Sunday, September 11, 2005

Candle Making at Home

You read about the history and uses of candles in yesterday's post. Today, let me try to communicate some of the satisfaction that comes from making your own candles. Perhaps I'll make a convert out of you!

As I mentioned yesterday, many faiths use candle magick. Interestingly, those faiths also believe that if you make your own candles, the potency is increased. But even if you aren't inclined to believe in candle magick, you can create a little 'magick' of your own in your kitchen. And if you'd rather make 'tarts' for melting in a burner, it's even easier (just pour the hot wax into little pans that have been sprayed with vegetable oil; no wick involved).

Making candles in your kitchen fills your entire home with the aroma of candles twice; the first time as you craft them, the second as you burn and enjoy them. I also get enjoyment from working with warm wax. It reminds me of the time that I was a 'candy striper' in a local hospital, and how fun it was to plunge your hands into warm wax (it's used as an arthritis treatment). Note: I am not recommending you plunge your hands into the hot wax! The only effect you'll get from that is 3rd degree burns.

So Let's Get Started

(My friend who's an attorney tells me to state a standard disclaimer: I am not responsible for any injuries or other misfortunes that may come to you if you choose to use my directions to make candles. I'm just an amateur, so feel free to browse other sites for further information)

Let's begin with the standard wax candle (I don't work with gel, it doesn't interest me in the least). You'll want to get together a bunch of wax. Now, if it's just for the pure pleasure of candle making, it doesn't matter if you recycle used bits of wax. If you're using the candles for magickal purposes, you can't recycle any used candles; although you can use candles that were never burnt.

Where do you get this wax? You can go to your local craft store and buy paraffin by the slab. Or, you can buy the more expensive beeswax or bayberry wax online (if you want to know the cheapest sources for these, let me know and I'll post it). Most candles are paraffin, and there's nothing wrong with starting with paraffin since it's the easiest wax to work with for beginners.

You can also go to your local thrift stores and find baskets full of discarded candles that no one thought about re-crafting. If you buy these, wipe them down and break the candles up and sort them by color. It makes it easier for you later on. I keep them in ziploc sandwich baggies so I can easily grab what I want when I want it.

You can also find slightly abused but wonderfully scented candles in close-out sections. They're great for recycling as well.

In my case, I use all the waxes above.

So, let's start you out making a chunk candle. These are actually the easiest ones to make, in my opinion. First you need to go shopping. Buy a metal pitcher (or use an old metal coffee pot with a pour spout). You can get those pitchers at your local craft stores for about $20.

You'll also need a candle mold which you can get at the craft store or buy on ebay (they have some great ones at fantastic prices there). You can use a homemade mold as well. Take a can or a carboard juice box that's rinsed well. Use a nail to put a hole in the middle of the bottom. Voila! You have a mold!

Incidentally, most candlemaking sources tell you that you need a thermometer. Well, I have one I've never used, so don't bother. After all, candles were made without them for hundreds of years. You'll also need:

  • Scent, if you wish (you can buy this at the craft store or online)
  • Wicks (you can buy them at the craft store or online)
  • Unscented / unflavored cooking spray or the more expensive Candle Release Silicone Spray
  • Mold Sealer (which is a type of grey putty)
  • A larger pot that the wax kettle can rest in
  • A large spoon, scissors, a strong knife, and a long pencil
Chop up enough colored wax to fill your mold, or buy the pre-chopped colored wax (shown in the picture) from your local craft store or online. You can use one color, or many.

In the picture shown above, the candle actually went through six pours. You'll actually only pour one color over the chunks, so your candle will look more like this:

Take wax of a contrasting color and place it in your pot. Put the pot into another, larger pot and fill that larger pot with water. The wax kettle will rest inside that pot of water. Turn your burner to a low-medium to medium setting and keep an eye on this while it heats up. (Don't let any kids or pets get too close to this, of course).

While your wax is melting, prepare your mold. Cut a piece of wick that is 4" longer than your mold. Thread it through the hole in your mold, leaving 2" outside the hole. Use your mold sealer to seal the hole so that no wax will be able to seep through (if a little wax does get through, it's no big deal). On the open side of the mold, take the pencil and rest it on the top of the mold, and tie the wick around it, so that the wick is centered on the mold and is secured. Spray your non-stick coating on the inside of the mold (you'll regret it if you don't do this). I recommend placing your mold on a dinner plate, in case there's any leakage. It's much easier to clean that way.

Take the chunks and heap them up inside the mold, around the wick. Get as many as you can in there but don't fill them to the top of the mold. Leave about 1/4" to 1/2" from the top.

If you wish to add scent, then stir it in when your wax is completely melted; just before you pour it. (Hint: Wipe the spoon down immediatly after, while it's still hot. It makes it so much easier to clean later)

Pour the wax (carefully) into the mold, over the chunks and leave about a 1/4 C of wax in reserve. Try to cover the chunks completely. Let the candle cool for at least a couple hours. Your candle may form a depression as it cools. If it does, heat up the leftover wax again and pour it into the depression. You may have to do that more than once. When the candle is complete, pour any leftover wax into a plate to cool. You can then break it up and store it easily. Wipe out your wax kettle with paper towels while it's still hot and the wax is liquid (be careful). Again, it's much easier to clean that way.

Once the candle is fully cooled and is finished, pick the mold sealer from the wick and untie the wick from the pencil. Your candle should slide out easily. The top of the candle was once the bottom (where the sealer was). If the bottom is uneaven, you can heat up a plate in the microwave and slide it around on the plate until it's nice and flat.

OK, you've read about it. Now try it!


Kathleen said...

I am going to give this a shot! Not today, but soon. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Saur♥Kraut said...

Kathleen, my pleasure! Please let me know~

Tabasamu said...

this is really very cool!!! It's kind of like cooking. I am going to try it today. I have some old tapers that are half-burnt and I've slung into a drawer 'in case of emergency'. I'm going to convert them this afternoon! I'm using a can of green beans as my mold (w/o the green beans) and I broke apart a new taper to use the wick inside.

Saur♥Kraut said...

TC, great use for that can of green beans, IMHO. Good way to get the wick, too. What colors are you using?

Tabasamu said...

Different colored chunks and I'm going to melt some white wax to go all over them.

michelle said...

I know little man will love doing this. I am pretty sure big guy, getting bigger by the second, will too.

Next weekends project.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Michelle, if you want, I'll come over and bring the kids and some wax.

Fred said...

This post will get into the hands of those who will love to do this. My kids!

Ms.L said...

You rock!Thanks for this,can't wait to give it a try:)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I used to do this. I once made a candle 2 feet high, 9 inches thick, with 3 wicks. It burned very nicely.

michelle said...

Sounds like a plan. I'll call this week.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Very informative and intersting post!

I would want to make them to save $$ and get the scents that I enjoy the most!

Jeff said...

Don't tell anyone I like to do shit like this, but I like to use cologne or perfume for scent too. I used to be married when I was in the navy and the wives made us all candles for "half way night" one 6 month deployment that had their favorite perfume for the scent - which is where I got the idea. Be careful though because it's flammable which could be bad on a gas stove and it's hard to get out of the bottle without breaking it if it's a spray bottle. Also, use more than you would think you need because a little doesn't go as far as you think it would because alot of it gets evaporated in the creation and heating process. I can't believe I'm sharing craft tips! It's not the worst though...I'm not the least bit ashamed of it but for about 13 years or so now I have enjoyed spending lot's of time cross stitching. It would be hard to believe unless you knew me real well and caught me doing it, but it has sort of been a secret guilty pleasure for me (particularly in winter) sort of like a girl slurping chocolate hagendaas when noone is looking. It also got me quite lucky many times after my divorce when I was constantly on the prowl. Any single guys reading this - A silly little picture can be cross stitched in a couple hours and when a chick gets a silly little cross stitched gift that YOU made her, she melts for that shit every single time. This from a high ranking pussy hound. Don't fake it though, I told a friend that trick and he bought one and presented it as his own and got busted which also got him a night in hand so to speak. Turns out the girl liked to do it too (cross stitch that is) and he had no clue that dnc meant something about color or that you need a fabric ring to do it. SO BUSTED ha ha ha. Take it from me. If that doesn't suit you, another thing that works with some chicks and is easy to learn and fun to do is called plastic canvas. In the end, it's quite similar to cross stitching but with much bigger holes and yarn so it's easier to see what you are doing and not nearly as likely to get you screaming and cussing in frustration and anger. With plastic canvas, you make silly things like tissue box covers and toilet paper roll covers and trinket boxes and shit like that. There's actually some pretty cool shit you can make, but the key is to make it yourself or it will never work. And if there is a small blemish, let it rest and don't get down on yourself. Chicks dig it that you tried and like the imperfection better because you did it yourself.
WOW! I can't believe I had such a flash of honesty. I could go for a huge joint now.
Incidentally, Which of those standup clips did you like the best, Saur? You'll have to tell me. Have a hoot and keep on keepin' on. Until later...

Saur♥Kraut said...

Jeff, video number 4! I love that one. You crack me up with the perfume candles. I had never thought about it, but what a great idea to send one halfway through your tour! I think oils would be so much better, though, cuz (as you said) alcohol evaporates so easily. You can get all sorts of scented oils pretty cheaply out there, and they work well with the wax, too (for the most part). I've experimented with them, and like them a lot (overall). Funny about the cross stitch. I used to cross stitch like a FIEND. Then I got burned out. You want some supplies?

Barbara, exactly! You save money, get exactly the scents and colors you want...and it's easy! it's very satisfying.

Oldhoss, wow! That's a massive candle. I think I'd be bored with it by the time it burned all the way down (do I have ADD or what?)

Ms.L nice to meet you! I checked out your blog today. Thanks for stopping by!

Fred, good! They'll love it.

dddragon said...

lol - I think Jeff's is the longest comment I've ever seen.

I made some candles when I was in High School, with molds, one of which was a mushroom.

Hey, it was the 70s.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Dddragon! Me too! My parents had a mushroom, a whale, and a snail mold along with the standard ones. We made candles a lot during that time, and everyone got one. Eventually we retired (I don't remember why) but I never forgot the excitement of it and I loved giving candles to teachers. I particularly remember a purple whale and a brown snail.

Jeff said...

#4 - The one where I opened for Juan Villareal. I had an allout racial assault that night. It was sort of weird being the only white person in a room full of mexicans. I thought I was sort of gonna get my ass kicked for that. When the first thing out of your mouth is "I haven't been this nervous since I was in child support court with all you fucking mexicans here" in front of a room full of them, it can be a wee bit nerve racking. Then again, they had apparently all been to child support court because they definately got the joke. Following it up with my stupid goofy white honky ass doing the drunken white man shuffle was pretty funny though. Made me laugh anyhow.

And dddragon - you ain't seen nothin', amigo. I get in the right mood and sometimes I occasionally leave comments five times that without even realizing it. Five times is a very conservative guess too. Ask Saur, I've put some really long ones on here before.

Time to go home - shift is ending. Until later...

Saur♥Kraut said...

Yeah, Jeff seems to like it here, because he really pours himself into his comments sometimes, which is way cool. Jeff, I would've been scared stiff! You handles it well. I can be onstage acting if it's scripted, but I don't think I could do what you do.

I think it's funnier when you come to the audience's level (where they're shooting from) and I guess that's why I enjoyed that one the most. You could feel the difference.

How's work going for you lately?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Argh! I am so annoyed. I'm not retyping my last comment, but "You handles it pretty well" sounds like I was raised in the Bronx. Which I wasn't. Actually, now that I think about it, it sounds pretty funny...

Tabasamu said...

OK, I tried it and it turned out REALLY well. This is so cool, Saur! Thanks. I wouldn't have bothered to buy a book on it.


Jeff said...

I never fucking win...

I just spent the last two and a half hours replying to the question...

How's work going for you lately?

And as is my usual custom for ending a correspondence, I was typing "until later..." and got as far as "until la" when the power at the house flashed off and then on again (which happens all the fucking time here) and I lost it all. I had a great story too, dammit! Now I haven't got the energy to start over again and I think that was maybe God's way of telling me that she thinks maybe this time I shared a little too much so I guess I'll have to let it be for the night.
Until later...

Eddo said...

So FUNNY! "Note: I am not recommending you plunge your hands into the hot wax! The only effect you'll get from that is 3rd degree burns."

Saur♥Kraut said...

Eddo, ;o)

Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Good post! My Aunt used to make candles all the time. I haven`t tried yet but maybe in the future. I like the bit about how more effective they are when hand made.

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