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  • How to Use a Wax Tablet

    Our Friend the Wax Tablet

    How to Use One

    Last time we took a brief look at some of the history of the wax tablet. As a useful and long lasting writing tool it endured for centuries; different cultures and countries adopted it over the years, and put it to many different uses.

    Of course, the hardships that made wax tablets so invaluable hundreds of years ago do not necessarily beset us these days. Paper can now be made inexpensively and quickly, and even books (once solely the province of the rich) are within easy reach of most people. Notebooks and journals for any kind of writing and recording can be purchase easily and for a mere trifle compared to what such things would have cost when wax tablets where in their heyday.

    None of which means that wax tablets are any less useful (or fun) than they were back then, you can still use them for all kinds of things in our modern day world.  Here are a few suggestions:

    -to do lists

    -shopping lists

    -glue a magnet onto one and stick it on your fridge for family notes

    -entertain small children who enjoy chewing on things (we have tested wax tablets around toddlers and they have proven to be pretty saliva resistant)

    -use in any situation that requires note taking but is also a bit damp (swimming, fishing, boating, beach combing, macroinvertebrate testing, you know, whatever)

    -give some to a bunch of history or Latin students to teach them about what it was like to be a student in medieval Europe (if you have enough they could even turn their homework in on one)

    -use as part of your renaissance fair, SCA, or other historic re-enactment related experience

    Of course, there are many more ways to use wax tablets in our world today, you are only limited by your imagination (and the melting point of beeswax of course).

    In that spirit of imagination, here are a few actions shots of wax tablets being used today (don’t worry, we got permission from the subjects).

    Being used by this guy dressed up as a monk to advertise his shop at a Renaissance festival. (Who is that crazy person and why did we sell him a wax tablet anyway?) 

    Being used to record who gifted what at an SCA elevation.  (Look on the lap of the lady in the lovely lavender dress on the left).

    Being used to entertain a bored child while waiting for pizza.

    Now that’s all well and good, you say, but how do I use one?

    Well, let me answer that with – Pictures!

    First, open your wax tablet and get out your stylus (wood or metal), thusly. 

    Then, take up your stylus in your hand, pointy end facing out, like so. 

    And, pressing down with an even pressure, write on the wax. Keep in mind that it does take some practice to find a comfortable median between too much and too little pressure when writing on a wax tablet. Experiment until you discover what suites you best. 

    Ta-da! You have a wax tablet with writing on it! Look at how happy our little wax tablet man is!  (He doesn’t know what’s coming next.) 

    Now for erasing. Flip your stylus over, so you are holding the flat end where you were holding the pointy end. 

    Though actually, you want to hold it like this. 

    Then, holding the flat end of the stylus at about a 20-25 degree angle to the surface of your wax tablet, draw the stylus across the wax in ONE continuous direction while also pressing down on the stylus. Begin at one end of the tablet (I start with the top), and draw the stylus across the wax to the other end of the tablet, pressing down continuously all the while. Repeat this process across the wax multiple times until the surface is smooth enough to write on again.

    Starting the erasing process... 

    Most of his head is gone now… 

    Mostly done….. 

    And finished 

    Now, it is true that even after you have erased it your wax tablet will not look as pretty as it did when freshly poured. But, that’s just life.  And, hey, looks aren't everything, it will still work just was well as when it was pretty.

    So there you have it. Some ideas for how you could use a wax tablet today, and how to go about using one. Wax tablets. They’ve been around for quite a while. They were awesome then, and they are awesome now. Also, they are really easy to use.

    Bethany Tucker

    Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

    February 15, 2018