$7.99 on Amazon
I put earwax vacuums right up there with nosehair clippers and recreational high colonics, so it kinda took me aback when online artist friends said they LOVED theirs.
Turns out that if you don’t use one for slurping out your ears, it makes a fairly good frit-drawing pen. The one I tried, Hampton Direct’s as-seen-on-TV-being-used-by-a-smiling-earwaxless-starlet, was cheap at less than eight bucks, and did an amazingly good job of frit removal.
The WaxVac package includes a pistol-shaped vacuum (apparently nobody at Hampton considered the implications of sticking a gun in your ear and pulling the trigger), eight colorful silicone nozzle tips, and a handy-dandy “sanitizing brush,” presumably for when your WaxVac has sucked itself full of smelly ear detritus and needs its own sucking-out.
I was dubious (can you tell?), but decided to buy one after endorsement by Linda Humphrey, an amazing glass artist whose work is gonna be world-renowned one of these days (and who should get herself a website so I don’t have to post pics of MY Linda Humphrey artwork to prove this):
To see it in action, check out the video above. Basically, you load it up with two AA batteries, remove the ear guard (to prevent, I think, sucking one’s brains out with the thing), slip on a soft silicone nozzle, use the guard to snug it down, and then switch it on.
The WaxVac easily removes whatever glass powder or fine frit it finds inside the nozzle, without disturbing the surrounding frit. It can also whittle down the excess powder at the edge of furrows, and it leaves little or no traces of powder behind.
Straight from the package, it will remove exactly the diameter of the silicone nozzle–about 1/8 inch. You’ll need to reduce the diameter of the nozzle to achieve finer lines. I inserted a coffee stirrer, wrapped in a little saran wrap, and got the hole down to about 1/16th inch. (I’m sure others have even better methods for this)
The WaxVac did well with powder or fine frit on dry glass, but wasn’t as effective removing it from a refractory mold. The powder has a tendency to stick to the damp plaster, and WaxVac doesn’t have quite enough power to remove ALL traces (although it got most of it). I still needed to do some cleanup with my tools of choice, a damp paintbrush, paper towel and mini-cup of water.
Nor is it the neatest tool on the block. The minute you shut off the WaxVac, glass powder starts trickling out of the nozzle, so leave it on until it’s well away from your work area.
Even then, about 10 minutes into vacuuming, the WaxVac started feeling a bit gritty. I shut it off and discovered that glass powder had trickled into the rest of the unit and was blowing out of the fan and through the battery case. No doubt there’s an easy way to seal off the vacuum chamber from the rest of the machine, but without that I suspect the glass powder will be jamming the works in short order.
(Experienced WaxVac users: I welcome any suggestions for preventing this!)
So…will the WaxVac enter the Closet of Shame, where formerly cool gadgets go to die? Probably not. I think it will be useful anytime I’m using frit on a dry surface, or need to delicately suck up excess powder in a mold.