Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fun With Hot Wax....

...No, not that kind of fun! I'm talking about making beeswax candles! Needing my honeybee "fix" during the cold winter weather and needing some holiday gifts to give, I decided that I would make candles this year. It was fun and it went well. I have been collecting and saving wax for the past 3 years and it was time to put it to use. Here are some photos to help tell the story and learn you how we did it...

First step in cleaning old comb, melt in water bath

After melting the wax in a water bath, I let the wax cool and harden. The debris will settle to the bottom of the wax "cake". You can scrape off the large pieces of debris. Then melt the wax again and pour the liquid wax through a fine strainer to get the small pieces of debris out. You may need to strain it a few times. When it looks really clean, pour it into a mold (Tupperware container, Trader Joe's cookie container - see wax below). If your wax is too hot when you pour it, you will melt your plastic containers (I speak from experience on this one!). And oh yeah, don't use your cooking pots for doing this stuff, they will get ruined.

Cleaned Wax

Above you can see the cleaned wax. Notice the different colors. This is mainly determined by the age of the comb - the older the comb, the darker the wax. Some people use chemicals to lighten the wax and some say leaving it in the sun can lighten it. I kind of like the variety of colors. The lightest wax is obtained from the wax cappings you get during honey extraction.

Melting Clean Wax Before Pouring in Molds

To prepare the wax for pouring into molds, you want to melt it using a double-boiler, water bath method. Don't melt the wax directly in a pot over fire, wax is flammable and no one wants a fire in their kitchen!

Here you can see me helping the kids pour the hot wax into the votive molds. Notice the beehive skep mold also, it is filled with hot wax. Rubbing some vegetable oil inside of the molds helps the finished candles to release from the molds more easily (they also sell silicone sprays for this). I bought preassembled wicks for the votives (see below). I had to install the wick in the beehive skep mold. The wick comes through a tiny hole in the bottom of the mold and then must be secured at the top so the wick stays straight. I tied the wick to a small piece of wood on top (piece of shish-kabob skewer).

Putting the wicks in the votives. You must wait until the wax cools a bit, or else the wicks will wilt and won't be straight. Once you see a little cooled wax around the rim of the mold, you can gently insert the wick. The kids did a great job.

Cooled and Ready to Remove


We also poured some tapers. These were the most challenging, mainly because of installing the wicks. The wick had to be threaded through a small hole in the bottom and then secured on top, just like the beehive mold (except 10 inches long!). With some creative threading, I finally got the hang of it (used the shish-kabob skewers again). They do sell wicking needles for this, but I didn't buy one. When pouring these, one must not forget to plug the wick hole in the bottom of the mold, lest hot wax comes oozing out all over your kitchen table (yes, speaking from experience again!). You can use a small bit of hard beeswax to plug the holes and it works just peachy.


The tapers were also a little tougher to get out of the molds. After they had hardened and cooled down, I placed the entire mold in the freezer, which caused the wax to contract and made it much easier to get the candles out. 

The fruits of our labor. Not bad for our first attempt. I have a bit more wax left for some more candles and we're also going to try to make some lip balm. Fun fun fun...

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