Spotlight on Tools: Waxed Paper

Wax paper used to be a more common household items decades ago, but it is still available in a roll in grocery stores for just a few dollars. I've used it forever as a barrier paper to place between freshly glued book covers and the book block.

And I have most recently gone back to using it under my project as waste paper instead of old magazines and catalogue pages. Once any excess glue dries on the waxed paper, you can reuse it for much longer than the other coated, slick papers. And those paper magazines and catalogues are not pouring in at the same rate as in the 1990s.

It's handy, too, as a barrier to a wet, painted paper when hanging it up to dry.

I've been working on a letterpress project and have found new applications for the waxed paper in letterpress printing. First, if you only need up to about ten copies, you can cut windows in it and use it as a stencil over your paper. On the press bed: place a flat, uncarved linoleum block or other type high flat block and ink it up normally. Then crank the press over it.

What is  particularly elegant about this procedure is that the waxed paper has a low profile and does not leave any indentation. The above example was printed on muslin.

In 1993, I wanted depict the manual alphabet spelling out the word "island" for one of the three booklets in my book Catching a River (which you can see in this exhibit), and I photocopied my hand in the different letter shapes. I then cut out their silhouettes and glued the cutouts to a piece of paper. I placed the paper "plate" behind the paper on which I wanted to print, then printed over a flat piece of wood.

Later I discovered this was a contemporary thing called "pressure printing," attributed to Barb Tetanbaum, developed in 1989. 

In any case, in my recent experiment, I placed waxed paper over the paper plate (see the torn stripes) so that:
  1. The pieces would stay in place and 
  2. I could use actual beeswax in place of glue or glue stick and be able to reposition the pieces. The waxed paper would prevent glue or wax from getting on my project.
  3. The low profile of the waxed paper would not interfere with the print quality.
As a curious printmaker, I love experimenting. This pressure printing or "stratography" (a term I've never heard anyone actually use) technique has been around since the 1940s and 1950s. You can read more about it here.

Those are a few craft uses for the humble waxed paper. 

And, of course, waxed paper can be used to wrap up sandwiches and cookies, still.


Pamela Gerard said…
i love waxed paper and always have rolls of it in my studio -- I even bring it on trips with me. It is great for so many things. I enjoyed the post.
Suzanne Coley said…
Great post. Thank you.