Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Take a Break: Making Candles

In keeping with December’s theme of candles for the various holidays, today’s “take a break” focuses on making the candle itself.

As a kid, we’d put paraffin and broken crayons (minus the wrapper) into a clean and empty coffee can and set it in a pot of water. After it melted, we’d remove the can with the melted wax very carefully and then pour the wax into various containers. An old milk carton, stuffed with ice chips was quite popular, as it yielded a lacy effect. For the wick, we’d dip cotton string in the wax as it was melting, let it stiffen and dry, and then one of us held it in place while the other poured the wax. Not a really great idea as most of us ended up with a burned finger. We finally went with the string on the pencil approach-we’d tie the string to a pencil and rest it on the lip of the “mold.” I watched a video of a bee keeper/candle maker who uses bobby pins to keep the wick in place. Much simpler than the pencil method

While we had a lot of the basics right, I don’t recommend paraffin, instead opting for soy, palm or beeswax. Paraffin candles emit toxins, produce black soot, and can be a source of indoor air pollution. Most craft stores now carry vegetable wax, particularly soy. There are varieties that you can melt in the microwave, so you can avoid the makeshift boiler of my youth. Watch Beeswax, Melting Bees Wax, Molds, Candle Making, which features a Georgia bee farmer. He melts all of his beeswax in a microwave.

Different waxes are better for certain uses. Soy works best if it’s in a container. This isn’t what you want for a pillar candle. Soy also requires more dye. The best way to find out what will work is to talk to someone at the store where you are purchasing your wax. Of course, there are plenty of websites where you can order.

Instead of using synthetic fragrance, essential oils can be substituted. You don’t need a lot-maybe a few drops depending on the size of the candle you are making. Add the oil after the wax is melted and you’ve removed it from the heat source. Be sure to test your essential oil first. Dried cinnamon also works.

Metal free wicks can also be purchased from a craft store, but cotton string works.

You can purchase molds at a craft store, but there are a variety of things in your home that will work just as well. Such items include: empty milk cartons; tin cans; empty candy tins; aluminum foil that you mold into a shape; gelatin molds. Teacups; canning jars; or terracotta flowerpots make containers for poured candles.

Some candles to try
Soy Wax Candle Making for Beginners

Make Candles from Citrus Fruits

Candles in the Sand

Floating Candles

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