Learn the Basics of Candle Making

Making candles was once a common household task, but with the introduction of mass-produced candles in the 19th century (not to mention electric lights), it fell off the list. However, store-bought candles cannot compare to the quality of candles made by hand. There are substantial benefits to be had from even a basic understanding of the craft. Even after 5,000 years, candlemaking equipment and techniques haven't changed much. You can use the melted wax to create poured candles, or you can use wax sheets to create rolled and cutout candles. The outcomes are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and great presents.

You'll need wax and other additives first. Top-notch wax burns cleanly and gradually. Natural Beeswax (19 dollars) It costs .99 at Michaels and has a lovely honeyed hue and scent. Candle made from soy wax ($11) Another organic choice is SoyNut Butter ($0.99 at Michaels.com, made from soy beans. Paraffin wax, derived from petroleum () Bead pellets ($49, Michaels.com) are a more cost-effective option. Candles can either be poured or rolled and cut from wax sheets, the latter of which are typically made of beeswax. Using a paraffin with a similar melting point (it will be marked on the package) can help you save money when making poured candles, but you'll want to use a large percentage of beeswax so that your candles stay their signature light color. Stearic acid is a common additive used to increase the hardness of paraffin wax, the opacity of dyes, and the burning time of candles. There is votive candle wax, pillar candle wax, and other specialized waxes out there, but for the most part, a general purpose wax will do the trick.

So, molds will be required. You'll be amazed and encouraged by the variety of molds available today. Metal (starting at ) can be used to create simple shapes like circles, squares, and even stars. on etsy.com) Complex molds can be purchased online at Etsy for as little as . Wax coloring agents can be found in many different forms, such as blocks, cakes, chips, flakes, and liquids. The ArtMinds Liquid Dye Color Kit (Seven Dollars) 99 at michaels.com) is a great value for a beginner's starter kit; to achieve the desired color, simply add drops of the dye to the melted wax.

Finally, a wick is required for combustion. If your candle mold doesn't specify a wick thickness, use a thinner wick for smaller candles and a thicker wick for bigger ones. (A too-thin wick will produce a weak flame that is easily extinguished.) A candle with a thick wick will have its wax melted too quickly by the flame. Make sure the flat braided cotton wick ($19) is compatible with your wax. A good all-around wick can be had for only $0.99 at Michaels.com. Larger candles benefit from square-braided cotton wicks because they are more stable. Wicks with a core, typically made of zinc, are more rigid. It is recommended that you use wicks with metal tabs on one end for candles of this type, such as votive and container candles (you can buy wicks with tabs already attached, or you can buy the tabs separately and attach them yourself).

There's no need to mask the natural honey aroma of pure beeswax with artificial fragrance when making candles at home. Some oils are flammable, so if you want scented candles you should only use natural essential oils or fragrance oils made specifically for candle making. The more expensive option is natural essential oils, which are extracted from a plant's bark, berries, roots, or seeds ($52 for four on vitruvi.com). Essential oils, such as peppermint oil and lavender oil, take their names from the plants from which they are extracted. Oils of fragrance () You can find fragrance oils (currently selling for $0.99 per 3-pack at Michaels) that are made to smell like essential oils by mixing synthetic oils and other substances. Fragrance oils come in all shapes and sizes, and their names range from "Fresh Laundry" to "Christmas Morning." Essential oils and fragrance oils can cause skin reactions in some people if used improperly or in large quantities.

Make candles of any color you can imagine by adding wax shavings of different colors to one pound of bleached beeswax in a specific ratio. The size of the shavings and the brand of colorant used both affect the final product, so the procedure isn't foolproof. Try different things until you find the hues that speak to you, and then write down the amounts of dye you used in case you want to make those colors again.

Citrus   Spice December 2014
making citrus candles

James Merrell/Shutterstock

Nonstick cooking spray or mold-release spray can be used to prepare the mold. Attach a length of wicking to the mold as directed (wick putty or sturdy tape can be used to prevent wax leakage).

To flip a mold, Cover the mold's opening with a stick, skewer, or pencil. After the wax has been poured, keep the wick taut by pulling it up the center of the mold and tying it to the stick. Wax can be melted in the microwave at 30-second intervals until it is completely molten.

Melt the wax and pour it into the mold until it reaches about 1 1/2 inches from the top. Put the filled mold into a cold water bath (a bucket works great for this) using pot holders. (The wax will cool more rapidly, but this is entirely discretionary. Give the mold half an hour to rest. A small well will form around the wick as air bubbles rise to the surface. To release trapped air, fill the well only 3/4 of the way with more melted wax and insert a long, thin instrument like a wooden skewer. After another 45 minutes, take the mold out of the water bath and repeat the process. Give the mold up to 24 hours to cool and harden completely.

Take off the putty at the base to expose the wick. Working from the other end, gently pull the candle from the mold The bottom of the candle mold is now the top of the candle. Cut that wick to 1/4 inch and the wick at the other end (where the pencil was) to within a millimeter of the candle's surface.

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