Where's the village?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tips on Candle Making

I was just sending an email to some random person I don't even know with some of my gathered wisom on making candles. It used to be a great big hobby of mine and the dajadaddy's, way back before the dajamou. We had an entire quarter of our basement dedicated to it. And I thought, why the hell not post it here too? I am versatile! I am more than a SAHM! I am large, I contain multitudes. And one of them is a chandler, thankyouverymuch.

So here. It's not everything, because I've had a drink or four, and I'm not going through my notes which are buried in a box somewhere. But this is what I remember as being important for someone starting out in The Hobby:

  • Use a basement or a garage to make them. When paraffin melts, a lot of it evaporates and then you get a super-thin layer of wax all over things. Makes floors slippery, among other things. Also, spills happen. You do NOT want them to happen in your kitchen. Trust me.
  • You don't need a fancy double boiler or anything to melt your wax. We used old pots from a thrift store on some plug-in electric burners, then put the wax in metal soup cans to melt. A small metal trivet in the pot of water, under the cans, is helpful too. You can just leave the unused wax in the cans for later use. This is great if you want to experiment with mixing colors or using scents.
  • Use a plastic tackle box or embroidery floss organizer box to organize your color chips. A lot of them look the same until you get them in the wax, and certain color combos call for very specific shades.
  • Start saving your frozen juice concentrate cylinders! The paper ones are perfect for making pillar candles. I swear, sometimes I would go to some of those fancy home decor shops and see the telltale spiral seam marks from juice cylinders on their $20 pillar candles.
  • There are additives you can add to the wax to make it more opaque, to increase the melting point, etc. Do some research online and see what you think you might need. If you really get into this you can probably order the paraffin online in 50 lb blocks, much cheaper than you can get the little chunks at the craft store.
  • Taper dipping is probably the most rewarding, at least as far as I was concerned. You can actually see the candles GROW as you dip it again and again. We had a rack that would do 6 tapers at a time. When they're still warm and squishy, you can carefully twist them together, or take one and roll it somewhat flat, then twist it in a helix shape.
  • Thrift shops are also a great place to look for wide-mouthed glasses (think highballs). You can put a wire-core wick in there with a metal wick clip, pour the wax in, and you have an instant gift candle! Baby food jars are great for this too. If you want to get super fancy, after you pour the candle you can decouppage patterned tissue paper on the outside. When the candle is lit, it glows through the paper for a stained glass effect.
  • When your soup cans of wax are getting really low, you can fill a paper egg carton with dryer lint, and pour the waxy dregs from the bottom of the can over it. When every cup in the carton is full, take it camping with you. It makes a great fire starter.
  • The library might have a bunch of books that you can check out on candle making ideas. You can do sand casting, plastic molds, metal molds, dipping, I've even heard of using the molds that are made for casting ceramic figures.
  • Make a pillar or taper candle. Take a pressed leaf or flower. Heat a spoon and with the back of the spoon, press the leaf or flower into the exterior of the candle. Then dip the candle into a large can of clear wax once or twice, to get a full layer of wax over the leaf/flower. Very elegant and VERY easy.

There's enough to get you hooked, and then you can get all kinds of books and equipment and build wooden workbenches in your garage or basement like we did, and have candle-making parties with all your friends, and have your Christmas and sneaking-up-on-you birthday presents and didn't-get-the-memo-for-coworker's-wedding-shower presents sewn up for years to come. Just don't say I didn't warn you about having your basement coated in wax.


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