Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Candle Making

The ability to generate light, either with a flashlight or by making fire, is a topic frequently discussed on this blog. However, the overlooked candle is another source of light and heat. From a simple birthday candle to a three wick, eight inch diameter, two foot tall column, they all have their uses. 

One of humanity's older crafts, making candles at home can be a fun and useful skill to learn. It’s also much simpler than most people realize.

Supplies and Equipment
The elements necessary to make candles are not complicated or expensive, but they can be fairly specific in certain details. You will need:
  1. A method of melting wax safely
  2. A candle mold
  3. Wax
  4. Wicks and sustainer tabs

When melting wax, the two most common options are an electric melter or a double boiler. They each have their pros and cons; for example, an electric melter is considered safer as there is no open flame, but obviously requires electricity, whereas a double boiler works with nearly any heat source, but is a greater safety risk if used over an open flame as liquid wax is very flammable.

A simple aluminum double boiler

Candle molds can be simple or fancy and come in various sizes. Existing containers such as glasses, mugs, tins, and even boxes can be used as-is without needing to remove the wax after casting. You can even 3D print your own candle molds.

Paraffin, beeswax, soy, and other plant and synthetic-based waxes are all available for candle making. The range of prices varies, and so do their properties; qualities such as burn rate, drip quantity, and melt temperature should be considered. Damaged or broken candles are also a good resource.

Wicks are available in both coils that need to be cut to length and in pre-cut lengths and already threaded on keepers called sustainer tabs, which are also available separately. Another consideration when selecting wicks is matching the wick material to the type of wax and the size of the wick to the diameter of the candle.

Optionally, dyes, perfumes, and other decorative elements can be added for aesthetic purposes.

The steps to follow are also fairly straightforward, and are safe as long as reasonable care is taken.

Obligatory safety warning: melted wax can be very hot! 
Avoid getting it on your skin or other important things.

  1. Place the wax in the melter and begin heating.
  2. While the wax is melting, prep the wick by attaching the sustainer tab and threading to the mold as appropriate based on manufacturer's instructions.
  3. Make certain the wick is properly centered in the candle mold.
  4. Carefully pour the melted wax into the mold.
  5. Let sit while the wax hardens.
  6. If appropriate, remove from the mold. (If the wax is being poured into something like a jar or tin that will be the permanent container for the candle this step can be skipped.)
  7. Enjoy your candle. 
With a small investment in equipment and supplies along with a few hours of time, we can make attractive and functional candles that can brighten our lives in more ways than one.

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