Sunday, December 28, 2014

candles & candlemaking

A year ago at Christmastime, I decided to see what kind of candlemaking supplies were still at my parents' house, and wound up digging a couple of big Rubbermaid tubs worth of molds, dyes, additives, wick, wax, &c out of the basement.

I used to do this a lot, but I’ve mostly forgotten the details of technique.

Rough notes:

  • Wax temperature when pouring is important. I’m aiming for 210-220 F with metal molds, but it’s hard to get there with the little hot plate I’m using. I can usually get it just over 200, according to the thermometer I’ve got. This doesn’t seem to be doing too much damage, but I do think the results would be a little better with hotter wax.
  • You’re supposed to use a proper double boiler or a purpose-built wax melter. I put various sizes of can in some water in a medium size pan.
  • I remember that I used to melt wax on the woodstove in my dad’s shop, but if so we must have been running the stove hotter in those days or I had a lot more patience. it does work well for holding wax at a reasonable temperature until you have to do a second pour.
  • With metal molds, keeping the wax from streaming out the wick hole at the bottom is often kind of problematic. I think you’re supposed to affix the wicking with a little screw and put some tacky putty-type stuff over the screw, but if you’re low on the putty or don’t have just the right size screw this doesn’t work so great. Things tried this time around: The remaining putty and then everything kind of smashed down on a wood block (Ben’s idea), pouring a little wax in the bottom and letting it harden first, the wrong size screw, silicone caulk. The wood block and the silicone caulk both worked pretty well.
  • You can dye beeswax, but you have to keep in mind that the stuff is already pretty yellow and opaque. Shades of green work well. Other colors… Well, I wound up with some the color of a strange weird woodland fungus.
  • Last time I did this, I wound up with a bunch of pillars that burned really poorly and with a small flame. I think I wasn’t using a heavy enough wick. Tried to go with heavier braided wicking this time. Guess I’ll see how that pans out.