Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Pound of Beeswax: Dipped Candles

I'm always seeing beeswax crafts online, and a few weeks back I picked up a one pound block of local beeswax at (what else) a honey harvesting festival.

Back in my camp counselor days I made, or supervised the making of, hundreds of candles.  But it's been a while, and this is my first time using beeswax, so I took it slow and took on this project while the little guy was napping.  This can be a fun project for kids--if there was another adult in the room I'd do it with groups as young as 6 or 7, and one-on-one I think even my 2 year old would have enjoyed watching and helping with parts of the process.  He wouldn't have had the patience for an hour of dipping, though.

The supplies are simple:  wax, wick (I got mine here, but you can find it at most craft stores), a pot for boiling water and a container for melting the wax.  I did something very silly and used one of my favorite mixing bowls for the wax.  I have no idea how I'm going to clean the wax out of it.  Thrift a cheap container for melting, or use an empty tin can that can be recycled when you're done.

First, melt the wax.  Always melt wax in a double boiler--if wax gets too hot it can catch fire.  I don't have a double boiler so I set the bowl of wax into a pot with some water.  I needed to keep the water boiling to keep the wax melting, and it took about half an hour to melt down the block.  Wow does this stuff smell good as it's warming.

Next, cut your wicks.  Mine were each about 7 inches long, and folded in half to make two candles.  I was going for small, but you could make these any size.  Remember, though, that if they're longer, your container of wax will need to be deeper to dip them.

One at a time, give those wicks a first dip.  I like to let them sit in the wax for a little while to let it soak in.  When they come out, they'll look something like this.  While they're still warm, straighten out the wick.

Now, just keep dipping.  Give your candle some time to cool between dips--wax will stick to cool wax, but it will melt back into the pot if it gets too warm.  If you're doing this with kids keep a bowl of cold water nearby.  My fingers touched the pot of wax a few times, and it wasn't hot enough to burn.  But it was uncomfortable, and the cool water gives kids them a place to stick their waxed fingers.  The presence of safety measures also seems to help kids take the project more seriously.

Back at summer camp we'd have a line of campers dipping their candles, and then returning to the back of the line for their next turn.  This is a fun way to make candles--it's very simple and social, and in the breaks the kids often find creative ways to spice up their candles.  Instead of straight candles, bend the wax into squiggles, or twist the two wicks into one entwined candle.  Use your fingers to pinch and mold the warm wax into shapes.  Press bits of flowers or leaves into the wax as decorations.  Working alone, I set up a little cooling rack with a chopstick and some drinking glasses.  I worked my way down the line, giving each candle a dip and then a chance to cool.

See the little drips forming at the bottom?  I didn't want a lot of drip, so I cut them off about three dips before the end.  I like a little, though--gives them character.  And by this method you're going to get character, not the straight and symmetrical dipped tapers you've seen in stores.

A bit less than an hour's worth of dipping, and I had candles.  I've still got a bit of decoration and some packaging to add to these, I'll share that when I get to it this weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment