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Craft How To Instructions
Candle Making - Introduction
Contrary to what some people think, the art of making candles isn't all that difficult. Although it covers a wide range of techniques, the most traditional way to make candles is the dipping method.
If you've never made candles before, the best thing you can do is simply dig in and experiment ith both dipping and molding techniques. Once you're familiar with the basics, you can then develop those skills into more artiistic and creative areas.
For example, painting, adding flowers and leaves, stencilling, carving, and other forms of design.
The main types of wax are paraffin, beeswax, gel, and dip and carve wax.
Paraffin is the most popular and most basic wax used for making candles. It can be purchased in either bead, pellet, or slab form. It's colorless and odorless, and because it's non-toxic, it's safe to use. When melted it looks like water
Paraffin is one of the most versatile waxes. You can color it with dyes, add essential oils, add other waxes to make it soft and malleable or hard and long burning.
Beeswax is a by-product of refining oil product and can be bought in its natural form. The color is either brown or bleached white. It can be expensive, but it's the only wax that releases a naturally sweet fragrance when burnt. Candles that contain beeswax usually last longer. than those compared to those that do not contain beeswax.
The downside is that it has a sticky consistency which makes it difficult to use in molds, in which case a releasing agent is needed. Also, it requires a large amount of beeswax when dipping candles.
Gel wax is clear and sets to a rubbery solid that is translucent. Gel wax is not technically a wax but is actually a mixture of oil and polymer. It melts at 90-100 degrees Celsius (194-212 degress Farenheit) so it is recommended that you melt it over a direct heat source. However you have to watch the pan as it can catch fire easily. You can use all kinds of (non-flammable) objects in gel waxes, such as flowers, shells, charms and you can use it with powdered dyes but not with ordinary wax dye discs.
Dip And Carve Wax
The type of wax is usually available in large chunks and is best used for making carved candles. It is a blend of waxes that is specially formulated so that the candle can be carved without the wax splitting. It has a more malleable quality compared to beeswax or paraffin wax.
Wax dye is used to color a candle and is available in disc or powder form. Dye discs or squares are easier to use, but they tend to fade quicker. Powder dyes are intense and only the smallest quantities are needed to adequately color a single candle. The colors also last longer than dye discs.
To add fragrance you can add liquid perfume that's specifically designed for candles. Essential or aromatherapy oils can be used but you need to test them first since not all of them smell great when burnt. Any added scent should be used in moderation, adding just drops of perfume or oil to the melted wax.
Additives such as stearin and vybar assist in making a candle softer or harder, or change the opacity. It can also give candles a better smell, allow them to burn more efficiently, and increase burning time.
This is a wax additive generally used with paraffin wax to increase a candle's shrinking qualities. Stearin is a crystalline substance, which is white in colour and usually made from palm oil. When stearin is added to paraffin wax, the set wax shrinks after cooling and makes it easier to remove the candle from the mold. Aside from prolonging the life of a candle, it also helps to stop candles from dripping, makes the wax denser, and intensifies color (wax dye).
As a guide, you normally need to add about one part stearin for every 10 parts wax. Be warned that if you add too much stearin, it can affect the appearance of the candle. If you are making a colored candle, always add dye to the stearin before you add the wax to it.
Vybar has a similar effect on waxes as stearin but vybar is used with latex molds (if you use stearin on latex it will rot them).
Double Boiler or Melting Pan<
Although you can use an everyday kitchen pan, a double boiler of either stainless steel or aluminum coated in enamel is the preferred method for melting wax. If you do use a pan, you need to keep an eye on it as the temperature of the wax can rise very quickly. Melting wax in a pan can also cause the wax to melt at an uneven pace and needs to be stirred with a stainless steel utensil.
When using the double boiler, boil water in the bottom of the pan and melt the wax in the top part. Always make certain you keep the water levels topped up. It's critical that you don't overheat the wax as it can easily ignite. To clean the double boiler after you've poured out the liquid wax, wipe the bowl with paper towels.
Dipping cans can be used if you decide to use the dipping candle technique. You can use any size dipping can, provided that the can is at least 1 inch taller than the height of the candle you intend to make. There are special cylindrical containers which are specially designed for candlemaking, however, if you don't want to spend too much money, you can use a pet food can or anything else that can hold the liquid wax and can be placed in direct heat. Ensure that the can or cylindrical container is sitting in a pan of simmering water, with the water level going as high up the sides of the container as possible.
The wick needs to be the appropriate size for the candle you intend to make. If not, the candle won't burn effectively. The right size wick will curve over the top when the candle is burning, so that it is constantly being burnt away and requires very little trimming.
If you are unsure, go with a smaller size since larger wicks usually cause the candle to smoke. With smaller wicks the flames are smaller and therefore reduce the possibility of damage to the decorated sides of the candle.
Prior to use, all wicks need to soaked in hot wax (primed).
Container wicks come in a variety of sizes and need to suit the diameter of the container. These wicks have a core of either paper or metal that will hold the wick vertically at all times.
Plaited Cotton Wicks
Plaited cotton wicks are popular and are used for dipped, molded, and hand formed candles. They are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 1/2 inch up to 4 inch and more.
Wick sustainers or wick supports are small metal discs that are used as an anchor to keep the wick in position in the candle. You use them by pushing the wick into the sustainer and then pinching the metal together to sit flat on the base of the container.
Wick holders keep the wick positioned centrally in the mold or container so that the wax can set. You can purchase wick holders or make them yourself with bamboo skewers and elastic bands.
Candle molds are use to give candles their shape. You can purchase pre-formed candle molds made from glass, plastic, metal, and latex. Or, you can use common household items such as milk cartons, drinking glasses or cups, cake tins, bowls, and even strong cardboard containers. Just make certain that any container you use has no overhangs since that would make it difficult to remove the candle once the wax sets.
Latex molds are very popular as they are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are quite versatile, often used to create more complex shapes such as animals, fruits, and flowers.
A wax thermometer is used to monitor the temperature of the melting and melted wax. This is an essential utensil for candlemaking as wax heats up very quickly and can catch fire. You can buy an actual candle making thermometer or, if you have one, you can simply use a basic cooking thermometer. just make certain the thermometer covers a range from 100-255 degrees Fahrenheit.
A set of scales is necessary for weighing the wax. Kitchen scales are fine as long as they have an accuracy of about 1 ounce.
In candle making, you need access to a flame and a solid bench or counter. Always cover the work surface and floor in newpaper or heavy canvas or other suitable fabric. Also, keep paper towels available for cleaning up spills.
- When melting wax, never leave the pan unattended (was has a low melting point and can burst into flames very quickly). If the wax catches fire, use a wet towel to extinguish the flames.
- Use a thermometer when heating wax so you can keep an eye on the temperature and prevent the wax rom getting too hot.
- If you spill hot wax on your skin, immediately run cold tap water over it.
- Do NOT pour unwanted wax down the drain, unless you are thinking of getting a new one, as this will effectively clog it.
- Although it may not be needed, it's a good idea to keep a proper fire extinguisher nearby.
- Always use oven gloves when handling hot objects.
- Make sure you do not get distracted (i.e. telephone, children, pets) when you're melting the wax. If you need to attend to any matters, turn the stove off.