Glorious Sacred Beeswax
Beeswax is one of those luxuries that's totally worth splurging on! For sure you want to eventually want to add beekeeping to homestead, but until then - do your best to find locally sourced, unrefined/unfiltered beeswax. There's no equivalent!
Try posting a wanted ad on Craigslist, or searching for local beekeepers on LocalHarvest.org. 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) at any arts and craft supply store, but you'll be paying a premium for it - and you need a lot to make candles.
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!!! 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 knows - you might even end up with your own candle making business!
You can check out their website HERE.
CANDLE MAKING ON A BUDGET
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 Presto 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 come 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 the 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 can 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 sacredness of candle crafting (if you're not already). Paraffin is the most affordable way to learn but 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 ourselves in all that sweet stuff!! That's my dream anyway!
WAX COLORANT/DYE - Crayola crayons work well for coloring wax, but don't add too much - it doesn't burn well. 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)!!
Unless you're making tapered candle, picking out the right wick for you project is the most difficult part of candle making. Don't let wicks intimidate you though....it's really just common sense. It's a Goldilocks thing of just right. Too little wicking and your candle will flood and snuff out. Too much wicking and you get black soot, burned surfaces, and sometimes fires - especially where the heat brakes the votive. You want it just right.
Wick comes in lots of different weights/thicknesses/diameters. Watch the video below to get a basic idea. I suggest starting out with small votive and taper candles, before braving huge pillars. Always make sure your wicks are straight and centered!
MAKING YOUR OWN WICKING
☛ 100% cooking or postal twine, fine 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 more size variety!
☛ Paperclips - these work as the anchor tab for your pre-cut wicks (also for hang-drying)
☛ 2 Tbsp salt
☛ 4 Tbsp borax (see how great homesteading crafts are - a few basic ingredients - lots of uses!!)
☛ 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.
Soak the braided wicking in the solution. Leave overnight. Hang to dry by paperclips 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, another thing to splurge on is essential oils. Start building a collection that can be used in your homemade soaps, bath, body, and cleaning products. E/Os have a broad range of prices - $3 and ounce up to $20 ounce or more, depending on the scarcity of the plant, and whether it's organic or not. Better to use non-organic E/Os rather than pure chemical F/Os (fragrance oils)! And honestly, toxic fragrance crap for your home isn't cheap. Do you want to spend $5 on a bottle of Fabreez? $6 for a toxic plug-in? $8 for fabric softener crystals? Or would you rather have some real essential oils to play with?!
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. Make it smell even nicer with the real thing (E/O)! The main reason (besides bottom-line) that companies don't 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 all your stuff 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 viscosities, grades, etc). Make sure your wax is 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 your candle making....and personalizes your gift even more.
Great thing about making candles is you can remelt mistakes and try again!
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 or a healing candle - then all the power to you. LOTS OF INFO PACKED INTO THIS VIDEO. Candle crafting is trial and error, while you're learning - so go the frugal route. Investing a whole lot of money right out of the gate doesn't make things easier. I also suggest you don't stress yourself out over the toxicity of paraffin wax when getting started. I will say AVOID FRAGRANCE OILS at all cost, and you've automatically reduce the toxins by about 90%!!!! Beeswax is the best, the healthiest, and it comes pre-scented by nature!!
Candle crafting like any other craft is more about technique and tricks. After all, it's just melt and pour. There are a lot online candle crafting suppliers who put out information that's daunting, complicated, and pricey. Remember - they're selling supplies and their goal is to get you to stock up. They insist that precut, pretabbed wicking, special blend waxes, special colorants, and blended scents will save you time and money. I disagree. I think it takes the 'craft' out of candle making. We're taking the self-sufficient, homesteaders route - aka we're all super CAPABLE!!! We like to learn from our mistakes and push the limit of things. Of course, if you have money to burn (literally), by all means stock up.
With this craft under yer belt - you can create awesome personal gifts for friends and family. You can sell candles in online marketplaces like Etsy, or at local farmers markets, or gift shops. You can also teach weekend workshops to local residents (adults or children). Consider that 6 students paying $30 is $180 for about 2 hrs time (minus supplies). Students learn a great new hobby and get to take home their own creation(s). You can up this price by including a starter kit you've put together or become a local supplier - once you start keeping bees (that's another project)!
Avoid the urge to molds. Start out being creatively resourceful. Milk cartons, empty juice boxes, pringles containers, any empty container that can withstand some heat and weight without buckling. Eggshells are cute. Sand/dirt is great for molding candles - free and reusable. Simply press indentations into damp sand (fist, bowl, freeform) Go deep or shallow. If you make a large shape - use more than one wick, spaced out evenly, near the center. Prewax your wicking to get it straight, tie to a stick to keep it suspended and poke the bottom of wick down into the sand before pouring.
Use any container that non-flammable. Tea cups, mugs, jelly jars, etc. To avoid cracking finer glass containers - heat them in an oven first on the lowest setting 150 to 200 F before pouring.
Heat wax to 170 F. before adding dye or color, or scent. Don't let it get above 170 F.
Measure out enough wick to touch the bottom of your containers. Prewax your wick to stiffen - 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. Tape the top portion of wick to a pencil or stick, and suspend in your container so it's sitting centered, and touching bottom. You can omit prewaxing, and simply hot glue the wick to the bottom of their container then tie tautly to a pencil, so the wick is straight and centered.
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 (gently) if needed. Simply remove the tape, pull gently on the 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. Sometimes container candles collapse a little in the center or develop air pockets - poke some holes in your candle to help air escape. When your candle is cool..reheat leftover wax in (that's in can), and pour a little extra to level out the top of your candle and fill holes ("second pour"). When you're done your project - you can leave leftover wax to cool in can for next project.
VOTIVE & PILLAR CANDLES
These are free-standing candle without a container.
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 to 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 - make sure you stir this in for a few minutes. Pour wax SLOWLY into mold(s), to the very top. Remove remaining wax from heat. Allow candles to cool completely. Do a "second pour" if necessary. Carefully place your candles in the fridge to speed up cooling. Tear/peel away carton - ta-daa!
A fun effect for casting candles, especially when you're low on wax, is to fill up your mold with crushed or cubed ice (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 it looking like severe swiss cheese, or you can do another pour in a second color to fill in the holes.
Some more interesting ideas (below) - After unmolding your candle - add flat embellishments. Fix in place by brushing on some hot clear wax (leaves, newsprint, flowers, etc). You can also 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 backfill with white 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 (sorry...should be in the 'container' section) - tip your first color and allow to cool, add additional colors, tipping in opposite direction...finish off pouring straight wax.
TAPERED & DIPPED
Decide how long you want your candles and measure out twice that amount of wick and then some. Find the center point and lay over a pencil, chopstick, dowel.
Melt wax in something tall enough to accommodate your wick. Number 10 cans or tall juice cans are perfect, or large coffee cans work if your tappers are shorter.
Place your can - filled with wax chunks into a pot of boiling water. Once your wax melts, lower heat. You're dipping two tapers at once. Lower wick into wax, pause and pull up. Allow to cool a few seconds, then dip again. Do this a few times then smooth out your wicks to straight. Resume dipping and pausing. This is the meditative rhythm. Doing this outside over an open fire, with trees rustling, birds chirping, and the air filled with the scent of honey - a craft doesn't get much better! This is a great craft for (supervised) children!
Continue in this fashion till your tapers are how you want them. While your tapers are still warm - you can roll them on a flat, hard surface with waxed paper - if you want them to look more store-bought (professional?) I like the more rustic, handmade look.