Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Adventures in Candlemaking

Yes, my friends, it appears that I may have picked up a new hobby. And while this isn't soap-related, it kinda is. I mean, I know that many soapmakers make candles. And it seems that people who like soap also usually enjoy candles, too. I guess we tend to like pretty things that smell good, especially if we can either rub those pretty smell-good things all over our bodies or set them on fire.

And I found candlemaking to be rather similar to melt-and-pour soapmaking. You start with a base, melt it down, add color and fragrance, and pour it into a container.

I've always loved candles. I can go into a candle shop and easily spend half an hour sniffing everything. Which is why no one wants to go to a candle shop with me. And also because I constantly shove candles in their face and say, "Ooh, smell this one."

I don't love paying twenty bucks for a candle, though. So, once I had burned down all of my expensive candles, I started thinking about making my own. I researched candlemaking on the interwebs to find out what I would need to get started.

I decided to start with container candles. I figured that mason jars might make good containers. They're cheap, widely available at local stores (no shipping costs), and they have lids. I opted for wide-mouth Ball mason pint jars, which I found at Target. They are pretty little containers, and I'm planning to reuse the jars that I use for my own personal candles to reduce waste and save money.

I found a couple of nifty resources online: this video by Melissa from Homemade Candle Creations, and this photo-packed tutorial from Something Turquoise. Both feature mason jar candles. Hooray!

While I was searching around online for supplies, I stumbled across Lone Star Candle Supply and discovered that they had everything that I needed. One-stop shopping is always a bonus!
Candy Cane candles

I was particularly interested in soy waxes, and, after doing some reading, I chose to use EcoSoya CB-Advanced because I had heard good things about it from other candlemakers online. It reportedly has good scent throw and a nice smooth pour, and it resists frosting and retains color well.

I also bought a few liquid dyes to color my candles. I went with primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), figuring that I could mix them to create other colors, and brown and black. That should get me pretty far.

Other stuff I bought: five bow tie wick bars (which can accommodate 1-3 wicks per candle), wick stickers (to secure the wick to the bottom of the container), a pouring pot, warning labels (CYA!), and Candy Cane fragrance oil. (I also bought some Cinnamon Buns fragrance oil, too, but I haven't used it yet. It smells yummy, though!)

It seems that the toughest part of candlemaking is choosing a wick. First, you have to settle on a wick type. And there are all kinds: zinc core; paper core; cotton core; square braided; flat braided; wooden wicks; RRD, CD, TL, ECO, LX and HTP series ... oh, my gracious, it just goes on and on and on. I did some research online and decided to try the CD series wicks first. CD wicks are flat braided with a paper core woven into the wick. It seems that many candlemakers especially like the CD wicks for soy candles because they burn nice and hot and resist mushrooming.

So, after deciding on a wick type, I needed to settle on a wick size. The CD wicks come in a range of sizes - anywhere from a 4 for small containers to a 22 for large containers. The diameter of your container is what matters when choosing a wick size. My wide-mouth mason jars have a diameter of about 3.25 inches. According to Lone Star's chart, I would need to start with at least a CD-12. Bramble Berry recommends at least a CD-16, and CD-20 for a container of that size using EcoSoya Advanced soy wax. Melissa from the Homemade Candle Creations' video above likes CD-18 wicks for her mason jar soy candles. But which one should I use? If a wick is too small, the wax won't create an even burn pool and the melted wax will tunnel through the middle of the candle. Also, a too-small wick may not create enough heat for a good scent throw, especially in soy candles. I figured that I should try a few different wick sizes to see what I liked, so I bought a CD series wick sampler kit so I could try a few sizes. For this batch of candles, I decided to test the CD-16, CD-18, and CD-20 wicks.

Clockwise from top left: measuring wax, melting wax, wicking jars, prepping with bow tie wick bars.



Once I had all of my supplies, I got busy making candles. First, I measured out my wax with my scale. The wax is supposed to be in flake-form, but it was, like, 100 degrees out when I ordered my supplies, and the wax melted a bit in transit and solidified into a block. Not a problem, and I totally expected the wax to melt in the back of a hot delivery truck anyway, but things would be easier if the wax was in flakes instead. I'll have to remember to stock up on candle wax during the cooler months in the future. I was making three candles, with each container holding 16 ounces. But I needed to account for the fragrance oil and leave enough room at the top for the wick and the lid. So, I went with 14 ounces of wax per candle, but I probably should have used 13 ounces to give myself a little more room at the top. The fragrance load for this particular wax is 6-10%. I used approximately one ounce per 14 ounces of wax, which works out to be a little more than one ounce per pound.

I opted to melt the wax in a double boiler so I could keep a close eye on the temperature. I filled a saucepan with a bit of water and brought it to a simmer, and then put my pouring pot in the water and melted the wax in it. I clipped a candy thermometer to the pot so I could monitor the temperature, but I think I will just use my infrared laser thermometer in the future. It's less messy and seems more accurate.

While my wax melted, I attached the wicks to the jars using wick stickers, which are double-sided sticky dots. One side sticks to the bottom of the wick tab and the other affixes to the inside of the jar. It's important to use your fingers or something sturdy to really press it into the container to make sure it's secure. Try to get it as centered as possible. You can even buy cool contraptions to help with this step.

Then I placed a bow tie wick bar across the mouth of each jar, carefully pulled the wick taut, and then slipped it into the middle slot to hold the wick upright. Pencils, chopsticks, chip clips, clothespins, or something like that can be used to hold the wick upright and taut as well.

Top:Freshly poured candles. Bottom: After 24 hours.
Someone suggested in a review of the wax I was using to heat it to 150 degrees F, add the fragrance, and then pour at 110 F. That was my plan, but I think my candy thermometer may have been a little off. I accidentally heated it a little higher to 160 F according to my candy thermometer, but my laser thermometer said it was 170 F. No worries, though. My laser thermometer is probably a bit more reliable, so I went with it for the rest of my measurements. When the wax was at about 155 F, I added the Candy Cane fragrance oil and then poured the wax into my jars after it had cooled to about 110 F. After adding the fragrance, I stirred and stirred and stirred to make sure it was well-incorporated. (I had read that stirring was very important to make sure the wax and scent bind. Stir for longer than you think you need to, at least two minutes. I stirred pretty much continuously while I waited for it to cool to 110, so it got mixed in plenty well.)

By the way, there seems to be some debate about at what temperature the fragrance oil should be added to this particular wax. Some say to heat the wax to 185 F and add the FO. Others say to add the FO at a cooler temp of no less than 135 F. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

If I were coloring the candle, I would have added the dye before I added the fragrance. I decided to keep things simple my first time out, though, and not color the wax. White works nicely for a peppermint scent anyway.

After pouring the candles, I set them aside to a place where they would be undisturbed for at least 24 hours to allow them to set. The next day, I noticed that there was some cracking on the tops near the base of the wicks. My first thought was, "Oh, noes," but then I remembered reading somewhere that a blowdryer or a heat gun can fix blemishes on the tops. I had a heat gun from my melt-and-pour shrink wrapping days, so I used it to remelt the surface of the candles. Once they had set again, the cracks were gone!

All that was left to do was to trim the wicks down to about 1/4 of an inch. Scissors work well for the initial trimming, and I like to use nail clippers to trim the wick before each burning.

Remelting cracked surface with heating gun and trimming wicks.


Like soap, candles also need to cure. During the curing period, the wax and the fragrance oil bind together. Ideally, candles should be allowed to sit and cure for at least a few days, and it's even better to let soy candles cure for at least a week before lighting them. I let mine sit for four days because I was a bit impatient and wanted to get started with testing so I could report my findings here in this blog post. Otherwise, I would have waited a week or two.

So how did they do? I was very happy with how my candles turned out. I burned them each for about four hours the first night so that they would have ample time to burn evenly across the container, creating a uniform wax pool. Nearly every night, I burned them for about 3-4 hours each time. It wasn't long before I noticed that the candle with the CD-20 wick had the most even burn pool, reaching all the way across the container. The CD-20 candle burned slightly faster than the other two, but not by much. As you can see below, the CD-16 and CD-18 wicks performed well, but the CD-20 has an even burn pool across the width of the candle's surface. The burn pools for the CD-18 and CD-16 wicks didn't quite reach all the way across, leaving some unmelted wax on the side of the container. I kept a running tally of the hours burned and got about 75 hours worth of burn time for the CD-20 wick. (The CD-18 and CD-16 candles maybe could have burned for another hour or so, but they were getting pretty near the bottom of the jar, too.)

Top: Candles lit for first time. Middle (left-right): CD-20, 18, and 16 after four hours. Bottom: After 75 hours.

And after the candle was done with its last burn, I wiped the warm wax out with paper towels and pried the wick tab away from the bottom of the jar. Then I soaked the jars in warm soapy water, wiped them out with paper towels again, and then washed them with dish detergent. Now I can reuse my glass jars!

So, I think for this container, I like the CD-20 wicks. They burn cleanly, and didn't smoke or mushroom. I'm happy with the wax, too! No frosting that I could tell, although I didn't color the wax. It adhered nicely to the container, too. Another bonus is that the containers do not have to be preheated before pouring the wax into them, according to Bramble Berry's tips. I poured my wax into room-temperature jars and did not have any problems. The candles looked beautiful, and the scent throw was good!

Do any of you make candles? What kind of wax, wicks, and containers do you like to use? Do you have a favorite candlemaking supplier? I enjoyed my purchases from Lone Star, and I know that Bramble Berry and Nature's Garden are great places to shop, too. If you buy or make candles, what are some of your favorite scents?

48 comments:

  1. Well, I think the soaping bone is connected to the candle bone! I laughed out loud when you said no one likes the go into a candle store with you. My kids refuse to go to craft fairs for the same reason. I've never made candle-candles, but I recently made a massage candle which brings the best of those two worlds together. Love your posts...very detailed and instructional.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Cindy! I'm glad that you liked the post. I think you're right - the soaping bone is connected to the candle bone! I've never made or used massage candles before, but they sound really cool. You can set those on fire AND rub them on your skin!

      Delete
  2. Nice job! I've always had an interest in making candles, I've done some research but never actually pulled the trigger. It seems like it could be fun to make them however you want!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kristina! I remember you saying that you were interested in making candles. I love candles, and figured that I could have fun making my own while saving money on them, too. And it's nice being able to make them in whatever scent you'd like. Once I've practiced a bit, I'll have to play with designs and colors!

      Delete
  3. Wow, great job Jenny! I like to dabble in candles too, but haven't in a while. You did some great research! And your candles like so creamy and uniform in their jars!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Laura! I've still got a lot to learn, but it was fun researching candlemaking and making these candles! The wax does pour nicely. I remember seeing some of your candles back when you were testing BB's SOAP panel scents, and I thought, "Oh, I should really learn how to make candles!"

      Delete
  4. What a wonderful and informative post Jenny! I tried my hand at candles a few years ago and got so frustrated that I switched to candle melts. I could never get the hot scent throw quite right.
    For my melts I do use Ecosoya PB pillar wax from CandleScience, I use their FO's too and they give great service. I also like Peak Candles. My favorite scent from CandleScience is Blueberry Cheesecake.....yummy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gloria! I've heard that scent throw can be tricky, especially with soy wax. I read that paraffin can help with scent throw, but I'd rather stick with soy if I can. It also sounds like it depends on the FO, too. Some FOs do well, others don't. Blueberry Cheesecake sounds like an awesome scent! I'll have to check out CandleScience and Peak Candles - thanks for the recommendations!

      Delete
  5. I also use CandleScience, the 464 Golden Brands soy wax. I can't remember what wick I use, but both the Pecan Praline FO and the Apples & Maple Bourbon FOs are LOVELY. I am so glad you wrote this post. I have been making candles on and off for 2 years ( am an avid crafter and a new soaper), but I never knew I should "cure" my soy candles. Thanks for teaching me something new!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sue! I didn't realize that candles needed to cure, either, before I started researching candlemaking. Pecan Praline and Apples & Maple Bourbon sound amazing, and perfect for autumn! Thanks for the recommendations. Have fun soaping - it's such a fun and addicting craft!

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great topic Jenny. I take the same wax for massage candles. I think soya wax is the best. In my recipe are also shea butter and soya oil to.

    I like the smell of sugar cane, pink love and all the other sugar perfume oils, of course cinnamon is great.

    Lg Krissi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Krissi! Thanks for your comments. I haven't made or used massage candles, but they sound really interesting. I had heard of them before, but didn't really know what they were. They sound really neat! Sugary scents are always nice, and cinnamon is great, too, especially for autumn and winter.

      Delete
  8. Wow, Jenny, what an interesting and great post! You made us want to try some candes too as our work is fabulous!They look so neat and so creamy! Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Natalia! I really liked using this wax and it pours very nicely. I think candlemaking will be a fun new hobby for me! I can't wait to see your candles if you make some!

      Delete
  9. Candlemaking can be so much and I can't wait to see where you go with yours! =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Anne-Marie! It was fun making these. I'm already pondering my next batch, since I've burned up all the candles from this one!

      Delete
  10. A new direction for you, Jer. Love your soaps (which I am sure you will keep making), but can't wait to see (and smell) your candles. By the way, I will go candle sniffing in candle stores with you any time, Jer, even though I am quite sure that my sniffer cannot hold a candle to yours. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mom! I will definitely keep making soaps - it's time to start making some for the holidays! I think candlemaking will be a fun new hobby for me. Candles make great gifts, too! And thanks for volunteering to go to a candle shop with me. We can shove candles in each other's faces for half the day!

      Delete
  11. Hi Jenny. This was very interesting. I have only made candles at school when I was maybe 10 years old. But it was nothing like this! We had wicks tied on a stick and we dipped them in a big pot of melted wax. The candles were tall and thin. I would like to make candles, but I get migraines it they are scented. I like the idea of using mason jars. They make very beautiful candles and the best is that you can use the jars again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Marika! Thanks for your comments. What a neat memory of making candles in school! That sounds like a fun project, and I'll bet the kids had a lot of fun. Mason jars are nice because if you want to give a candle as a gift, it's got a pretty little lid, perfect for putting a label on! And reusing the jars will save me money while reducing waste.

      Delete
  12. I made candles last year by taking antique tea cups and using them as containers. I made them for Christmas presents. It was SO fun - I had a blast. Scented with orange spice and cedarwood and all sorts of yummy things. I had to take a chance on the wick width, though and when I finally decided, it turned out okay - burned clean and didn't tunnel.
    I would love to carry candle products with my Bear Soap line but the insurance is so expensive once candle making is added to the policy that it's not worth it - :-(
    FYI - LOVE mason jars as candle holders. Love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments, Lindsey! I think the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild includes candles in their insurance for members. That might be worth looking into, if you haven't already. Using antique tea cups as candle containers sounds adorable! What a great idea! Orange spice and cedarwood also sound great together.

      Delete
  13. This is great Jenny, I think that you found new creative playground! This will be really nice way to play with scents and make your own unique creations which could be easily implemented in soaps as well! I would also like to thank you for this detailed tutorial. I haven’t thought about candles yet but your post is so inspiring! Please keep us posted about your future achievements!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gordana! 'm glad that you enjoyed the post. It will be nice choosing exactly the scent I want for my candles. I think candlemaking will be tons of fun! It's nice that lots of FOs can be used to compliment each other in both soaps and candles. I plan on making more soon - I'm out of candles now!

      Delete
  14. What a great post Jenny, super informative! It looks like it could be a bit overwhelming, but you have done a great job of breaking the process down. I can't wait to see more of your candle creations :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank, Cee! Choosing a wick was the most overwhelming part for me. Which type and which size for which wax ... Choosing a wax was a little overwhelming, too, but I hope that maybe I've found a wax and wick combo that works well!

      Delete
  15. Your candles look and sound lovely Jenny. Very beautiful with the clean white appearance in the mason jars. I have also been thinking of trying my hand at candles as a gift for my mom who is obsessed with candles. Think that might be a hobby that we could do together :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Deirdre! Thanks for your comments and kind words. It would be so much fun to make candles with your mom! That's a great idea. I hope you give it a try and that you both have a blast!

      Delete
  16. Great job and thanks for sharing the process of candlemaking! I think the candles are beautiful just as they are, and love the jars! Years ago I bought a candlemaking kit but never attempted to make any...found it too overwhelming. I think I still do, lol. Looking forward to seeing more of your candles!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kalla! I'm looking forward to using my favorite FOs in candles. It is a little overwhelming, and I've still got a lot to learn. But I think candlemaking will be tons of fun! I hope you give it a try someday!

      Delete
  17. Are you a scientist by day Jenny? ;) You break everything down into very concise, neat paragraphs, making it so easy to follow and keeping us interested in all your projects. And your research, you are so thorough!

    I have the same sniffing problem that you do but I think you'd outlast me. :)

    I've only made beeswax candles before, which are much simpler to make. Now that you've reminded me, I think I still have beeswax laying around that I should use up.

    Can't wait to see your future projects!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Monica! Thanks for your comments. I'm glad that you enjoyed the post! I tend to be a tad obsessive and I can get hung up on details. That's not always a bad thing, though! I hope you make some more beeswax candles and share them on your blog! I've heard wonderful things about beeswax and beeswax candles. I may have to get some to play with someday!

      Delete
  18. That was so interesting! Especially about the wicks. I love the look
    of candles in jars and yours turned out beautifully. That really looks enjoyable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kate! I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. I really like how the mason jars look, too!

      Delete
  19. Hi Jenny! Thank you for this really neat, informative and detailed post! It will be my go to reference when I make candles again. I agree with what Cindy above said, that the soaping and candle making bones are related. Just like you, after doing a bit of research, I decided on EcoSoya Advanced and cd-12 and cd-20 from Bramble Berry. I made small votive candles and I think they came out well. I should make some more. Thank you for reminding and inspiring me. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Silvia! Thanks for your comments. How fun that you are also making candles! I'm glad to hear that the EcoSoya Advanced wax and the CD wicks are working out well for you, too. So far, I like that wax and wick combo. I'm looking forward to trying out some more fragrances!

      Delete
  20. Ohhh no,no, I don't need another obsession! LOL!
    I love candles, to smell them, to look at them, to admire one's creativity when it comes to candle containers, but I just don't have a habit of using them!
    Hihi, that's maybe good, because it will keep me safe from hooking up on them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha, I know what you mean about not needing another obsession, Maja! I always like to have a candle around to burn when we're just hanging out at the house. I figured it would be fun to make my own, and I think it should also save money. And it is nice to be able to customize the candles to my liking. Thanks for your comments!

      Delete
    2. I absolutely understand you-not only that you're saving money,buy also expressing your creativity throug making process, which is soooo great! I'm looking forward to seeing more of your nee hobby,because I really like how they can be designed!

      Delete
  21. Jenny, canldes look great and I am sure they smell divine! Keep up the great creativity. I am doing a soap giveaway feel free to participate or pass on the word.

    xoxoxo,
    Adina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Adina! And thanks for letting me know about the giveaway!

      Delete
  22. Thanks for the photos and step by step, I appreciate it. Can you comment on the cold and hot throw of this wax? I have used all types of waxes and I am having a hard time settling on 1 type. Fragrance throw and wicking are the most difficult things for me when making my candles. Would like to hear any info you could throw my way.
    Diane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Diane! Honestly, I haven't made many candles and don't have a whole lot of experience with them. From the few I've made, I haven't noticed any problems with the throw. I've used the EcoSoya CB Advanced wax with the Candy Cane FO from Lone Star, and with Peppermint Patty and Iced Cinnamon Rolls FOs from Nature's Garden. All of them had great cold throws. The Candy Cane and Peppermint Patty had nice hot throws, too. (I gave away all of the Cinnamon Rolls candles to my family for Christmas and didn't get to burn one myself. But it seems like everyone liked the candles!) So far, I've been happy with this particular wax and it appears that lots of other candlemakers like it, too. Bramble Berry sells a 2-lb. bag of the EcoSoya CB Advanced, if you want to test a small portion to see if you like it. I hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  23. very informative, i really like this article

    ReplyDelete
  24. am at the researching stage..what happens when you blend beeswax with soy for the wax? my focus is on wax selection as well as wick pondering. Allergies are such that I am avoiding all scents as think I ought to avoid paraffin too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Robin. I'm afraid that I probably can't be much help here. I've never used beeswax in candles before. I actually have very little experience with candles - the above post is about the extent of my knowledge so far, and I've made only a couple of batches using the EcoSoya wax. I do know some candlemakers do make beeswax candles, although I'm not sure what the best oil blends or proportions are. A quick internet search turned up lots of results about how to make beeswax candles, and there are some online candlemaking forums out there where you might be able to get some advice. I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful. Best wishes to you on your candlemaking adventures, and thanks for reading!

      Delete

Spammy or inappropriate comments will be removed.