in the water solution and wax should be mixed 1:1. Never boil the wax.  Don't stop stirring until it's cool.

Regarding ammonia concentration, ammonium carbonate relative content  in ammonia is 0.375 (18 is the ammonium weight, of which there are  two in the molecule which weights 96: 36/96 = 0.375). So, in my case  my 1:10 ammonium carbonate:water is 0.375:10 ammonia:water that is  just under 4%. That is not far from your concentration of 5%. But the  point is not this, after all the ammonia (and the carbonate ion in my  case) will eventually evaporate, the point is the wax/water ratio  (and the consistent temperature).

I decided to use a (water:wax) ratio more similar to yours, as I kept  on having to cook my mixture longer to get a creamy consistency (to  evaporate the excess of water). So tonight I did 1.5 parts of water :  1 part of wax (in volume, but wax density is very near to 1, so  that's also the ratio by weight). For 90ml of distilled water (and  about 60g of wax) I measured two teaspoonfull of ammonium carbonate  (I did not have the scale to measure it).

1) melted the wax in very little (say 10ml) of the total distilled  water in a narrow glass jug that is the internal part of my double  boiler.

2) when the wax melted (the water in the external pan was boiling) I  also brought the remaining distilled water (say 80ml) to the boil in  a separate pan.

3) heated the glass vessel containing the ammonium carbonate (by  immersion in boiling water)

4) mixed a little of the boiling distilled water of step 2 with the ammonium carbonate to help pouring it from its container

5) put the hot distilled water and the ammonium carbonate in the  molten wax in the double boiler

6) stir

As you can see I wanted to make sure that the mixture would not go appreciably below water boiling point. The mixture developed effervescence as expected, during which I kept on stirring with a  wooden spoon. This lasted a few minutes. I kept on stirring in the  double boiler until I was happy that the was no more effervescence,  perhaps three or four minutes.
Took out the jug of the double boiler and kept stirring, no need to  put in cold water. In at most three minutes it cooled down enough to  become much more thick.
I am pretty sure that with this 1.5:1 or similar water:wax ratio you will never get a result that will flow once cooled down (below 50  centigrades). But the result, however thick (very similar to my first  experiment) is very pleasant, very uniform and creamy.
Having reduced the amount of water I did not experience any  separation at any stage and the whole process took a fraction of the  time it took with about 10 times more water. I think indeed Doerner  (and others) recipes have far too much water (or do not stress enough  the importance of high temperature).
This time I used bleached was as I know it gives a nice cold white.

> You said,
> I used a 10:2:1 solution: 10 parts of water, 2 parts of wax and 1  part of ammonium carbonate.

so now I say: use 3:2:1 water:wax:ammonium carbonate (where the  latter can be probably less) and make sure everything is boiling hot!  Presumably more water may be used to get a more flowing result, but  this seems unessential as one can dilute with a little more water when painting (as you said).


Well you did it, nice going. I like your ratio using ammonium carbonate, I believe it's the same as my 1:1 ratio using store bought 10% ammonia water.

For the last week I have been washing linseed oil, I found the sludge I removed developed crystals. Pure linseed oil put on my windshield didn't last 30 days before crystallizing, it has no sticking power. I believe the water soluble crystals should be removed from the oil.


Here's the web page with photos of the process I used.

Title: Re: Making sapone di cera
Post by EliL on Jul 6th, 2007 at 2:50pm
Hi Don, I will be attempting to make the Cera Colla today.
I will report my results.
My purpose is to create a paint to create a waxed depth
on walls.

Title: Re: Making sapone di cera
Post by Admin on Jul 6th, 2007 at 7:01pm
Hi Eli,
The Egyptians would paint their walls with this wax emulsion and buff it to shine.

Here is my full step by step process with photos webpage.

I have built up cera colla (wax soap) to a thickness of more than 1/4 inch with no cracking.

Title: Re: Making sapone di cera
Post by EliL on Jul 6th, 2007 at 9:40pm
Hi Don, I think this is going to be extremely fun!
Thank you so much for your sharing!
So If I understand the chemical action that takes place, the ratio of ammonia, emulsifys the wax. Or keeps it suspended in water?
I purchased my electric skillet, so I could regulate the tempeture. I have the wax from an art store in Scottsdale, and I am assuming that household ammonia is acceptable?
You wouldn't happen to have any links or pictures of any of those type works?
You can see mine on my site

Title: Re: Making sapone di cera
Post by Admin on Jul 6th, 2007 at 10:08pm
Hi Eli
There are lot of step by step pictures on my site.

You said:
So If I understand the chemical action that takes place, the ratio of ammonia, emulsifies the wax. Or keeps it suspended in water?

The most important thing is having both the wax and ammonia water at very close to boiling temprature before adding them together.  Stir untill it is cool and creamy. First it really bubbles up quickly, keep stiring the whole time. This is important too!

I purchased my electric skillet, so I could regulate the tempeture. I have the wax from an art store in Scottsdale, and I am assuming that household ammonia is acceptable?

A double boiler is best for melting the wax. Look at my homemade double boiler on my site.

Don't use household ammonia, that has soap in it. Get the Industrail Strength Ammonia, at a hardware store. At my Ace Hardware it's called Janitorial Strength Ammonia. It is 10% ammonia. I mixed it with water 1:1. This mixture plus the same amount of melted wax is mixed togather hot (and smelly, but that won't last long).

Shoot pictures if you can, to put up here.

Wow! For some reason I missed your 7-4-7 email, but I read it today and have to say I'm really impressed. You are good, very good.
I am putting your url here for all to see some great wax and gold leaf work.

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