Meanwhile Batu showed me the awesome finish he put on a maquette that he's sending overseas for a competition. He used graphite and wax, heat, lots of rubbing. The result was incredible and something I'd been thinking about a couple of years ago. I bought graphite back then and tried to put it on one of my sculptures but it just turned out jet black. I want surface that's a bit shiny, like if you rub a pencil on a piece of paper. Two problems I think. First, I can't hope to get a graphite shine on rough surfaces of my sculptures (and there are many of those!), and second, looks like you have to rub it in, which I hadn't tried.
I bet there's some science to getting a shine out of the graphite. Something about aligning the carbon atoms to make the microscopic surface more uniform. I think there's a bit of alchemy there too.
Anyway, great to be back at the drawing board and thanks Ben and Molly for making the ride to and from Braintree as entertaining as it was productive!