Candle Making 101

I am such a candle junkie it is ridiculous!  I can not walk into a store without buying a candle.  I have them everywhere.  I’m pretty sure I built a good portion of the Yankee Candle Store in Massachusetts.  Of course I have my favorite scents and they change with the season.  Springtime I must have my Lilac candle, summer it’s my sage, fall I start with macintosh, then I change to fallen leaves, autumn wreath and finally pumpkin.  Winter time brings out my cranberry chutney, balsam fir, christmas wreath and one or ten others.  I don’t know what this obsession of mine is but I love to walk into a room and have it smell… good.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like my house smells bad ( well maybe for a little while when Bambi came to stay) but there is something about a candle burning that makes me feel, comfortable.

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Warm, Cozy, Comfortable

About a month ago I decided that enough was enough.  If I could learn to make my own candles and save that money, in about a month I would have enough cash to take a trip around the world ( not that I want to do that, but that’s how much money I would probably have)!!  So that is what I did.  And it is easy and inexpensive and Fun!

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My very own Peppermint Candy Cane Candle ~ Ta Da!!

There are lots of ways to make your own candles.  First off start by saving all those gazillion candle jars you have.  The labels peel right off and a little bit of WD-40 takes off the sticky stuff left behind.  You can get the wax out by either breaking it up with a knife, or soaking it in hot water and then breaking it up with a knife or microwaving it for a few seconds (just remove that little metal tab first) and then breaking it up with a knife, basically just break it up with a knife and save that wax. You can always melt it down later to make fire starters or something.  You can also use a mason jar to make your candle in.  Just about anything works as long as it is heat proof.

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My very heatproof, recycled glass jars!

I’m going to get a little off track here for a second but I have a story to tell you about the first time I ever tried to make a candle.  It is a learning lesson so pay close attention.  Once upon a time, when I was just a youngin’ my parents left me in charge of watching my baby sister so they could get some Christmas shopping done.  I was a very good babysitter and always took good care of my little sister (except maybe the time I ditched her in the park and hid in the woods while she cried looking for me…I’m so sorry Heidi, please forgive me!!  Or then there was the time I made her swallow a ring…don’t ask) OK, so maybe I wasn’t always a good babysitter but I really did love my sister and never ever meant to hurt her physically, in any way. Here it was the Christmas season and I got this really good idea that we could make Christmas candles to give to our mom and dad that year.  My sister and I gathered together all our crayons and spent quite sometime unwrapping them.  Then I placed her onto the counter, melted down the crayons in my mothers favorite cooking pot, and when they were melted and extremely hot I poured them into one of my mothers favorite glasses.  As soon as the hot wax hit the glass it shattered into a million pieces sending slivers of glass and hot wax all over my poor little baby sister who I had sitting on the counter so she could watch and she happened to be wearing a cute little dress (my mother always made her wear dresses) so that wax and glass stuck immediately to her little legs and OMG!! It was a nightmare.  A real full-blown mess.  An emergency.  I had no idea what to do next.  My sister was screaming and I was terrified.  All I could think to do was to cool that wax as quickly as possible so I filled our bathtub with cold water and threw my poor little baby sister into it.  There she was in her pretty little dress, with those big giant tears rolling down her face, sitting in the tub full of cold water when my parents walked in the door.  My sister recovered with no visible scars (luckily the glass didn’t cut her) and after about a month my mother finally let me out of my room.  So the moral of this story is Never, Ever, pour hot wax into a container that is not heat-proof!!  And Never, Ever make candles with your baby sister sitting in the counter in a cute little dress.

Some other basic supplies you will need to get started in your candle making adventure would be a basic pouring pot.  You want to keep you candle making supplies just for making candles.  You don’t really want to make a pot of soup in the pot that you just used to melt your wax so head out to get yourself a pot and a few other things.  Michael’s Craft shop has just about everything you will need to get started and they aren’t that expensive.  Then if you decide this is something you really enjoy doing (and I know you will) then you can find a million great websites that sell candle making supplies.

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My basic pouring pot

Make yourself a double boiler to place the pouring pot into to melt the wax.  Never, Ever melt wax over direct heat because it can cause a fire.  It would also be a good idea to keep some baking soda close by when melting wax because it acts as a fire extinguisher.  Don’t try to use water. ( I wish I knew all this before I stuck my poor little sister in the bathtub because it took weeks for that wax to come off her)!  I don’t have a double boiler so I just take a big pot and put 3 of my mason jar rings in the bottom like a trivet or rack and then sit my pouring pot on top.  Pour some water into the bottom pot to cover the rings and you are good to go.

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My version of a double boiler.  Works for me!

Let’s talk wax here for a minute.  There are lots of different kinds of wax.  Paraffin wax is a very basic household wax that you can use to make container candles but it is a softer wax and it will burn much quicker unless you add stearic acid which is a hardening agent.  Container wax is made specifically for container candles.  It is really a wax-blend and it holds more fragrance and has less shrinkage then paraffin.  Look for a “single-pour” wax which just means you won’t need to top off your candles.  I didn’t know this and my first few candles sunk in the middle.  It is really no big deal, you just need to melt some more wax and top off your candle.  You may need to do this several times to fill the well that forms around your wick as the wax sets. They also sell soy and gel candle making supplies but I haven’t ventured down that road yet. Then there is the cheap wax that you can use to try things out, which is what I did and still do on occasion, and that is to pick up pillar candles at places like the dollar store or job lots or Wal-Mart and just melt them down.  Cheap candles aren’t well scented so you still need to add your own scent and maybe some dye to get the color you want.

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Wax!!

You will also need to get a good thermometer that is specifically designed for candle-making unless you have something in your kitchen like a candy thermometer and that works just fine too.  It is important to make sure that you don’t overheat your wax as that can cause a fire.  Most household wax has a melting point of 130 degrees while common pillar and votive wax is 145 degrees.  Follow the directions on the package or research melting points if you are unsure.

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My candle making thermometer!

Wicks are another necessary item used in candle making (Duh) that come in different sizes, heights, pre-waxed, soy and lead free.  I use “tacky wax” or “glue dots” to hold the wick tab in place in the bottom of the jar so it doesn’t move around when your pour in your wax.  I also use something to support the wick before the wax sets up like 2 butter knives or spoons.  Then you need dye and scents for candle making.  Dyes come in liquid or solid form and are made especially for candle making.  You can even use crayons if you want but dyes made for candles work best. Just as in dyes, scents made for candles work best because they hold their scent over time, just make sure to add them at the last-minute so you don’t cook your scent out.

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Wicks, Scents and Dyes (and a thermometer again)

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Butter knives used to hold the wicks in place.

Wax clean up is best done while your wax is still warm.  Just take a paper towel and wipe out your melting pot or if need be reheat it briefly to loosen the wax.  Another trick for getting wax out is to freeze it first then it will just pop right out which would work great if you want to recycle a jar candle and you don’t mind waiting a few minutes.  Me, I’m impatient so I just go at it with a knife (be careful).

Once you get the basic jar candles under your belt you can start to experiment with other techniques.  You can make stripes or tilted layers, you can add chunks of cut wax shapes to create mosaics or a “fruit” look. You can make candles that look like cakes and cupcakes, pillar candles, tapper candles, leaf candles, the list is endless.  I am still in the container candle phase but when I progress to some of these other types I will certainly let you know.  Have fun with it.  Before you know it you will have a closet full of your own homemade candles ready for gift giving and you will give Yankee Candle a run for their money.  And you won’t end up breaking the bank and having to explain to the hubs why you just spent half of your grocery money on candles!!

IMG_4570Santa Spruce Christmas Candle! I made it…all by myself!

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Oh, and Merry Christmas from Bambi!!

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