I LOVE any craft that involves the use of beeswax! It's one of my most favorite scents. Beeswax is unfortunately - expensive, and raw, unfiltered/unrefined beeswax is hard to find. If you want to make more than a few beeswax candles - it's best to find a local source. Try posting a wanted ad on Craigslist....searching for local beekeepers. Sometimes it's easier to find local honey products at farmers markets, health food stores, and produce stands on the road - get the number off the jar and call them to see if they sell beeswax in bulk. The cheapest raw beeswax I've been able to find online runs about $6/lb.
You can find lots of Chinese beeswax online (in bulk), but I've been told it's much lower in quality, has a lot less scent, and doesn't harden up the same. You can find highly refined beeswax easily (usually in 1 lb blocks or in bead form) - it doesn't have anywhere near the same scent as unrefined, and you're paying a premium for it.
Beeswax is naturally non-toxic, filled with its own, beautiful aromatherapy, burns longest, brightest, and cleanest. It actually draws and burns up toxins and impurities in your home - working as its own air purifier!!! AND - it produces loads of NEGATIVE IONS!!! Which means more health benefits! All said - beeswax candles are good for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being! Like smudging - beeswax helps CLEAR your home of negative energy and entities!!!
The candles pictured (right) are Original Pheylonian beeswax pillars - the top of the line as far as natural quality is concerned. This company has been around since 1971. The largest candle shown is 7" diameter, 22" high - solid pillar called "La Grand Triple Reactohrs. The approximate burn time is 9,000 - 10,000 hours!!!! LOL - give or take a 1,000 hours! The cost??? $549.00 - OOUCH!!!! Really it's worth every penny (breaking down to about 6 cents per hour! They have a ton of sizes/varieties (60-80 hrs for $20).
You're completely capable of making these candles. It's just finding a local source for the raw beeswax. Who know - you might even end up with your own candle making business!
You can check out their website HERE.
Here's a video showing how simple candle making can be. She's pretty heavy-handed on the E/Os, but if you're looking to make yourself an extra-special treat....a tiny candle that packs a punch...I guess it's okay.
LOTS OF INFO PACKED INTO THIS VIDEO
I'm assuming anyone taking this quest is new to candle making (pretty much), and since this craft involves some trial and error, while you're learning - I'm going the frugal route with it. This is one of those crafts where - investing a whole lot of money - doesn't make things easier. I'm also not going to be stressing the toxicity of cheaper candles...except to say AVOID FRAGRANCE OILS and you automatically reduce the toxins by about 90%!!!! This is why I prefer beeswax - it come pre-scented by nature!! You biggest cost is going to be wax and essential oils.
Candle Crafting like any other craft is more about technique and tricks...after all - the rest is melt, pour, add wick. There's a lot online to teach the finer points of making candles, but don't get too caught up in how they stress they're supplies are the "best", or you need a vast array of supplies to get started. They go on a lot about saving you time and money by buying precut, pretabbed wicking, and special blend waxes, and their special colorants, etc. Since we're taking the self-sufficient, homesteaders route - aka we're all super CAPABLE!!! We can handle making a lot of stuff ourselves! That's the approach here. Of course, if you have money to spend, by all means - you're welcome to buy everything done for you - melt and pour. But - what's the fun in that?!? 😉
DON'T EVER LEAVE WAX UNATTENDED WHEN MELTING - especially with children or pets around. DO NOT EVER HEAT WAX DIRECTLY ON FLAME/STOVE TOP ON MEDIUM OR HIGH HEAT! DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL. Otherwise it's no more dangerous than deep-frying. Always practice common sense.
EQUIPMENT YOU'LL NEED TO GET STARTED
✿ Pot(s) to melt in. Double-boiler, or pots that fit inside one another. Those Prestor fat fryers w/ the temperature dial are great, as are electric skillets. Check your local Goodwill!!
✿ Various assortment of tin cans (the biggest you can find) #10 cans, coffee cans, or really good are those tall juice cans.
✿ Thermometer. preferably one that can clip on the side of your pot. Candy thermometer.
✿ Kitchen Scale (I think this is optional at first)
✿ Hammer or butchers knife, for cutting down huge chunks of wax
CANDLE MAKING SUPPLIES
The most common waxes are beeswax, paraffin, and soy. You can go the no melt route, with wax beads or granules - just pour into containers, and stick in a wick, but...what's the fun in that? You can get melt and pour kits that comes with everything you need to get started. There's also melt & pour gel wax. Most everything related to candles is petroleum based, unless you're using beeswax or soy. You're better off buying in BULK if you think you want to take this up as a hobby/craft. Unless you have a really good source for affordable beeswax, start with paraffin. It's the most versatile. Once you get a little more experience under your belt - make an investment in beeswax. You'll never go back to anything else.
This is one of the best prices I've found online: Sleeping Bear Farms Bulk Raw Cappings Wax (unmolded) $5.25/lb but the shipping on one pound is UPS Ground + $11.72 = so it's like $17/lb!! That's why you want to find a local beekeeper!!!!!!!!
I just checked Craigslists (locally: Marietta GA) and someone is selling "yellow beeswax" for $5/lb and "dark" for $4/lb. (pic/right) It's worth posting an ad that you're looking!!! You don't always know what you're getting from Craigslist, so get 1 or 2 pounds to start - and if you love - go back for more.
Stearic Acid (Stearine) is a fatty acid derived from tallow or vegetable oil. It typically comes in a granulated form, and can be added to paraffin in the proportion of 10% stearic acid to 90% wax (or 1 1/2 oz. to 1 lb wax). It helps increase opacity of wax, and enhance color. It helps molds release better, bcuz it aids the wax in shrinking more on cooling. If you're using powdered candle dye - you'll want to mix it with a small amount of melted stearic acid, before adding it to your melted wax....to blend better.
Crisco Shortening - You can use 1 - 2 oz. of crisco per pound of paraffin to achieve a better "scent throw" - makes E/Os go further.
Mineral Oil - If you'd like to achieve a mottling effect to your candles, add 3 Tbs of mineral oil per pound of paraffin. Pour at 160 F. and do not use a water bath to cool candles.
Some say that Polysorbate 80 be added to wax if using E/Os. So that they don't fall to the bottom of the wax, and not mix in. It's a surfacant, and rated low as a danger to human health - but....I don't know. I don't think it's necessary - unless you're trying to pack a crap load of E/Os into a candle.
There are lots of other additives, but I've only listed the more natural ones here. In all honesty, I'm hoping to turn you on to candle making (if you're not already), and get you comfortable with the craft - in the hopes that you graduate to BEESWAX!!! Paraffin is the most affordable way to learn, but it is a petroleum by-product, and therefore - really has no place on your homestead.....not when beeswax is such an incredibly wonderful gift to our health!! Hopefully - we all eventually build our own bee farms and have all the honey and beeswax we need to keep in the sweet stuff!! That's my dream anyway!
WAX COLORANT/DYE Crayola crayons work well for coloring wax, but don't add too much, as they say it doesn't burn well....but I think that might be a myth (to get you to buy candle colors). Everyone seems to be using crayons. You can experiment with oil-based or powder dyes/pigments. Test on small batches. I haven't tried (yet)...but not sure why powder fabric dye wouldn't work?!? Let me know if you try it! You just want to stay away from anything water-based (like food coloring)!!
There's ton of discussion about wicking for candles - making it daunting. Candle craft suppliers expect you to buy some of everything, and test to the correct weight of wick. That seems crazy to me. You can watch the video below to give you an idea of what all that is about, but in general - the wick needs to be the right weight/diameter to melt your candle properly, without problems. Too small and not enough of the candle is burned. Too big, and there's soot, and a big flame, and too hot - can burn tabletop or crack container, etc. Next in importance - wick needs to be straight and centered! That's all there is too it.
Great thing about making candles is - you can remelt mistakes and try again, without losing materials. I would suggest getting a piece of heavy paper - trace the circumference of your container (if you're using containers), and tape a 1" sample of the wick inside the circle. If it's a success - adda check mark. If it's a fail - try another size wick, and replace your 1" sample.....this way you've got a chart to go by. Roughly any container within a couple of inches should work the same.
THAT LEADS US TO - - - MAKING YOUR OWN WICKING!!!
☛ 100% cooking or postal twine, dine crochet cotton, jute, hemp, silk, kite string. Basically anything that's 100% natural (not synthetic)! You want it to "burn" not "melt". Get together whatever you can find - the larger the assortment (thickness wise) the better! Also try braiding some of it, which will give you even more size variety!
☛ paperclips - these work as the anchor tab for your pre-cut wicks (also for hang-drying)
☛ 2 Tbs. salt
☛ 4 Tbs borax (see how great homesteading crafts are - a few basic ingredients - lots of uses!! see soapcrafter quest)
☛ 1 1/2 cups water
If you'll be making a lot of the same size candles (mason jars, etc) - then pre-cut twine and attach paperclips to all the ends.
My suggestion: Unravel HALF the spool/skein, cut and toss in the soak mixture. Unravel the rest - divide into 3rds, anchor one end, and BRAID it. This gives you two wick weights. Thick and thin. Toss the braided piece in the soak too. Leave overnight. Hang to dry by paperclips (on a string line), or (if dry and sunny) toss the whole mess over a branch outside, or lay across the rack inside your oven. Don't turn the oven "on" - just turn on the light...that will be enough heat to dry your wick nicely. You've just made a whole lot of wicking for next to nothing!! Yay!
As a homecrafter, it's always good to have a little collection of E/Os (essential oils) on hand, to add to your homemade soaps, bath and body products. E/Os have a broad range of prices - $3 and ounce up to $20 ounce or more, depending the plant, and whether they're organic or not. It's better to use non-organic E/Os any day of the week, rather than pure chemical F/Os (fragrance oils)!
Fragrance oil is the most popular way of scenting everything!! It's the cheapest and the most dangerous! You'll even find it in "natural" and "organic" products. The scents are more concentrated, and last longer, which makes it "perfect" for candle making. So, what if the stuff will make you sick...your home smells so nice! Make it smell even nicer with the real thing (E/O)! The main reason (besides cost) that companies don't only use E/Os, is bcuz the scent doesn't last long on the shelves. That's nothing you have to worry about, since you'll be making and using your candles fresh!!
You'll be adding somewhere around 1 tsp of E/Os. per pound of wax. More is not always better (don't go over 2 tsp, but depends a lot on the oil you're using. They all have different viscosity, grades, etc). You're wax has to be between 170 - 185 F. for the E/Os to bind to the wax. Too hot and you'll waste your E/Os, bcuz they'll just burn off. Make sure you stir them in well, and allow a few minutes for the E/Os (as well as color) to cook into the wax, before pouring.
Note that aromatherapy can be used to treat many ailments, especially mental & emotional imbalances. If you suffer from anything, or have a loved one that suffers from any illness - be sure to research what essential oils are useful in treating that disorder. Just add another level of greatness to candle making....and personalizes your gift even more.
Being frugal - avoid buying molds at first. Milk cartons, empty juice boxes, pringles containers, any empty container that can withstand some heat. Eggshells. Sand is great for molding candles, or any dirt for that matter. You can do this outside, or put some sand in a box - use anything to make an indentation - your fist, a bowl, etc. You can make as deep or shallow as you wish. If you make a large shape - use more than one wick, spaced out evenly, near the center.
Any candle that's poured into a reusable container....glass jelly jars, antique tea cups, coffee mugs, just about
anything (preferably non flammable)....just use common sense. If you're using finer glass containers. Heat them in an oven on the lowest setting 150 to 200 F, or "keep warm" setting.
Heat wax to 170 F. before adding dye or color, or scent. Don't let it get above 170 F. Remove glassware from oven.
Measure out enough wick to touch the bottom of your containers, and have enough left over to tie around a pencil/stick. Dip the wick in the hot wax - the part that will be inside the candle/container - cool a few seconds, then use your fingers to smooth out the waxed wick as it's cooling. You're trying to get a nice straight, somewhat stiff portion of wick. Place the pencil on top of your container, lower the wick into the container - so it's sitting right/centered/touching bottom - and use a good piece of tape to secure it to the pencil.
Some people omit the waxing step, and simply hot glue their wick to the bottom of their container, then tie tautly to a pencil, so the wick is straight and centered. NOTE: you should have measured wick previous to heating containers, and waxed them, and gotten sticks and tape ready.
You want to work quickly to make sure the containers don't cool down much. Ideally you want the flame of your candle to burn all the wax up, as it burns down....getting the most out of your investment. If you're using a BIG container - you'll have to anchor more wicks in your candle. usually 3, spaced out about 3/4" apart.
Pour your wax into the prepared container(s). Pour slowly, so as not to create bubbles. Wait a few minutes until you candle starts to set up, and TIGHTEN YOUR WICK if needed. Simply remove tape, pull gently on wick, and re-tape -DO NOT PULL OUT YOUR WICK!!!!
Set aside to cool (4 to 16 hours depending on the size of your candle). Take remaining wax off the heat. When cooling container candles can collapse some in the center, or develop air pockets - poke some holes in your candle to help air escape. When your candle is cool..reheat remaining wax in can, and pour a little extra to level out the top of your candle and fill holes ("second pour").
These are free-standing w/out a container, although they can be placed in containers (votives). Melt wax to 170-180 F. If you're using old milk or juice cartons - poke a SMALL hole in the bottom....thread your wick through, and put a solid piece of tape to hold it in place, and plug the hole. lay a pencil or stick across the top of the container, cut wick to length, and tie or tape to stick. make absolutely sure it CENTERED and STRAIGHT/TAUT.
Add color or scent to your wax (170-185 F)(make sure you stir this in for a few minutes). Pour wax SLOWLY into mold(s), to the very top. Remove
remain wax from heat. Allow candles to cool completely. Do "second pour" if necessary, to top off your candle. You can place your candles in the fridge to speed up cooling. Tear/peel away carton - ta-daa!
A fun effect for votive candles - and to make wax go further - is to fill up your mold with ice cubes, before pouring your wax. Make sure to keep your wick straight. Ice will melt as wax cools. Pour off the water before unmolding. You'll have a neat lacey looking candle. You can leave lacey, or before unmolding - you can pour out your water - and pour in a second color of wax, to fill the holes up.
Some more interesting ideas (below) - add flat embellishments on your unmolded candle, and fix in place by brushing on some hot clear wax (leaves, newsprint, flowers, etc). Embed fire/melt proof items inside your candles (below are sculpted, metal figures), metal jewelery, change, marbles, glass figurines, etc) Make sure they don't interfere with the wick! Save leftover wax colors, or slice up old candles, and use as embeds in new candles. Place inside mold (around wick), and fill with clear or complimentary color of wax. I think the "bleeding" or "vampire" candles are neat. You'd mold a thinner candle in red first, then place inside a larger mold, and fill with white or black wax. This would work for tappered candles too - dip first in red wax, till your tappers are half the size you want (finished), then finish the dipping in an alternative color to hide the red. The picture with the tilted glasses (should be in the 'container' section) - tip your first color and allow to cool, add additional colors, tipping in opposite direction...fishish off pouring straight.
Decide how long you want your candles, measure out twice that amount of wick + some...find the center point and lay over a pencil or chopstick. Melt wax in something tall enough to accommodate your wick. Those tall, juice cans are perfect - like tomato and grapefruit juice come in, or a coffee can if your tappers are shorter.
Place your can in a pot of boiling water, and melt wax inside can. Lower heat, dip both ends of wick at once, pull up/out, allow to cool a few seconds, then dip again....continue in this fashion till your tappers are how you want them. While tappers are still warm - you can roll them on a flat, hard surface, on waxed paper - if you want them to look more store-bought (professional?) I like the more rustic, handmade look.
The Survival (45 + hour) Crisco Candle!
Olive Oil Lamps
Make some candles, then submit that you've accomplished this quest - to get your CandleCrafting Badge.
Join the HomeCrafters Group to discuss this and other crafts (offer tips, advice, inspiration, etc). Or comment below.