Candles have been known to man for well over 3,000 years and, while no longer a necessity, they remain as popular as ever. Therefore, candlemaking can be and—as proved by Dennis Murphy (MOTHER NO. 11)—is a profitable business. But, like any other home industry, the expense of materials can put you out of the running before you ever begin... unless you know where and how to buy.
In an effort to alleviate this problem, I've gotten together with Dennis and some other friends who turn various crafts into cash and we've come up with some suggestions that may help you, no matter what your craft. Because of the interest shown in Denny's candlemaking business, we've made a special effort to compile a fairly comprehensive list of candlemaking suppiers, supplies and cost.
The following information was gleaned from Denny's two years' experience in buying candlemaking supplies.
Wax: Your best bet is to obtain wax direct from any one of several major petroleum companies (American-Standard, Shell, Gulf, etc) Check the telephone directory for the nearest petroleum company warehouse. If no warehouses are listed, call the main office of a large petroleum company in your areas and ask the folks there for the telephone number of their warehouse.
Price and minimum quantity which must be purchased fluctuates. For instance, Dennis has to buy a minimum of six cases of wax (55 pounds to the case) before the company will deliver. You'll also find that most companies require you to buy at least four cases of wax, even if you pick it up yourself. Wax averages about 14 cents a pound direct from the refinery warehouse and Denny has paid from 13 to 15 cents a pound for the wax he uses.
Hardening Additives: Sheen-Tex can be used, but is very expensive and Dennis recommends using the more common hardening agent, stearic acid. Stearic acid is sometimes available from local chemical company warehouses but the minimum quantity such an outlet will sell is normally 25 pounds ... and that's a lot! Unfortunately, smaller quantities can only be obtained at hobby shops. The cost of stearic acid is very unstable and varies from 30¢ to $1.00 a pound.
Coloring: Dennis prefers the powder coloring. It's the most economical and he claims it can't be beat for quality. Coloring prices range from $14.00 a pound, depending on tint and quality. The three companies that Dennis purchases this supply from are:
Steppan Chemical (Maywood Div.)
Scents: Liquid candle scents are sold by the pound at many chemical companies. Dennis obtains his from Steppan Chemical (Maywood Div.), Lumi-Lite Candles and
Alber Verley Chemical
The price of scents range from $2.00 to $12.00 a pound, again depending on what you want.
Wicking: Dennis normally purchases wicking from a local hobby shop. He says that if you buy it by the pound, wicking costs a lot less than if you buy it by the yard. While Dennis has been unable to locate wholesaler of wicking, I managed to dig up
Atkins & Pearce Mfg. Co.
I have no idea what their prices are, but you might want to try them. At the present time Dennis is paying about $5.50 per pound for wicking.
Molds: Dennis has been pleased with the molds he's obtained from Lumi-Lite Candles (seems like good old Lumi-Lite has just about everything) and also from
Pourette Mgf. Co.
Both these companies have good metal and plastic molds in several sizes and shapes. Dennis has paid $2.50 per 13-inch metal mold that holds two pounds of wax. Of course the price varies with size and shape of mold.
Remember that you must usually purchase a certain minimum amount when you buy wholesale, so before you order 200 pounds of wax you had better be certain that you like making candles. Dennis cautions the beginner to first buy a few inexpensive items at a hobby shop; make a dozen or more candles; experiment a bit; wait a few weeks... and then if you still want to make candles—and you have a market for them—go ahead and buy wholesale. But don't buy wholesale quantities before you're sure that candles are for you.
Although the companies listed here are the ones that Dennis deals with, these are only a few of the many companies that sell craft materials wholesale. How do you find others? Well, the consensus here is that you ask!
Go to local craftsmen or to craft shows where you'll find that others who share your interest are eager to trade information with you. Craftsmen are not like ordinary businessmen and you'll find that it's the only mdiocre, or greedy artisan who refuses to share his knowledge. The really sincere craftsman will be more than eager to help anyone who shows an interest in his work.
Still another good place to obtain information concerning both your craft and places to purchase supplies is the library. There are several directories that catalog companies by product as well as name. The only problem is that most of these directories list only the larger firms... and companies which sell candle supplies are often not large enough to qualify.
There is, however, one directory that may be helpful to just about any craftsman interested in locating wholesale materials. It's the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, published by the Thomas Publishing Company of New York. The Register consists of a series of volumes which catalog products alphabetically and gives the names and addresses of companies by trade names although these are of less value and not as complete as the indexed volumes that catalog by product.
I've checked small town libraries and university libraries and have had no difficulty in locating the Register in every one. I think the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers will prove an invaluable source of information to anyone looking for wholesale supplies.
Libraries, by the way, are an often-overlooked source of information. For those of you interested in making candles or in doing any other craft, I would suggest that you get a book or two from the library before buying. After you've decided that candles—or whatever—are your thing, then go out and buy books. There are several good ones on candlemaking available from hobby shops, candle suppliers and book stores.
Candlemaking is relatively easy to learn. The first rule is never melt wax over an open flame. Instead, break or shave the wax into small pieces and place it in a double boiler-type container. Heat very slowly. Once the wax has melted, add your hardener and heat the mixture to the correct temperature.
While the wax is melting, insert a wick into a slightly warmed mold and cover the bottom of the mold with sealing wax. When the wax that is heating reaches the correct pouring temperature, add color and/or scent and pour the wax into the slightly tilted mold. Then place the mold in water and leave it until a depression with hot wax before the molded candle is thoroughly cooled. Repeat this process until the cooled mold is completely filled.
Once the wax is absolutely cool, remove the seal from the wick hole. Then briefly place the mold in hot water, which will release the finished candle. After being taken from the mold the candle should be put in a dry, cool place and allowed to cure for two or three days before being used or sold.
These are only the basic steps in candlemaking. There are many variations as well as many added dimensions to the craft. Candle designs are virtually unlimited, and for those interested in creative rather than production work, Denis suggests experiments with beeswax.
To sum up, then, start small. Get a book or two, ask questions, make a few candles. If you're still interested, purchase a few samples, establish a market... then start buying wholesale and prepare yourself for a lot of work. I wish you all the success you desire ... and should you reach your goal, could you occasionally burn a candle for me?
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