So you've done your spell and your altar is a mess. Your silver is tarnishing as you watch, and that CLR is looking mighty expensive. Anyway, what kind of vibe does it leave behind? You have gotten candle wax... everywhere, and it was a love spell. Yummy red wax! It stains! Oh, and those red poppy, dragon's blood and red sandalwood stains in the carpet! How do I get my stag horns shiny and new looking without scratching? Should I consecrate my screwdriver before I use it to pry the mostly consumed candles out of the votive holder? Answers to this and more arrive fresh from the peanut gallery to you... from your friendly neighborhood OCD witch!
Also contained within this series of articles are things like: how to use a dip pen (without making a big mess!), setting up an easy-to-clean charcoal burner, etc.
Special thanks to Green Birch Learning circle, where I learned some of this. The rest I figured out on my own, and I stole an idea or two from Silver Ravenwolf. Hey! Don't look at me like that!
She does have good ideas! I only steal good ideas!
First Things First: What's in Your Toolkit?
I should warn you in advance that I love tools, and have one for every occasion. Pagans in the community call this "Hardware-ian" and I am a shameful zealot in this practice and philosophy. So my toolkit is pretty extensive, and if you are clever, I'm sure you can take my list, cut it in half (possibly several times, depending on how elaborate you get in your spells), and be perfectly well suited for any occasion. These are what I call "support tools", which basically means tools to take care of your ritual implements and other hardware, such as candle holders, incense burners, and the like. Many of them have multiple uses.
- 1 flat head screwdriver size #1
1 mini eyeglass screw driver; robust
1 small chisel
1 dental pick
2 awls in small and large
1 brass toothed bristle brush
2 toothbrushes; one is a head from a mechanical tooth brush which is round, the other is a standard child's tooth brush.
2 needles, one embroidery and the other a darning needle
1 small ball-peen hammer
1 small to medium sized pastry brush
1 small painter's palette knife
1 small steel puddy knife
1 pocket knife
a collection of (inexpensive) camel (or "hog bristle") artist's brishes
a white rubber eraser
a gum eraser
a rubber spatula
a smudging stick*
an orange stick
Many of these will never need replacing, save the tooth brushes and maybe the artist brushes.
If you use plastic palette knives, then they will probably break eventually...
but steel lasts for many years. Even my pastry brush, which was camel bristle and cheap unvarnished wood, lasted for years. I even decorated it with little pretty witchy doodles with a ball point pen, which kept one from seeing the stains that it gathered over the years.
The smudge stick is not what you think it is. It's a rubber or paper tipped smear tool used in the art trades for using with things like charcoal or water color or other paint. It is very useful for cleaning plated items and also removing wax. If you don't have one of those, then use a pencil eraser works well, too... I'm just a perfectionist and have these kinds of art supplies hanging around my house.
Now, What do you use them tools for?
... Let me count the ways.
Screwdrivers: Unless you have big candle holders, or routinely use cauldrons or make your own candles, this is probably the closest you have to get to a chisel. Believe me, you won't often need to use this for it's intended purpose. Prying off lids, removing candle wax off of *many* things, and general scraping crusty waxy or otherwise stuck stuff off of other surfaces. Just be careful as it can easily scratch the surfaces of your things.
The Eyeglass Screw Driver is especially handy for re-opening
wine or other cork related bottles that may get testy or crusty. The idea is to loosen the area around the cork with the side of the blade of the screw driver to give yourself some breathing room before you open the jar. Also, this prevents tearing the cork when you open the bottle.
It works well too, for opening bottles that have been previously sealed with wax. If you do this, however, you probably want to (spiritually) cleanse it first, and boff on a quickie protection spell.
The Chisel is used for many of the same things that the screw driver is for, only when you need something more robust, or you are seeing metal bits flying off the screw driver when you use it. So, things like cleaning your charcoal incense burner, the burned bottom of a cauldron, or scraping off the rough end of a ceramic panticle. I've also used one for removing cruft from oil diffusers that use a flame heat source. You will want to oil the surface with jojoba oil so you are less likely to scratch the surface. Also, there's a product that coats steel with a layer of silicon rubber, which also prevents scratching. This can be bought for somewhere between five and ten bucks at a jewelry maker's or beader's supply sites or stores.
Dental Picks, Awls and Ice picks AND needles
I have a small awl that I've consecrated, since I use it to clean off wax from consecrated jewelry, carve initials and symbols into candles, This this works harder than just about any sharp pointy thing I have, and that's saying a great deal, since I carve wood on and off. I also use them to carve initials on the bottom of some of my nicer ritual tools that I might lend to groups in need of temporary swag. It also great for stabbing things... well, you get the idea. I also use them to break up wax in preperation for making candles, and testing the doneness of baked goods.
My smallest was actually made from a paper clip. It's biggest job is getting wax out of bevels and detail figures in candle holders or statuary.
Brass toothed bristle brish
This tool is excellent at removing crushed wax from things. This is useful for cleaning cauldrons too. The brass bristles actually don't scratch unless the metal is softer than brass... so be careful if you are using it on things like copper. However, I've been told that they can be used for polishing things like copper, but I haven't tried that yet. I'll report back on a sample peice of copper that's going to be polished and used for something else. DO NOT use on glass, plastic, or ceramic with delicate finishes.
I'd use these on things like silver and copper and your more delicate stuff. They handle a lot of dirty jobs remarkably well. I also use them to clean glass and ceramic objects with delicate finishes, even silk! I tend to use soft bristles.
Ball Peen hammer
Ok, it doesn't have to be. I like them, and they tend to be smaller and lighter than a regular hammer, so basically get a small hammer.
Also, it's easier to put leather on the tip of it so you can soften the blow further. There are some cauldron cleaning operations I've found that really need a hammer. I also use the hammer to break up wax in hard to clean out candle holders (one or two gentle taps are all that's needed)
I prefer the camel haired variety, since the finer bristles mean the tool is more versitile. I used this the most often for sweeping up salt, powders, ashes, graveyard dust and herbs from my altar. It's also great for cleaning out the last of the cruft on the bottom of a mortar and pessle, getting the last of the salt out of containers.
(cheap) Artist's Paint Brushes
The coarse camel hair brushes with long handles that you can buy in a number of shapes in one big pack for six to ten bucks is what you want. They shouldn't be the really cheap kind you get in water color sets for children, because they don't last long enough to be useful and aren't robust enough for any of the tasks one could use them for.
They are best for cleaning out hard-to-reach places at the bottom of jars and bottles. Witchy bottles seem to have all those crevises that stuff likes to stick in, and this is my solution. Some of that, and some lava (or dish soap) in the bottle and some water. You can also use them like gentle dish scrubbers for ceramic oil diffusers and cleaning out crumbs of wax from inside holders.
Puddy knives and Pallete Knives
The palette knife is useful for things like... scraping flat ceramic surfaces that you don't quite trust to awls or chisels. basically they have plastic ones and steel ones. The plasic ones are pretty robust, and can be used for this purpose, but you will be replacing them once in a while.
I use puddy knives to scrape wax off of kitchen floors, stoves and other large flat surfaces. The chisel doesn't do this nearly as well, and is likely to cause more damage. It also is good for cleaning off glass top tables, but be careful to test to see just how much elbow grease it takes to scratch glass.
Smudging Stick and Orange Stick
These are yet other things that can be used for more delicate, scratch-prone surfaces for cleaning wax. I spend a lot of time cleaning wax out of things, so I have lots of tools for it. But then, I re-use my novena candles and other pourable candles, too...
I use various erasers to remove wax and other gloppy things from fabric and other related surfaces. This is great for stuff that needs TLC or those particularly sticky things like resins and molten/charred gums.
This is a fine piece of suede leather, with oils in it, that is traditionally used by car enthusiasts to clean cars. It also works for various surfaces we use, like silver and other metals. It also can ease away rust and other crusty kinds of deposits.
Sponge Believe it or not, I use it for more than cleaning!
I have a special sponge that I moisten and keep next to my dip pen for wiping off the pen just after dipping and also to take away excess ink after you've finished a line. Sponges are also good for things like keeping near by during long lengthly rituals where candle-light generates too much heat. Also, a wet sponge picks up a lot of cruft from the ritual table after the brush has picked up most of it!
I also use a dry sponge to wipe the shavings off of a candle after it's been carved, and a clean dry sponge also as an emergency parking place for for spheres and eggs. Just don't put a hot candle holder or incense burner on them, as they will most likely melt. The vast majority of them are made from plastics these days.
Next time, I'll talk about the items I keep around, and the kinds of cleansers I make from them, and what they are good for. Many of these ideas can be used to clean your house, as well!