I have wonderful memories of making candles when I was a kid. It's something I've wanted to do with my own kids for a while, but I didn't want to deal with all of the chemical laden candle making products, and was a little daunted by the idea of going old school and not using some pre-made kit. Turns out, there was nothing to be scared of. Candle making with beeswax is a ton of fun!
I had to do a lot of research to figure out how to go about making these darn things, so I'm going to do my best to lay it all out for you so you don't have to do the same. Please place any questions you have in the comments section, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
To make real beeswax candles you will need:
- Beeswax (1-2 lbs)
- Double boiler or makeshift one
- A big, sharp knife
- Wax paper
- News paper
- Paper plate (wax coated)
- Something to hang the candles from to cool
- If you can get it from a local bee keeper, great! That's the best way to go. But since most of us don't have bee keepers living next door (thank goodness!) I thought I should mention some other places you can find beeswax. Mountain Rose Herbs is a good online source for beeswax. Their wax varies in price depending on what you're looking for, and can be bought in bulk. Your local craft store is also good place to look, especially since many of them give out such good coupons.
- You can spend a ton of money on wicks. They are super expensive! Especially if you want to make sure that they are all natural and don't contain any metals. Lead in wicks has been outlawed in the U.S. but many companies still use zinc and tin. If you are going to buy your wicks make sure they are 100% natural fibers with no metal core. If you're cheap like me, you can actually make your own using cotton twine. There are two ways you can do this:
- Take the twine and soak it for at least 12 hours in a solution of 1 1/2 cups of water, 4 tbsp. of borax and 2 tbsp. salt. This solution is basically boric acid. It is very dangerous. Keep it up and away from children and pets. Leave the wicks to dry 2-3 days.
- Or just use the cotton thread.
- Unless you are planning to make a lot of candles, I would advise against spending the money to get a double broiler. It is unnecessary, and you will probably want a much larger pot to melt the wax in anyway. Making your own makeshift double broiler is easy. Use any saucepan and fill it up a few inches with water. Place a cookie cutter or tuna can in the center of the pot like so.
Then place the pot for melting the wax on top. A coffee can works well, but I am anal and constantly worried about releasing toxins into the air, so I used a glass Pyrex measuring cup. You can also by a special candle making pot at most crafting stores for around $20.00.
The rest of the items you need are fairly self-explanatory so let's move on to the actual candle making, shall we?
Making Your Candles
Next, set your water to boil and reduce to medium heat. Place your melting pot into your saucepan (on top of the cookie cutter). Here is where I'm going to tell you to do something wrong. Most people say to set your pot above the water so the wax is heated by the steam. Yeah, I tried that. 3 hours later, the damn thing was still hardly melted. So I kept the melting pot on top of the cookie cutter, but added more water to the saucepan so it came up the sides of my pot a little. This worked much better. Just be careful to watch it so the wax doesn't start to boil and smoke.
While you're waiting for your wax to melt, you can make the wicks. It is important to note that beeswax burns much more slowly than regular, paraffin wax so you need much thicker wicks. Most people recommend square braided wicks. These are basically 4 strands braided together. I am not very girly, and therefore stink at braiding, so this was a bit above my pay grade - so to speak. I just did a normal 3 string braid instead. You can do whatever you feel comfortable with. I tied one end, braided the strings together tightly, then tied a knot on the other end so it wouldn't unravel.
Now it is time to dip. Cut the knots off the ends of your wicks. Fold them over to form a U. This will allow you to make two candles at once. If you're working with young children, just turn off the stove, remove the cookie cutter from the sauce pan, and place the melting pot directly into the hot water (add more water if you need to). This will keep the wax warm, but is much safer than working on a hot stove.
Place a big pot, bucket or cup full of water on newspaper next to the pot. I used two cups - one for each candle.
Depending on your child's age, he or she may need more or less help, but you'll probably want to hold their hand for at least the first few dippings. I advise that you count with them, "Dip 1 and up, dip 2 and up, dip 3 and up and into the water." Make sure they dip quickly (without banging the side of the pot) and pull the candle completely out of the wax each time. If you leave the candle in the wax too long, it will start to burn off the under-layer of wax. (The water helps cool it down more quickly and prepares the candle for the next dipping).
Keep doing this until you get the size you want, then hang the candles to dry. I used a broom stuck between two chairs.
Don't forget the newspaper!
Once dry, you can trim the wicks to about a half inch high, and cut the bottoms to flatten them. I dipped the bottoms of the candles into the wax then pressed them onto the paper plate to make sure they would stand. I also trimmed back the wax at the tops of the wicks a little since the children hadn't dipped very consistently. They're a little funny looking, but the kids really loved them.
Clean up is a huge pain. Here are a few tips to hopefully make it easier.
- Utensils - Place them in very hot water and let them soak for about 5 or so minutes, then wipe clean with a paper towel.
- Countertops / stovetops - Scrape off with a plastic putty knife. Pour hot water on any remaining wax and scrub with rough side of sponge.
- Fabric - Place item in the freezer, and once frozen, pick off. Or place the item between paper towels and rub it with a hot iron until the wax comes off onto the towels.
Burning Your Candles
- A beeswax candle needs at least 24 hours to cure before burning so no lighting for at least one day.
- Beeswax candles are a harder to burn than paraffin so you may need to hold the lighter to the wick longer to get it going.
- The wicks will smoke a bit if blown out. To avoid this happening, just push the wicks back into the melted wax (using a knife or something metal) to snuff them out. Remember to remove the wick right after so it doesn't get stuck. Or you can be super-cool by licking your fingers and pinching the wick to put it out.
Points of Caution
- Always keep baking soda or a (chemical) fire extinguisher on hand in case the wax begins to burn. Water will not put out a wax fire, it will spread it.
- Do not leave your candles unattended.
- Never pour beeswax down your drain. It will clog your pipes.