Making candles!

I don’t have any art class pictures to share this week because I left my sketches in the classroom. We’re working on a pastel still-life that is taking two classes to finish. Once I have completed my masterpiece (ha!!) I’ll have two weeks worth of sketches to share.

Until then, I’ve got this candle-making project going on. Once upon a time, over 10 years ago, I decided that I was going to make candles. I went to an out-of-town specialty candle shop with my friend and her mother, who happened to be going there for some reason, and while there I bought a huge slab of wax, a bag of wicks, two bottles of scents (sunblossom and fieldberries), and some sort of colouring additive. I also collected crayons to melt down for more colours. I made a bunch of candles in hand-painted glasses, gave them away as gifts, and promptly lost all interest in making more. Everything was put into a storage container, set aside, and forgotten.

Fast forward 10+ years. The container of candle making supplies has followed me into the city, been lugged about from apartment to apartment. In addition to that, I’ve been collecting bits of used up candles over the years in the hopes of re-using them someday. I now live in a one-bedroom apartment and feel pretty much settled in, enough so that I’m finally noticing what I actually have in my closet. I don’t want boxes of random things taking up space; the space in here is limited. While I tried to clear some of it out, I found all of this candle-making stuff.

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Ugh. No wonder I have no room for anything around here! Anyway, I figured that it was time to use this stuff up, so I made a few candles this week. I started off by cleaning out old candle jars. I got rid of the excess wax still stuck in them by pouring in boiling water then scraping it out with a knife. Most of my knives are cheap dollar store ones, so I ended up just setting one aside as my candle knife.

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Next, I brought a large pot, partially filled with water, to a boil. An empty metal coffee grind container will hold the wax, the heat of the boiling water slowly causing it to melt.

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While waiting for the water to boil, I put some old bits of candles inside a ziplock bag and hammered them into pieces. See, I didn’t want to make plain coloured candles. I wanted to use up some of the plain white wax and add chunks of coloured, scented wax to make a sort of confetti or hodgepodge effect. I’m sure there’s a term for this particular style of candle but the name escapes me.

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So the plain white wax was melted first. I then poured a little bit into the bottom of the containers and pressed the wicks into it, allowing them to set. This gives the wicks a chance to be anchored into place so they won’t float or move around while pouring in the rest of the wax. Next, after I was sure the wicks were firmly in place, I filled the containers halfway with plain wax, then added bits of coloured candle.

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As you can see, I sliced the top off of a cream carton to use as a mold. I hadn’t tried this method before, so I wasn’t sure if it would work or not. I’ve got so much bloody wax I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot. Anyway, at this point we need to let the wax set. We want the candle to be evenly filled with blocks of colour, and that won’t happen if we add them all at once. If we just fill the containers then dump in the bits, they will sink to the bottom, congregating there. So this is why we fill the containers halfway and allow them to set before adding anything else. You can put them in the fridge to speed this part up. Once it seems to be mostly set, we can add more plain wax, then more candle bits.

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Aren’t they pretty? I think they are.  I love how the melted wax looks clear. I almost wish I had gel wax so I could make that clear effect last. So now we just wait until it is completely cooled down, and we can remove the cream container by peeling it apart.

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Hooray, it worked! Now for the final test.

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Photographing lit candles in the dark is surprisingly difficult, but I wanted to get that dramatic effect! I’m really happy with them. I’ve run out of glass containers and wicks, so I’ll have to go get some before making any more. I’m wondering if I should have melted coloured wax instead and created a rainbow layered candle. Maybe next time.

Have you ever made your own candles?

Kat.

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