Making Candles


The basic components for candles are fuel, wicking and holder. Many types of waxes, fats, and oils were used as fuel for candles. These fuels were collected from plants, animal fats, insects (beeswax) and whale oil. Petroleum in the form of paraffin is the main source of candle wax in todays world. While paraffin has its own unique qualities - nature lovers appreciate beeswax for its natural colors and scent that make it a popular source of candle-making. Its value as a candle fuel is based on:

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The Wick

The candle's wick feeds the melted wax vapor to the flame by capillary action, once the melt pool is formed the molten wax is then drawn to the flame by the capillary action of the wick. The candle's flame is nearly invisible near the wick and a yellow luminous zone surrounds it. Wax vapors break down releasing hydrogen and tiny particles of soot which burn and release the yellow light of the candles' flames.

Beewax wicks - A square wick works bestwhen selecting wicking. When making a wick - double the thickness of wick used for paraffin candles, a square braid wick is used for rolling beeswax and the type of wick depends on the size of the finished candle. Wicks for dipped, poured or rolled candles must be pre-waxed. Make a loop in the wicking and immerse it in 160 F (70C) beeswax until the air bubbles cease to rise. Hang the wicks by the loop until dry.

The Wicking Action - The wick influences the burn time of the candle, scent release and "sooting" (smoking) during the candle's life. The right wick is dependent on many factors including the wax type, scent added, color, burn time, type of candle and even the maintenance. When choosing a wick, strive to achieve

One of the most popular wicks for container and votive candles has been the zinc core wick, which offeres rigidity in the "hot pour" process. But zinc is very prone to mushrooming and carbon deposits. The zinc core can also be confused with lead core wicks which is banned in the United States. Some popular alternative choices include the RRD wicks (Round wicks), HTP wicks, LX and CD.

Other wicks to consider include the TL Series, PK and even hemp wicks. The flat braided wicks have always been popular for pillars and tapers. The standard 24 Ply and 27 Ply have always been popular in 2-3" pillars.

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The Wax

Bayberry wax - This shrub grows throughout most of North America and is a hardy perennial deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow as high as 40 feet. The waxy-coated fruit of this plant is particularly sought after by tree swallows during migration. Many other species of birds also eat the waxy-coated fruit, although in smaller quantities. White-tailed deer also browse on bayberry's twigs and foliage. One pound of wax can be made from boiling 4 pounds of berries, and skimming the wax off the top. The melt point of bayberry wax is 47 to 49 C. (116.6 to 120.2 F.) 

Beeswax - It is estimated that for each 1lb (500gr) of Wax produced by Bees, they consume about 10lb (5Kg) of stores. Therefore secretion of wax takes place during a heavy honey flow or when vast quantities of food are available. It is suggested that 1lb (500gr) of beeswax consists of 500,000 wax scales. The colour of pure Beeswax is white in newly built comb following a feed of Sugar Syrup, but varies from pale primrose to darker shades, influenced by the wild native food available. Beeswax has a melting point of 65o C and has a high resistance to the passage of heat. If it is cooled too quickly it becomes pale and dull in colour. It will also become very brittle and uneven contraction cracks may develop. Bees wax should not be allowed to exceed the melting point, as it will darken in colour due to carbonisation. Candelilla wax - The wax of the candelilla is an epidermal secretion on the stems that helps conserve internal moisture of the plants during severe hot and dry periods. The wax, which forms a scurfy coating on the stems, is much heavier in the dry season of the year and during periods of drought. Traditional or folk uses for the wax include candles, religious statues, artificial flowers, cloth waterproofing, leather dressing, chewing gum, dance-floor wax, and coating for the small wax matches from Mexico.."

Palm Wax - Using palm wax is very similar to traditional candle making techniques except there are no additives required other than fragrance and coloring. We offer palm waxes for making container candles or freestanding pillars. The crystal formations can be achieved for either style of candle and are greatly influenced by the pouring temperature and rate of cooling. By adjusting these variables slightly, candle makers can create a wonderful array of crystal formations. The ideal pouring temperature is between 199 and 203 F. Going above the temperature will actually decrease the crystal formations to achieve a smooth solid color. Pouring below these temperatures may make it harder to de-mold or cause deformations. Aluminum molds work best for producing crystals (see next article about using aluminum molds) as well as slowing the rate of cooling.

Soy Wax - Soy based vegetable waxes offer the candle maker many exciting opportunities for making candles with a different appearance, design and marketing approach. Because soy based vegetable waxes are relatively new and unique it is important to note that the pouring characteristics and performance characteristics are different than those of paraffin waxes. Performance differences include but are not limited to some of the following: scent retention, scent throw, impact on performance of the wick and rigidity of the product. Pouring differences include temperatures, coloration and setting times.

Paraffin (Petroleum Synthetic) - The primary wax used in candles today is refined from petroleum. Synthetic Paraffin wax is a petroleum product that has gone through a refining process. The end result is a product that is solid at room temperature. Within the refining process, waxes can be classified as fully refined wax, semi-refined wax, scale wax and slack wax. A typical wax producer in North America produces wax concurrently with base oils at an integrated solvent dewaxing/deoiling unit, although there are also "stand-alone" deoiling plants producing finished wax from purchased feedstocks. An average finished wax plant produces about 1,000 barrels a day. About half of US wax manufacturers produce low oil content, finished waxes, the rest simply recover slack wax from their operations. North American producers operate only solvent deoiling processes. There are other technologies available for deoiling, including sweating and fractional crystallization; the latter process is the only practical alternate for large scale production. After deoiling, product wax is typically finished by hydrogenation or clay treating to decolorize it and assure FDA performance where required.

A straight paraffin is a wax not altered by adding additives such as vybar (r), stearic, or microcrystalline waxes. A straight paraffin is for the candle maker willing to experiment and develop a unique formula that may achieve a specific finish on the candle. The candle maker creates this formula by combining additives, as mentioned, with the straight paraffin. Best uses for straight paraffin are as follows:

A blend is a wax that already has the additives in the formula, allowing the candle maker to save time because all that needs to be added is color dye and fragrance. Blended waxes also assist the candle maker because they are uniform from batch to batch, allowing for ease of use. One drawback with blends is that it is more difficult to achieve different looks in the candle, most blends are developed for specific applications such as jars, votive, pillars and tapers. Properties of waxes can be very specific and in some applications knowing these properties becomes important, especially when using automated equipment. However, for most candle makers the important facts to know about the wax can be limited to the melting point of the wax, the oil content of the wax and in some applications the needle penetration of the wax (hardness of the wax).

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DyesIf you use dye chips - they ussually come in a packet of 8 chips. Each chip colours about 1/2 kilo ( 1 pound of wax.) Use more chips for deeper colours. I think I have seen about 30 shades for sale, and you can get endless varieties by mixing them for custom colour making! Chips are premeasured and make it easier for you to match your colour batches, such dyes in there various forms mixes with wax, and therefore burns efficiently, as opposed to pigments which may clog wicks and cause smoking and poor burning.  Check whether you are buying dye or pigment.

Lliquid dyes (oil based) for candle making are more potent than other types of dye, and a couple of drops goes a long way. Liquid dyes work well with gel candles, and can make darker or richer colors by mixing in a little black dye. Liquid dyes also mix better in soy wax than other types of dyes. Good quality liquid dyes are made specifically for Candle Making and will not clog wicks when burning. 1 ounce of dye ussually colors approximately 62 pounds of wax. Some darker colors color less than 62 pounds depending on your formula and scent. Dyes are packaged by weight not volume, fill levels will vary.

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Scents for making Liquid candles are ussually available in 15 ml (1/2 oz) and larger bottles. Suppliers recommends 15 ml for 1/2 kilo of wax (1/2 oz for 1 pound). Scent strength varies according to the formulation - check with supplier to find what quantity to use with wax. Alcohol or water based essential oils do not mix well with melted wax - leaving pitting, bubbles, and mottling on the candle's finish... leaving an oily residue weeping from the candle surface. The type of carrier oil used in the scent must not containe any water or alcohol in the oil and the flashpoint of the oil must be higher than the melting point of the wax, this is generally 200 degrees F.

Ground herbs like cinnamon can be added to the melted wax just before pouring, but it must be stirred well. It will have some residue settle in the bottom of the mould. Some hurricane candles use an outer candle layer filled with herbs or other materials while the center layer is what is burned.

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Preparations for Candle Making

Basic Supplies:

Safety Items:

Candle Materials:

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Cleaning and Filtering Natural Wax

The best and lightest colored wax is from wax cappings, a by-product from honey extraction. Take the drained cappings and soak them in rainwater overnight. Drain out the water the next day and place wet cappings in a stainless bucket or other wax melting device - do not use iron or aluminum; this will darken the wax. Heat over a double boiler - not on direct fire. Once the wax has melted, pour molten wax through a filter and set it to cool.You will need to refine your wax to make it clean enough to pour candles. Cut the block that came out of the wax melter into smaller pieces, so they can melt faster, and put into a double boiler - always heat wax on an electric stove and over water - wax is extremelt flammable!

Wax be boiled in soft rainwater to remove contamination from the wax (dead bees, wings, dirt) it is suggested that the. Use about 1.5lb of wax to 1pt of water. This mixture is slowly brought to the boil then allowed to simmer for a further thirty minutes, allowing all traces of honey and dross to separate from the wax. The mixture is allowed to cool slowly when the wax will settle on the top when cold. Then drain of the liquid and dispose of the dross. Any dross that has adhered to the underside of the wax is scraped off and disposed of in a similar manner. If the wax is dark in colour, try adding two teaspoons of Hydrogen Peroxide to the rain water, this may lighten the Beeswax slightly. Use cheesecloth and a clean bowl or tin large enough to hold the honey. Heat the wax in a double boiler and after placing a handkerchef onthe cheesecloth over a clean bowl - pour your wax through the filters into your container; repeat this process several times until wax is thoroughly clean. Once the wax has been cleaned it can be stored until ready to pour into your molds.

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Dipped Candles

The old way of making beeswax candles is very time consuming. Heat your wax in a tall double boiler to 140 F (60C). With a frame holding several pre-waxed wicks - dip your wicks into the hot wax and pull them out and allow to cool, each dipping leaves a thin layer of wax on the wick. Repeat this process until you have the size of candle you desire.

You may need to roll the warm candles on a clean flat surface to straighten them. Keep the base trimmed so the entire candle can be immersed, and wax to the double boiler when needed. When finished, trim the base flat with a knife. You can make several frames of wicks and dip each set at different times while waiting for each set to dry.

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Preparing the Mold

Materials Needed:

Warm metal molds to room temperature before pouring.

Set the wick in the mold and anchor it with masking tape to cover the hole and hold the wax in place. Make sure the wick is straight, and clamp the two sides of the mold together with clips and set it upright in the pan of sand.

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Pouring the Mold

Heat the wax to no more than 185F (85C). Start at 140 F (60C) and work your way up; hotter temperatures will discolor the wax. Pour molten wax into the warmed molds. Allow it to set a little, then fill in any shrinkage holes with more hot wax. Pry open the wax skin with a toothpick so you can see how big the hole is. You may have to do this several times. By opening the skin, the candle will not be so inclined to pull out of shape.

Slow cooling is best for beeswax, as it will not crack or distort as with rapid cooling. So be Patient. You can stand the mold in warm water or wrap it in newspaper. Put it in a draft-free area and let it cool. Before un-molding, make sure the candle mold and wax is cold to the touch. If possible, wait until the next day to un-mold your candles.

Impatience has ruined many candles. Pry apart the plastic molds to reveal your candle or ornament. To hang ornaments, use ribbon instead of wicking. Large candles, especially if the molds are metal, may need to be left overnight. If a metal mold still sticks, put it in the freezer for 15 minutes; then a sharp tap should release the candle. Allow candles to air dry for 24 hours then wrap it in tissue to keep it safe. Don't worry about the whitish "bloom" that will eventually coat the wax . This is a natural part of all waxes, (including chocolate) and is easily removed with a cloth.

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Whipping Wax

Whipped wax has proven to be even more popular with the introduction of specialized candles (pie candles and ideal applications with gels). Getting the wax to have the whipped appearance can be relatively easy.

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Making Crackled Candles

A very unique looking candle is one which has a cracked effect. Similar to mottling, it is where the surface of the candle has been changed in complexion. Making a candle that can achieve the cracked appearance requires the proper wax and timing of placing the candle in the freezer. Due to the refining process, not all waxes will "crack" consistently from batch to batch. This will take some expirimentation until you get the desired effect. Simply take any pillar candle you are making and pour under normal conditions. During the cooling process take the entire mold and place it in the freezer. The ideal time to do this will vary depending on the size of the mold and the wax being used. At a minimum the wax should be totally set up on top of the mold and the mold is warm to a touch. Placing the candle in the freezer too early will cause the candle to "physically" crack, which is undesirable.

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Making Double Pour Botanical Candles

When making this type of candle, it is important to ensure that it is made as safely as possible. Making a botanical candle is generally a 4-step process.

  1. The first step is to make the "core" or a pillar, generally one which is 3" x 3-1/2". This candle can be made using a 131 F melt wax with some stearic or white coloring. The reason is that you want this candle to be white to offer a contrast to the outer shell. It is also important to size the wick to only burn this candle about 2-1/2" inches across. When this candle is finished, remove it from the mold leaving extra wick on the candle so that is may be threaded through the wick hole on the 4" x 4-1/2" mold. Thus far, the process used to make this candle is no different than as if you were making a standard pillar.
  2. The second step is to take the completed 3" candle and center this candle into a 4" diameter candle mold. Once this is centered, you then insert the desired objects between the candle and the mold. (Getting the embeds in the exact area you desire will take some practice.) Once you have all the embed objects inserted and positioned in the manner you would like, you can then begin the third step.
  3. The third step is to take a higher melt point wax and pour between the candle and the mold. Translucent waxes are recommended for this application due to their see-thru nature. One important note is that wax in its "natural state" is as translucent as you can get. Most additives are designed to give the wax an opaque finish.
  4. The fourth and final step is to remove the candle and level the bottom much the same way as a standard pillar.

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Gel Candle

Even though Gel candles are a fairly new product in the marketplace - it is not a wax or paraffin and is really only a modified form of the old form pf resin candles or torches. The general definition for Candle Gel is that it is a specially selected processed hydrocarbon or resin heated and mixed with mineral oil that is gelled with copolymers that give it a clear rubbery texture. Click here for more Info on Resin, Types of Resins and Making Gel Candles (Remember use your back key to come back to this page)!

In some respects the Gel can be easier to learn than most candle applications. However, it is very important when making any type of candle, whether it is paraffin, gel or natural waxes, that all safety requirements are followed when producing candles. The selection of the proper gel is limited to three different densities. The determination of the proper gel for your application will be dependent upon the type of gel candle you will be making and how much fragrance will be used.

When making modern gel candles there are normally no additives needed in the form of catalysts and in most instances anything you add to the gel including fragrance at times, can cloud the finished product.

Before making gel candles for resale it is important that you review all of the safety precautions in manufacturing these candles. These safety precautions include, but are not limited to, some of the following:

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