If you’re looking to do something fun, practical and educational for yourself, friends or family, why not craft some beautiful hand-dipped beeswax candles? Create great memories and photo opportunities while getting the jump on gifts for next Christmas. Eliminate your gift shopping for Valentine’s Day by spending some time with your loved ones, be it your dog or cat, and make candles while you chat.
A pair of hand-made beeswax tapers are a special gift that people will cherish. Hand-dipped beeswax candles add to any décor — sitting in a jar, standing proud in candle holders, or just hanging on a nail on the wall. Make miniature sets of hand-dipped candles as tree ornaments or tiny birthday candles to be used and reused throughout the year.
Time and Material Notes for Making Hand-Dipped Candles
It takes about half an hour to make a hand-dipped candle or two candles on one wick. You dip the wick in the wax approximately 20 to 25 times, depending on the desired thickness of the candle and the temperature of the wax, the room, and the candle being dipped. The candles must be allowed to cool between dips, so while one set is drying, you can dip another, and another. Or, others who are participating can take their turn. In this way, it’s possible to make quite a few pairs in one hour.
I prefer natural beeswax, but paraffin can also be used to make hand-dipped candles. Although beeswax is much more expensive, it cleans the air as opposed to polluting it, and it burns longer and hotter. Join with friends, buy beeswax in bulk, and pay wholesale prices.
Beeswax only gets better with age, so consider it an investment in a practical commodity that never becomes useless or out-of-date. I’ve always considered staples like firewood and beeswax candles, which provide my heat and light, to be better than money in the bank.
Tips for Recycling Used Was from Candles
To reduce your carbon imprint, remember to recycle old wax bits from previous candles. I collect my wax remnants in large apple juice cans, using a sour cream lid for a top to keep out dust.
When you melt down the old candle stubs and filter the contents, you will lose a fair amount of the volume you’ve collected. Do not overfill your tins, as they are easier to pour hot wax from if they are only three-quarters full. You might want to take a pair of pliers and crimp a bit of a spout in your juice cans to ease pouring.
You will need an almost full can of wax to dip the candles in, and a second can of wax for topping-up the first can each time it gets low. Make sure to wear rubber gloves and insulate with cotton rags when handling containers of hot wax.
I prefer to use an asparagus pot for dipping candles, because it’s a fair bit taller than a juice can. The finished candle will be slightly shorter than the wax-pot it was dipped in.
Prepare for Candle-Making
Heating wax creates vapours, so make sure the room you are working in is well ventilated.
Never handle wax near your sink. There is a tendency to clean a counter or work area with a kitchen cloth and get rid of waste in the sink, but wax will seriously clog your drain system. Make candles and clean candle holders away from your sink area.
Cover work areas with newspaper and use old cotton rags to clean up any messes. Save all wax-soiled newspapers and rags for campfires.
Always take extra care when working with hot wax on a stove. Wax is flammable and must not be overheated or placed directly on a heating element.
You must melt your wax completely before you begin dipping candles and that can take hours depending on the quantity of wax, so prepare your wax in advance of your candle making workshop. One juice can of wax will take approximately one hour to completely melt but that depends on the temperature. To melt wax, maintain water temperature at approx. 165 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius): hot but no steam.
Recycling Dirty Wax
Filter dirty wax by melting it completely and pouring the hot wax through a filter. You might want to get rid of the bits of burnt wick and used matches by filtering the wax through cheesecloth first. For more refined filtering, use a coffee filter, milk filter, or automotive paint filter. Dirty wax might have to be filtered a couple of times through various grades of filtration to reach the desired cleanliness. Make sure to keep those dirty wax filters for campfire starters.
Recycled wax will be discoloured even after filtering, and recycled candles will tend to drip more. I prefer to use my recycled wax to make large pillar candles with large forgiving wicks.
- Candle-Dipping Wax-Pot: tall and thin in shape i.e., apple juice can or asparagus pot.
- Water Bath: Pan half-filled with hot water (no steam). Do not let pan go dry!
- Wax: Beeswax or paraffin wax.
- Wick: Proper cotton or hemp candle-wick is best for hand-dipped candles.
- Knife and Scissors (to trim candle bottom, and cut wick).
- Rubber gloves: Hot wax must be handled safely.
- Newspaper/rags: Clean-up wax messes, protect floor and work areas.
- Candle dryer: any 2- to 3-inch wide, horizontal stick to hang drying candles on.
1. Melt wax completely in double-boiler set-up. Do not leave wax heated for a long period of time.
2. Cut wick to double the length of the wax-pot being used, plus a hand-width extra, for easier handling.
3. I recommend wearing rubber gloves for the first four or five dips so you can straighten the wick safely.
4. Dip both wick ends into the melted wax. Let drip over pot, to ensure safety and avoid mess. Remove to cooler area. Straighten wick. Repeat several times.
5. Make sure that your candles have cooled down between dips, and make certain that the dipping is brief or you will melt off the previous layer of wax.
6. After the candles have some weight to them, you will no longer have to straighten them each time.
7. Don’t fuss that your candles look a bit like carrots; they’re beautiful.
On occasion, remove the extra wax that has collected on the bottom of your candles with a knife. This will ensure that your finished candles will burn down to the bottom of the wick. After your candles have reached the appropriate size, trim base.
When finished, allow candles to cool completely before handling. Store candles in cool place.
The older the candle, the longer it will burn, so avoid burning candles you’ve just made.
If you’re struggling with the February blues, take the time to sit by the light of a candle, count your blessings, and remember that you are loved by the angels that are watching over you. May your inner light always shine brightly, even more so in the face of the darkness that occasionally creeps in on us. Keep warm and keep safe.
Jo deVries (Jo of the Woods) designed and helped build her off-grid Ontario home, where she and her son have enjoyed a pioneer-type life-style without electricity. She is the author of Does Your House Know Where South Is? and generously shares what she has learned during her on-going journey of turning a piece of bush land in to a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Jo of the Woods and read all of Jo’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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