If you’re younger than 35 years old, you might want to click off.
This is going to be one of those boring topics where geezers gather together and talk affectionately about “the good old days.”
The waxer was a basic tool that every graphic designer used in the analog era. Waxers applied a thin layer of molten beeswax to the back of a piece of paper.
At the bottom of the waxer was a roller that distributed the wax on the paper in a honeycomb pattern.
The piece of paper might be a headline or a column of type used in a newspaper or magazine layout.
This layout process was called paste-up. The waxer was a big improvement over paste or rubber cement, because it was non-toxic, it could be easily repositioned, and the adhesive didn’t turn brown.
The photo above shows a Lectro-Stick handheld waxer. There were larger sheet-fed waxers, but this little one did any small- to medium-size waxing job.
By removing the red plug at the top, you could push in a sticky square of yellowish beeswax. A heating element inside melted down the wax. It took about a half an hour to warm up.
You could leave the waxer plugged in all day and it didn’t hurt it. It gave off a friendly smell, reminiscent of candles.
This is one tool that still has some practical uses. If you can still find one (along with a supply of wax squares), grab it! It’s still the best repositionable way to hold down small pieces of paper, like thumbnail sketches, on a larger board.
(Note: This is the first of an occasional feature called “Dead Tech.” In the future we’ll unravel the mysteries of such things as Rubylith, Letraset, Merganthaler, Zipatone, and Craft Tint. And if you’re under 35 and you read this far: I congratulate you. You are a person of rare spirit and curiosity.)