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Candlemaking Instructions

Safety First

  • Never melt wax over a direct source of heat. Always use a double-boiler, or a pan held firmly over a pan of hot water, OR a thermostatically controlled crockpot.
  • Use a thermometer when melting. Wax will ignite at 400F.
  • Never pour water on a wax fire. Smother it instead.
  • Never leave melting wax unattended.
  • Never pour wax down the drain.
  • Keep children and animals away as you are working.

    Equipment

    As well as the pan/water pan arrangement you need to melt the wax in, there are a few basic must haves with candlemaking. Read the pages from the links in the list below before you begin.

  • Thermometer. You can buy special wax-making ones or use a jam thermometer. This is not just for safety. Different techniques require precise temperature control for success.
  • Moldshese can be bought or found, metal, or rubber, or plexiglass.
  • Wick.
  • Wax! Kind of obvious but the choice available in some craft stores is wide, with no explanation marked as to what the differences are.
  • Additives, such as Stearin which helps the candles come out of the mold.
  • Scent.
  • Colour. Wax dye comes in powder, granules, chunks, or discs. You MUST use this and not other dyes you have for other crafts.
  • Odds and ends to stir with, poke with, etc. I have metal skewers and plastic spoons.
  • Wicking needle. To thread wick through a candle with no wick hole in the mold.
  • Oven gloves and tongs.

    You will collect other useful bits and pieces as you gain experience and master new techniques.

    There are a thousand ways to make candles, some are so exquisite that it seems like an art crime to burn them, but candles are for burning, and they MUST BURN. Some of the instructions given in candlemaking may seem a little odd, but if not followed your candle could be a disaster when burned, even if it is beautiful when made.

    The best beginner's candle is a dipped one, yet this remains my favourite after 25 years, and is still a delightful thing to make and behold. To dip a candle you MUST have patience, as it can take over an hour, up to 3 hours for a tall candle, but the end results are very satisfying. To make very tall candles you will need to buy a special dipping can, but I get good results on shorter ones using the empty can from a beermaking kit. A tall coffee can etc would work just as well.
    Be prepared to need a lot of wax to fill the can to the required height and have a lot leftover. This is your chance to learn two techniques at once, as you can pour the remains into a mold.

    So, having read all the notes from the links in the equipment list above, you are now standing in front of your stove. If the wax is granules, you can weigh it and pour it straight into the top pan, or if you have slabs of it you may have to break it up first. Don't pussyfoot around, take a hammer to it.
    Add the stearin etc that you need according to weight, and watch and stir while it all melts. Keep the water simmering, and be ready to turn it down if the wax temp exceeds 200F, and try to keep it around 150F. When it has fully melted ad the colour and scent. Cut a piece of wick twice the length of final candle and add about 4" for holding. Fold it in half, and dip in the cut ends (you make dipped candles in pairs). Don't leave the wick in the wax too long and as you take it out, wait a few seconds for cooling then straighten the dipped wick by running your finger and thumb down it. Repeat until the candle is the desired size (or your arm aches) then hang to cool. Allow to cool FULLY before burning.

    The trick with a perfect dipped candle is balancing out the temperature of the wax, the dip time, and the time between dips. There are no magic numbers here, it depends on the wax being used, the room temperature and the position of the planet Quarg (my pet theory) because this is a trial and error thing. I've read MANY books on candlemaking but my advice to you is just TRY. If the layers don't build up fast enough, the wax is too hot OR you are dipping for too long. If the candle has a lumpy finish or the layers peel apart like an onion, then the wax is too cold, or you are taking too long to re-dip. Simple as that.

    Chances are that your first candle WILL be a success and it will spur you on to other things.