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Candle Making


Candle making the Traditional Way

candle making

People have been making candles since the times of the ancient Romans, and chances are they will continue to do so, not out  of necessity, but because of the wonderful ambiance candles give to any given space.

Tallow (rendered cattle or sheep fat) and beeswax have been used in candle making since Roman times. Paraffin – a distillate of wood, coal, or petroleum – was developed in the l9th century and soon became the main form of candle wax.

Despite the advent of electric lighting, more candles are produced today than ever before. Candle making is now enjoying a burgeoning popularity both as a fine craft and as an amateur’s hobby.  Only a few simple materials and tools are required to make your own handsome candles.

Paraffin wax for Candles

Paraffin is usually sold at crafts shops in 10- or 11 -pound (4.5 – 5 Kg) slabs, one of which will make about four quarts of liquid wax when melted. Paraffin is graded low, medium, or high according to its melting point: low, 125-135 degrees F (51-57 degrees C); medium, 143-150 degrees F(61-66 degrees C); high, 160-165 degrees F(71-74 degrees C). Different grades are required for different kinds of molds.  Melting points can be raised by adding stearine (see below).

Beeswax makes lovely candles, but it is expensive. However, a small percentage (5-10 percent) of beeswax added to paraffin will raise the melting point, which makes candles burn longer, and will add a pleasant aroma.

Beeswax for your next candle making session

Wax does not boil or evaporate except under special laboratory conditions, but above 212 degrees F(100 degrees C) it smokes and turns brown and should therefore not be raised to that temperature. Prolonged exposure to paraffin fumes can be dangerous, so always work in an open and well-ventilated area.

Before pouring wax into metal molds, warm the molds in an oven to about 100 degrees F(37 degrees C). This helps give the candles a smooth finish. After the wax is poured, cooling can be hastened by weighting down the mold in a pail filled with water.

Candles are poured upside down and the candle end nearest the mold opening is actually the bottom. Wax contracts as it cools, causing a well, or cavity, to form beneath the crust around the wick. You must periodically puncture this crust and fill the well with melted wax until the candle has solidified and the cavity has been completely eliminated.

Using a Double Boiler and a Candy Thermometer

If you work with a very shallow pot over a flame, there is a danger that the flame may leap up the sides and ignite the wax. It is thus safer to melt paraffin in a double boiler. First bring the water to a boil. Use an ice pick or a hammer to break up the paraffin slab into manageable chunks. A candy thermometer allows you to measure the temperature of the wax precisely.

These Candy Thermometers have the Highest Star Ratings

When to Use Stearin (stearic acid)

Stearine raises the melting point of wax, thereby making the candle harder. Stearine also makes candles more opaque, and some candle makers prefer not to use it because of this associated loss of translucency. When used in conjunction with dyes, stearine darkens colors. A standard formula for candles is 90 per cent paraffin to l0 percent stearine, or about 3 tablespoons of stearine per pound of wax. Stearine is sold as a powder, which is stirred into the melted wax. Experiment by making variously colored candles with and without stearine.

Using Dyes in Candle making

Dye is added after the stearine has dissolved. Use only commercial dyes made for candle making. They are available as liquids or as solid cakes or pellets. To control the density of the color, add a little dye at a time – either by drops or by shaving off slivers of the cake or pellet. To test for color, pour a little of the dyed wax onto a white surface. The finished candle will be slightly darker than this test wax.

Using Molds for Candles

Molds can be Purchased, made, or found such as these at the seaside. Wax is poured at different temperatures depending on the material used for the mold. For molds made of cardboard, glass, plastic, and rubber, use a low- or medium-grade wax and pour at a temperature between 150″F and 165’F. For metal molds use the same grades, but pour the wax between 190 degrees F and 200degrees F(87 and 93 degrees C)

Here are a few Candle Molds For You To Choose From

Silicone spray is Useful

This is sprayed into the mold before the wax is poured so that the candle will slide out easily.

How to Get Wicks Into Candles

Wicks are made of braided cotton and come in three diameters:  small, large, and extra-large. If the wick is too large for the candle, it will smoke. If it is too small, the melted wax will eventually extinguish the flame.

Normally candles less than 2 inches (50 mm) in diameter take small wicks, those 2-4 inches (50-100 mm) in diameter take large wicks, and those with diameters over 4 inches (100 mm) take extra-large wicks. The wick is usually placed in the mold before the wax is poured.

A wick several inches longer than the candle is inserted through the wick hole in the bottom of the mold and is pushed through until only about an inch protrudes from the bottom. This wick end is then secured by placing a piece of mold sealer over the hole and the wick end. (Mold sealer is a putty like adhesive substance that is available in crafts shops).

The wick at the open end of the mold is wrapped around a thin rod longer than the width of the mold, such as a pencil. The wick must be fairly taut and centered before the wax is Poured.

Metal candle molds come with gaskets and metal bars for securing the wick.

Certain candles require that the wick be inserted after the candle is made. This is done by piercing a wick hole in the candle with a hot ice pick. A wire-core wick is inserted, and the area around the wick is filled with wax.


Candles in American History

Elizabeth Fleming of Penn State University looks at the historic way that candles were made

One of the important uses of fire, like I mentioned last week, is light. At Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm we don’t have light bulbs or light switches. In the early nineteenth century the family living on the farm, would have only had the sun and the fire for lighting.

Most families planned their day around the availability of light. They rose when the sun rose and they went to bed when the sun set. In the summer time this worked out well because the evenings were longer. The only time they would need extra light was if they had special company that stayed past dark. In the winter they would have needed light a bit more to work on things, like sowing or knitting, that would have required some light.

So how did they use the fire light? The whole family couldn’t be crowded around one light source. Instead, they made candles once every year.

Could you imagine having to make all the candles you would need throughout a year all in one day? To make matters even better, the typical candle only lasted 20-30 minutes so roughly 200 had to be made.

In order to perform this task all in one day, many siblings would have been involved and it would have been well organized.

The candle making day always occurred in the fall. The cool weather helped in the process of drying the candles, and the fat used to make the candles would have been readily available. Butchering occurs in the fall and candles are made of the fat from larger animals such as cows and pigs…


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