Saturday, October 20, 2007

Candle Making - Set up and Melting

Bramble Berry has a substantial line of candle fragrances, colors, waxes, wicks and candle glass containers. I love making candles but don't make them enough. Once you get a perfect recipe down, the outcomes are more predictable than cold-process soapmaking.

For this Beeswax Container Candle project, the set up includes:

a double boiler
cotton core wicks
candle fragrance
glass containers
Metal pouring container

If you don't have all these things, you can melt beeswax in the microwave. It takes 6 to 10 minutes to melt the wax. It's not advised because Pyrex will not always withstand the sustained heat. I have personally broken (exploded is a better word) two Pyrex "heat-safe" containers and a microwave glass rotating plate attempting to melt beeswax in the microwave. Do not melt the wax in a normal pot, directly on the stove. The wax needs diffuse heat from a double-boiler to best melt.

Why cotton core wicks? Cotton wicks are all natural and do not use zinc or metals to make them stiff. For beeswax users, the cotton wicks also carry the fuel (the melted beeswax) up the wick in a more efficient manner. In normal situations, cotton wicks are smoke free. The wick needs to be large; approximately double what you would use in a paraffin candle. Beeswax is a hard, dense wax and has a high melting point, needing a larger flame for a consistent melt-down.

Why specific candle fragrance? You can use soap fragrances (the ones from Bramble Berry are great in candles!) but they tend to be more expensive than dedicated candle fragrances. Soap and skin safe fragrances have higher standards for ingredient safety and purity. Candle fragrances can use a wider variety of ingredients, often cheaper, since they don't need to adhere to standards like on-skin irritancy or being an allergen when applied to the body. Also, dedicated candle fragrances will sometimes perform better in candles than an all-purpose fragrance. Our soap fragrances (originall line and the Cybilla line) work great in candles. We have many customer using our normal line for their candles because it's easier to have matching soap and candle scents. But, if you're just making candles and economics is the main factor for you, choose the candle line.

Beeswax is a precious renewable resource. To make one pound (16 oz.) of beeswax, a worker bee will eat 10 pounds of honey and visit 33 million flower blossoms over 150,000 miles! WOW! That makes the price of $4.00 per pound seem positively cheap!

Why glass containers? Because they require less work than a traditional pillar candle and you don't need to buy any molding equipment. Make sure if you use a container for your candle that the jar is a heat safe container.

The Instructions for making Beeswax Container Candles
Day One

Step One: Melt the beeswax in a double boiler. 16 oz of beeswax pastilles will melt down to about 10.5 oz of volume. One container (as shown in the top photo) takes a full pound of beeswax! This explains why these candles burn for so long - there's a lot of wax in that little glass! Tip: When the wax is melting, it will congeal into one large lump. Breaking up the lump will help the wax melt faster. Please be careful when you are breaking the lump up - too vigorously chopping might splash hot wax on you!

Step 2: Carefully transfer the hot beeswax (no children or pets should be underfoot during this step!) into your pour container. I like metal for this though you could use a heat-safe pouring container in a pinch.

Check back tomorrow for Wick Centering & Fragrance Use.