|If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. - J.R.R. Tolkien|
Candle making instructions always explain the process. But for whatever type of candles you decide to make, the secret to quality candles is in the quality of the supplies. The right candle wax, color, fragrance and wick are the most important components in your supply kit. If you want to make the very best candles, then you want the best ingredients. Buy the best.
CANDLE WAX FOR CANDLE MAKING
The number of types of waxes available is extensive. Candle wax is sold as sheets, blocks, pearls, flakes and granulated crystals. When you make your selection, a decision must be made between paraffin waxes, natural candle wax, hybrid waxes or gels.
Beeswax from the honeycomb (yellow or white), soy wax, vegetable-based wax and palm-based products are all good natural wax choices.
This is a candle wax with no additives. But additives are needed for optimum results when you are working with your candles.
This is a candle wax that is ready to use. No other additives are required except scent and color.
This is a combination of paraffin waxes and natural waxes - blends of soy wax and paraffin or palm wax and paraffin. This type of wax provides low shrinkage and first-rate scent retention. Adding paraffin wax to a natural wax will stabilize the waxes and produce better quality candles.
Gels for producing gel candles come from processed mineral oil that is gelled with co-polymers which provides a clear rubbery texture. Similar to traditional wax candles, clear gel candles are commonly produced from a hydrocarbon base stock. There are low, medium and high-density gels. Low-density gels are generally used for low-fragrance candles. Medium-density gels, the most popular, are best used for embedding inserts into the gel and high-density gels provide the most fragrance and allow embedding with heaver inserts.
It is not worth buying inexpensive wax from the grocery store. This often works out more costly in the long run because to produce good quality candles, you need quality materials. Go to a quality craft store, or buy online.
CANDLE WAX ADDITIVES
Additives provide the tools to style your candles made from paraffin waxes. These additives facilitate wax softening, increase the rigidity, melting point, and fragrance retention of paraffin waxes. They are also used to eliminate surface imperfections, improve gloss and mold release of your candles.
Available in low or high melting point. It is more economical to use than stearine. Vybar locks in the color of your candle and improves the retention of the fragrance. It improves color brightness and helps eliminate internal cracking and bubbles. However, it can be difficult to find and it sometimes doesn't release from mold easily.
Stearine is also called stearic acid and is derived from either animal fat or palm oil. This has been the standard paraffin additive for a very long time. It is used to make the wax harder and easier to release from the candle mold. It allows candles to burn more slowly and gives an opaque or white appearance to the candle. It helps votive wax candles to hold more fragrance. But if you add this to container wax, it will make the wax harder which may be more difficult to burn.
There is a variety of plastic additives which are mostly polyethylenes. These are readily available. Polyethylenes are produced from natural gas (or by "cracking" petroleum naptha). Plastics help to improve gloss, luster, translucence, strength, and provide a smooth blemish-free finish of your candle. It may be sold under a variety of names such as luster crystals, opaque crystals, or translucent crystals. However, this is not recommended for beginners because of its high melting point and it must be melted separately, and then added to melted wax.
CANDLE COLOR FOR CANDLE MAKING
There are two main ways to color candles. With dyes or pigments. Candle colorants need to be soluble in oil or wax; therefore most candle coloring is done with dye.
Candle dyes come in blocks, liquids and powders. One block of dye will color up to 30 pounds of wax. If it is used lightly you will get pastel colors and if it is used heavy you will get deeper colors. For the best results always use a dye specifically made for coloring candles.
Pigments are very concentrated colors primarily used for over dipping and carved candles. As a general rule, never use pigments to color the core of a candle. The particles of pigment will clog the wick. Start with a white or lightly colored candle (a core candle or a pre-made candle base) and simply over-dip or paint the base with colored wax.
If a really deep color is needed consider an over dip in that color. Too high a color concentration in the core of the candle may cause burning problems. Wax colors will be lighter than they appear in the melting pot. To get an idea of the finished color place a drop of wax on a piece of white paper. A better test is to pour some wax (at least ½ inch) into a paper cup and place it in the freezer. This will quickly give you the exact finished color. Keep in mind that wax additives affect the final color.
Although some candle making instructions say to use crayons for color, it is not a good idea. Crayons can clog the wick.
CANDLE FRAGRANCE FOR CANDLE MAKING
A candle's “throw” is the term for a candle's ability to cast its fragrance, meaning the intensity of the scent. When the wax of the candle melts, it creates a pool. When this pool heats up it warms the fragrance oils which causes their scent to rise. When purchasing scents determine the amount of throw you desire.
Candle scent is marketed in two forms, liquid scent oil and scent blocks. Although the liquid scent costs more, it works better than scent blocks. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions. Higher scent concentrations can usually be used, however, too much scent can ruin a candle.
It is best to use oils that are specifically made for use in candles, as the quality of the oil will affect the appearance and burning of the candle. The oil you use must be pure oil and have no water or alcohol base. Potpourri refresher oils commonly sold in grocery stores or drug stores are not well suited for candle making since they may not blend as well with the wax. Be sure you buy scents that are made for wax and not for soaps. Avoid essential oils. They are generally not designed for the intense heating of candle wax.
CANDLE WICKS FOR CANDLE MAKING
Several types of wicks are available. The most popular ones are the flat braided or regular wick. Different sized wicks cause different sized flames simply because of the number of threads in the bundles. Each thread is considered a plait or ply. A given number of ply are bundled together.
With a flat braid wick, usually only three bundles are braided together. It is braided in such a way that all three bundles lie flat. It is referred to by the number of plaits it contains. For example: 3 bundles of 12 ply = 36 ply. The purpose of the flatness of this wick is to curl over to the side when it burns. This curling of the wick helps to prevent excess smoking.
A 36 ply wick can draw a little bit more wax than a 30 ply wick can, which gives the 36 ply wick a larger flame. Then the larger flame produces a slightly larger melt pool.
Over 35 different wick types are available, although only a few are commonly used.
When choosing your wick, match the wick to the candle mold diameter. For a small candle mold, use a small wick. For a large candle mold, use a large wick. If you want a candle to have a glow-through effect, use a medium wick for a medium size candle. A well or hole will melt down into the candle as it burns.
If a test burn of the finished candle shows a minimal wax pool, the wick is too large for your wax formula. If your wax pool is drowning the wick by causing it to go out or have a small flame, use a larger wick. The wick size is the easiest way to adjust how your candles burn and it is important to keep in mind that changing your wax formula may require changes in wicking as well. If you don't have another size wick handy, adjusting your wax hardness with more or less additives may help it burn correctly.
For Gel Candle:
Since gel wax burns between 4 to 6 times slower than paraffin wax, all the rules for selecting a wick size change. The general rule is to go up a wick size. Cotton and paper core wicks are not recommended because they do not have the rigidity of zinc cored wicks.
CANDLE WICK TABS
Wick tabs are the small. flat metal discs that are used to hold the wick at the bottom of candle. They have a hole in the middle for the wick and are usually round. They come in a 15 mm and a 20 mm size. Some come in a square shape.
The purpose of the wick tab is to prevent a fire by stopping the wick from burning beyond the tab. It also keeps the wick from falling over and drowning out the wick when you near the end of a burning candle. In addition, it stabilizes the wick in the liquid wax.
Most wicks are a standard size but you may want to consider using a larger tab when making votive candles. The larger bottom allows you to place the wick in the votive cup before pouring the wax. This is a great time saver and you don’t splash the wax over the cup trying to get the wick in. Just give a little pull to the wick after the wax has cooled, but not hardened, to straighten the wick up. Votive candles are so short, this is an easy way to make them, and then after they have cooled all the way, add the second pour. Even for votive candles, wait overnight before filling in the “sink hole”.
CANDLE MOLDS FOR CANDLE MAKING
There is a candle mold for every need, from the standard aluminum candle molds for pillar candles and votive candles to tea-light molds, designer shaped candle molds and taper molds. There are also polyurethane candle molds in all type of shapes and sizes as well as floater candle molds and other interesting shapes. Commercially made candle molds can be purchased at any candle making supplier and many craft stores. They are made of several different materials such as metal, acrylic, latex rubber and glass.
You can even look around your house for containers. You can use clean glasses, jars or even seamless tin cans. Almost anything that will stand up to the extreme heat of molten wax will work, as long as the opening is large enough to remove the hardened candle or the container is disposable and can be peeled off. You can experiment with candy making molds or soap molds. For small floating candles, you can try using different shaped ice cube trays or cupcake pans.
Look around for metal tins, ceramics, paper cups (the kind without the wax coating, just tear off when cool), milk cartons, just about anything that will hold hot liquid will hold wax. Just make sure there are no ridges that would prohibit hard wax form coming out.
Be careful using fragrances with acrylic molds. The chemicals frequently ruin the molds.
One secret in the art of candle making is having the right air temperature in the room which allows your candles to cool properly. Cooling too quickly will cause a bubble in the middle. You probably won’t see the hole, but it will be there, just beneath the top. When the candle burns, all the wax will drain into the center and drowned out your wick. If you get a hole in the center, drill down to its base and fill the hole with wax. This will prevent drowning of the wick when burning.
Wax poured to cool in glass jars will cause frost marks on the jar’s sides. Pour wax in a mold with harden wax caked all over the outside and you have the same thing. You have to clean your candle molds. Use a box cuter to scrap the wax off of your ceramic container molds. Sometimes you can just melt the left over wax by dunking your mold in hot wax then wiping it down a paper towel.
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