Thanks for all the responses, I now feel brave enough to go out and wax anew!
Actually I'm rather happy with the final results - peeled Ilford with a light
waxing is giving me the look and texture I wanted, with exposure times that
aren't too insane. They are long, though, since, as Terry pointed out, I've
made a long range neg for salt - by the time the highlights get there I'm at
almost an hour*. This is why I can't just use the Ilford unmolested; the time
would become too much (yes, I tried).
I figured if I wanted to go further I coud treat it like a magazine/acrylic
negative, where you cover a clay-coated page with acrylic medium or
contact-paper then work away at the paper pulp with warm water... Obviously,
Peter Fredrick's process is the advanced version of this and probably the
proper way to do it, but a bit more involved (and dangerous!?) than I need to
get for this piece. My final negative is the peeled Ilford with a little
waxing using the very wax plus solvent everyone suggested (encaustic medium
for painting, as Larry Bullis pointed out), but I bought it in a can! It's
called Dorland's wax medium (for oil painting) and there are other brands.
It's waxes and mineral spirits, basically, and looks like butter. I can smooth
it into the neg with a soft cloth, wait for it to dry and voila!
Incidentally, I probably don't need to mention this to y'all, but I could of
course us litho or x-ray film or make a glass plate or something if I wanted
clarity. It's the look and texture of paper negatives that I'm enjoying, so I
can't let it become too transparent....
*I'm using a homemade light unit with GE 20W BL bulbs...