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Candle Making Basics - Part 1

Newcomers to candle making may be having a hard time finding useful information about it. Years ago there were some good books on the subject. There are very few candle making books available now, and most of these are geared towards using granulated wax in boiling bags or beeswax sheets ( which are fine for those with just a casual interest). The real fun in candle making is the experimentation. Fortunately, the Web has taken up the slack, and there are many candle makers willing to share their knowledge.
The Rules
Rule Number one - There are no Rules, with the exception of safety rules. Candle making is about experimentation. It is Chemistry, Art, Imagination, and Magic rolled into one. There are many factors that affect the finished candle - wick, wax, temperature, additives, type of mold, dye, scents, etc... Always consider candle recipes a starting point for your own experimentation.
Record Keeping
One thing often overlooked by candle makers of all experience levels is the importance of keeping "records. It would be a shame to develop your ""ideal" "candle"", and not be able to reproduce your results." Keeping a notebook handy in your candle making area is very helpful. Some things to consider for your records are:
1.    Type and quantity of wax.
2.    Type and quantity of additives such as stearine, vybar, luster crystals, etc...
3.    Type and quantity of dye.
4.    Type and quantity of scent.
5.    Type and size of wick.
6.    Type and quantity of mold.
7.    Pouring temperature.
Tool List
1.    Double boiler - may be a commercial double boiler, or use a coffee can in an old pot. A seamless pot is highly recommended though.
2.    Thermometer - a candle or candy thermometer that clips to the pot works fine. Do not even consider making candles without a thermometer.
3.    Pot holders or pliers - depending on whether you are using a pot or a can.
4.    Molds
5.    Mold release - silicone spray is easiest to use, but peanut oil works well also.
6.    Cutter for wicks.
7.    Wooden spoon - for stirring wax.
8.    Dowel for poking relief holes in molded candles.
9.    Baking pan at least eight inches square - numerous uses, but mainly for leveling the bottom of molded candles.
There are many waxes available for candle making. I recommend that beginners start with a general purpose paraffin wax which melts in the range of 135 - 145 degrees. As you progress into candle making, you will probably want to start experimenting with other types of waxes such as microcrystaline, beeswax, bayberry, and other melting points of paraffin. For now get to know the properties of one readily available wax.
The variety of candle additives commonly available has grown tremendously in the past 2 decades. Here are descriptions of the most common additives:
Stearine - Also called stearic acid. This has been the standard paraffin additive for a very long time. Used to make wax harder, release from mold easier, and increase opacity of the wax. Use from five to thirty percent ( three to five tablespoons per pound of paraffin). This is the easiest additive to find, and I recommend it for beginners.
Vybar - Available in low melting point (Vybar #260) and high melting point (Vybar #103). More economical to use than stearine. Improves color and scent retention. Difficult to find, and doesn't always release from mold easily. Use one to five percent.
Plastics - There are a variety of plastic additives (mostly polyethylenes) that will improve gloss, opacity, translucence, strength, and hardness.  Marketed under a variety of names such as luster crystals, opaque crystals, translucent crystals, etc... These are readily attainable, but are difficult to use due to their high melting point. Must be melted separately, then added to melted wax. General usage is from one half to two percent depending on the product.  Not recommended for beginners.
There are more than 35 different wicks on the market, although only about six of these are commonly available to retail candle supply purchasers. Wicking can be broken down into three categories - Flat, Square, and Wire Core. Flat and square are used for molded and dipped candles, wire core for floating, votive, and container candles. The starting point for wick selection is to match the wick to the mold diameter. For a small mold use a small wick, etc... If a test burn of the finished candle shows a minimal wax pool the wick is too large for your wax formula. If your wax pool is drowning the wick by causing it to go out or have a small flame, go to a larger wick. The wick size is the easiest way to adjust how your candles burn, and it is important to keep in mind that changing your wax formula may require changes in wicking as well. If you don't have another size wick handy, adjusting your wax hardness with more or less additives may help it burn correctly.
There are 2 main ways to color candles, dye and pigments. Most candle making is done with dye.  Pigments are very concentrated colors primarily used for over dipping and carved candles. As a general rule, never use pigments to color the core of a candle #NAME?
Although it is common to see candle making instructions using crayons for color, this can also clog the wick. For the best results always use a dye specifically made for coloring candles. If a really deep color is needed consider an over dip in that color - too high a color concentration in the core of the candle may cause burning problems. Wax colors will be lighter than they appear in the melting pot. To get an idea of the finished color place a drop of wax on a piece of white paper. An even better test is to put a half inch of wax in a paper cup and place it in the freezer, this will give you the exact finished color in a hurry. Keep in mind that wax additives affect the final color.
Candle scent is marketed in 2 forms - liquid scent oil, and scent blocks. Although the liquid scent is a higher outlay in cost, I feel it works far better than scent blocks. As a general guideline follow the manufacturers directions. Higher scent concentrations can usually be used, however too much scent can ruin a candle. Use caution with acrylic molds since high percentages of scent may ruin the mold.
This lesson detailed the components that make up a good candle. I would like to stress the point that every component of a candle is affected by every other component. Changing any component may require adjusting other components. Join me next week for Basics - Part 2 where I will discuss molds, and take you step by step through making a basic molded candle.

Candle Making Basics - Part 2

This week I'll be discussing molds and giving step by step instructions for a basic molded candle. In case you missed it you may want to read last week's feature Candle Making Basics - Part 1. As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before proceeding.
There are a huge variety of commercial molds on the market, as well as an almost infinite number of everyday items that make good molds. The instructions that follow will be for using a standard commercial mold, in other words a mold that makes the candle upside down. My personal recommendation is to get a one piece metal mold as these tend to be the easiest and most durable to use. Here is a basic rundown of mold types:
1.    Metal Molds - Available in a broad variety of shapes, these are simple to use and relatively durable.
2.    Acrylic Molds - Available in a variety of geometric shapes and sizes. They are easy to use, but are easily scratched. Use caution as too much scent may damage these.
3.    Two Piece Plastic Molds - Available in a large assortment of novelty shapes. These are more difficult to use even though most beginners start with them.
4.    Rubber Molds - These are available in latex and vulcanized rubber. Both produce seamless candles, with the latex requiring a little more effort to use. Vulcanized molds tend to be expensive.
5.    Top Up Molds - these are molds that are used the opposite of most candle molds - with the top of the mold being the top of the finished candle.  Many floating candle and votive molds are used this way. These are easy to recognize by their lack of a wick hole.
6.    Flat Molds - Used to make wax appliques and hanging ornaments. These generally do not produce good candles, but do make nice decorations to embellish your candles with.
When selecting your first mold, try to keep it simple.  Read and familiarize yourself with the mold manufacturers instructions. The step by step instructions below are general guidelines for using a metal mold and you should modify them for your own situation.
Making The Candle
This is the big moment we've been building up to. All your materials are at hand, so lets jump right in.
Step 1 Put enough wax in your melting pot to fill your mold.  If you don't have a scale to use, a good estimate may be made by dividing the slab into even sections. For example divide an 11 pound slab into 11 equal sections to get one pound of wax. Add stearine at the rate of two - three tablespoons per pound of wax. Start heating in a double boiler.
Step 2 While your wax is heating, apply your mold release (gently - a little goes a long way) then wick the mold. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for this.  Prepare a water bath by submerging the empty mold in water and adding water until the level is about one half inch below the mold top. Take care not to get any water in your mold or wax - it will ruin your candle.  It is easiest to add a mold weight at this time, typically a piece of lead wrapped around the base of the mold. A more difficult alternative is placing a heavy weight atop the filled mold once it is in the water bath - you must hold it down until the weight is in place though.
Step 3 When wax reaches the pouring temperature (refer to manufacturer's instructions for optimum pouring temperature), shut the heat and add dye (optional).  Stir until well dissolved. If desired add scent and stir well immediately before pouring. A word of caution, excessive dye may cause the candle to burn poorly. Excessive scent may ruin some plastic molds and / or ruin the finished candle. Set aside remaining wax for step 5.
Step 4 Pour the wax into the mold slowly but smoothly. On taller molds it sometimes helps to tilt the mold to prevent air bubbles from excessive agitation. Always wear heavy work gloves when handling molds filled with hot wax - especially metal molds. Wetting the gloves will give even more protection if needed. Gently tap the sides of the mold, and allow 45 seconds for the air bubbles to rise. Place the mold in the water bath.
Step 5 Periodically punch one or more holes alongside the wick using a dowel of other long narrow implement. As the wax cools it shrinks, and punching holes prevents it from shrinking away from the wick causing air pockets. the larger the candle the more times you will need to repeat this. Fill the void left by shrinkage taking care not to pour above the original level of the wax. On very large candles, it may be necessary to repeat this step more than once.
Step 6 Allow the candle to cure fully before attempting to remove from the mold. The larger the candle the longer it takes. If the candle does not easily slide out of the mold, place it in a refrigerator for five to ten minutes. If you still have difficulty removing it, place in the freezer for no more than five minutes. If all else fails heat the mold with hot water until the candle will come out (this usually ruins the candle).  Never pry or scrape the wax out of the mold.
Step7 If refrigeration was used to unmold the candle allow it to return to room temperature before proceeding.  The final step is to level the base. Place your baking pan atop a pot of boiling water. Holding the candle by the wick, allow it to touch the pan until the base is flat and level.
Step 8 Enjoy your candle. Watch how it burns, and on your next one adjust your recipe to make it burn better if necessary. I would also like to remind you to keep an accurate record of your formula.
I hope this has been useful to you. Next week I'll discuss making Layered Candles - a beautiful variation of the standard molded candle, that are only slightly more difficult to make.

Candle Making Safety

The Rules
Candle making is dangerous if you don't follow basic safety precautions. TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY, failure to follow the safety rules may result in serious injury or damage to your home. If basic safety precautions are taken fire should not be a common problem, but be prepared anyway.
1.    NEVER leave melting wax unattended. Not even in a double boiler.
2.    NEVER overheat wax. Know the flash point of your wax (usually about 375 degrees F. for paraffin).  It will spontaneously combust when it reaches the flash point. If using wax of unknown flash point do not heat above 212 degrees F (such as in a double boiler). The fumes from overheated wax can cause severe illness, in case of an accident evacuate the area and ventilate it.
3.    ALWAYS keep wax away from open flames.
4.    ALWAYS use a thermometer. It is essential for both safety and good results that you always be aware of the wax temperature.
5.    ALWAYS use a double boiler. Temperatures up to 200 degrees F. can be achieved. Most recipes use a temperature in this range. If you don't have a double boiler, use an old pot for the water and a coffee can to melt the wax.
6.    A few recipes call for temperatures higher than 200 degrees F. and will require heating directly on the heat source. Be vigilant, and do not allow the temperature to go above 325 degrees F. Do not let your attention wander. If possible do it outdoors on a hot plate.
7.    NEVER put water on a wax fire.
8.    ALWAYS keep a pot lid, baking soda, and a dry chemical fire extinguisher handy when heating wax. Use the pot lid to smother fires in the melting container. Baking soda will smother small fires. A fire extinguisher is useful if you set the curtains on fire, or have some other major accident. These items should be kept outside of any area that may be affected by fire but still within easy access.
9.    ALWAYS use pot holders or pliers when handling hot pots or cans.
10.    If wax gets on your skin, run it under cold water immediately- then peel off the wax.
11.    Don't pour wax down the drain unless you like frequent visits from your plumber.
12.    NEVER let candle making get so routine that you get careless.
Following these safety rules and taking precautions against fire will help you relax and enjoy your candle making even more. I suggest reading these safety and damage control tips before burning your candles. Join me next week for Candle

Candle Measurements - Part 1

For many candle makers one of the most confusing things is measuring ingredients. In this feature I will try to take some of the mystery out of mixing wax formulas, and show you where to find on-line converters where applicable. As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before making any candles. If you are new to candle making, you may wish to take a look at Basics Part 1 and Basics Part 2.
Common Formula Abbreviations
Throughout this feature I will be using abbreviations for the measurements. If you are not familiar with common abbreviations for measurements, you may wish to print out this Table Of Abbreviations.
Formula Basics
The most accurate way to handle any candle making products is by weight. If you have a product that requires absolute repeatability, there is no way to avoid buying an accurate scale. Smaller batches of wax require more accurate scales since will be using small quantities of most ingredients. A word of advice here #NAME?  scales died recently, I planned to buy a replacement triple beam. Upon looking around the web I found prices varying as much as 30% - for the same exact scale! After shopping a bit more, I realized that for a few dollars more I could get a digital scale which is a big time saver (although I doubt it will last as long as a triple beam scale).
If a scale just doesn't fit into your budget, all is not lost. Repeatable (although less accurate) results can be obtained with common measuring tools. Printing out this Table of Conversions will help you convert weights into other units of measure. Please note that for most candle makers the important thing is being able to reproduce results. While using measuring spoons and cups is not a very accurate way to work, it will suffice for most candle makers.
Metric Conversion
Although I understand the metric system, I find it "very difficult to ""think in metric"" since I have used" pounds, gallons, inches, Fahrenheit, etc... all my life. If you need to convert to or from metric weights / volumes / temperatures visit this excellent on-line conversion calculator from Majestic Mountain Sage.
Percentage Formulas
All percentage formulas add up to 100%. One percent is one onehundreth or 1/100. A sample percentage formula might look like this: 93% paraffin, 1% Vybar 103, 6% scent oil
If we wanted to make 100 pounds of this formula we would use 93 lbs of paraffin, 1 lb Vybar, and 6 lbs of scent. These same would hold true for 100 ounces or 100 grams.
Percentage formulas are easily scaled up or down. For example if we needed 10 pounds of this mix we would divide the 100 pound formula by 10 Giving us 9.3 lbs paraffin, 1/10 lb Vybar, and 6/10 lb of scent. To scale up we would multiply. For example if we needed 150 pounds of this formula, multiply all ingredients by 1.5
Putting this feature together has taken much longer than planned. Sometimes putting the things you do daily into words is much more difficult than actually doing them. Next week I will discuss proportional "formulas, ""weighing"" wax without a scale, and more."

Candle Measurements - Part 2

In part 1 of this feature I discussed abbreviations, basics, conversions, and percentage formulas. Here in part 2 I will discuss proportional formulas, how to """weigh"" wax without a scale," As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before making any candles. If you are new to candle making, you may wish to take a look at Basics Part 1 and Basics Part 2.
Proportional Formulas
Although proportional formulas are not common in candle making, I find them much easier to work with. Unlike percentage formulas, the total of all ingredients need not add up to 100. Proportional formulas are typically expressed in parts or units. A typical proportional formula might look like this: 90 parts wax, 10 parts petro, 1 part vybar, 6 parts scent oil.
Each part could be used to represent pounds to make 107 pounds of this formula. It would work as well in ounces to make 107 ounces, or in grams to make 107 grams of this mix.
If you needed only 50 pounds of this formula it could be scaled down using the following technique Divide 107 by 50 = 2.14 Now divide each ingredient by 2.14
90 / 2.14 = 42.06 lb wax     10 / 2.14 = 4.67 lb petro       1 / 2.14 = .48 lb vybar         6 / 2.14 = 2.80 lb. scent oil
If you needed 150 pounds of this formula it could be scaled up using the following technique Divide 150 by 107 = 1.40 Now multiply each ingredient by 1.40 or 1.4
90 x 1.40 = 126.17 lb wax       10 x 1.40 = 14 lb petro      1 x 1.40 = 1.4 lb vybar        6 x 1.40 = 8.4 lb scent oil
Converting Proportional To Percentage
The formula (parts / total parts) x 100 = percentage can be applied to the above formula to get the percentage of each ingredient if you would rather work with percentages:
(90 / 107) x 100 = 84.11% wax        (10 / 107) x 100 = 9.35% petro       (1 / 107) x 100 = .93% vybar
(6 / 107) x 100 = 5.61% scent oil
Weighing Wax
The best way to weigh wax is with a scale.  Unfortunately most inexpensive scales are fairly inaccurate. If a good scale is not in your budget all is not lost as the following techniques will help you get a very close calculation of wax weight.
Slab wax - use a ruler to divide the slab into 10 or 12 equal parts before cutting. It is helpful to know the average weight of the slab before starting - slab weights vary from one wax supplier to the next.  Typical slab weights range from 10.3 to 12 pounds.
Granulated wax - typically one level cup of finely granulated wax will be slightly less than 4 ounces.
Most beginners worry way too much about getting formulas exactly right. Candle making is not that critical! It is far more important to be able to reproduce good results than it is to know the exact weights of the materials. If you get good results with a cup of X, 2 tablespoons of Y, and a teaspoon of Z that is all you need - because you can use the same cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon next time.

Candle Shrinkage

Questions related to wax shrinkage are the most [Image] common of all candle making questions. Shrinkage is referred to by many terms including wells, cavities, sink holes, and shrink voids to name a few. Although shrinkage can be frustrating at times, it can be reduced under some conditions.
Like most materials, wax expands when heated. In the process of cooling it shrinks back down to its original volume. This shrinkage usually causes a void down the core of the candle, as well as shrinking away from the mold (allowing it to be removed more easily). Generally the larger it is in diameter, the larger the void will be.
During the cooling process, holes should be poked alongside the wick. This will help prevent the shrinkage from distorting the wick, and release trapped air bubbles. On container candles it has the added benefit of relieving some of the stress which would pull the wax away from the glass.
Shrinkage And Molded Candles
As mentioned above, without some shrinkage candles would be very difficult to remove from the mold. Generally, the larger the diameter, the more repours will be needed. On most molds, the bottom is actually the top of the finished candle. This makes it possible to refill the shrink void without it being visible (unless turned upside down to see the bottom). After allowing the candle to cool, just pour more wax from the same batch into the void. Be sure to keep the level below the original pour, or unsightly marks will be visible around the base of the candle. Some dyes tend to shift color from heat - this can be reduced by allowing the wax to cool between repours. Allowing the wax to harden fully between pouring will reduce the number of pourings necessary to finish the candle.
Reducing Shrinkage In Containers
Shrinkage is more difficult to deal with in glass container candles since great care must be taken to prevent the repour from showing. Although I personally find it easier to just do repours, many find the following helpful in reducing shrinkage:
1.    Pour at the lowest possible temperature. When poured at just above its melt point, wax shrinks less than when poured at higher temperatures. This will cause """chatter marks"" on the glass if you don't preheat the" molds. This also has the side benefit of reducing scent loss to evaporation while cooling.  2.    Use a low melting point wax. Generally low MP waxes shrink less than higher MP waxes.
3.    Add a small amount of hot melt glue (HMG). I have heard a lot of claims that this reduces shrinkage, but it is difficult to blend with wax. I don't recommend it, however those who like to experiment may wish to try it.
4.    Petro and/or Vegetable Oil used at 10% to 50% do reduce shrinkage somewhat, but I find they cause excessive smoke and soot. Again you may wish to experiment with these and draw you own conclusions.  5.    If shrinkage is minimal, a heat gun or small torch can "be used to ""flow out"" the top surface." Summary Shrinkage is a fact of life for most candle making The information shown above will hopefully help you deal with it.
If there are any candle or soap subjects you would like to see in future features, please let me know. Join me next week for a How to project on making pillars with Graduated Color.

The Candle System

The most misunderstood concept in candle making is [Image] the fact that there are no hard and fast rules for making a good burning candle. The ingredients used are not nearly as important as achieving a good balance between the ingredients. In this feature I will attempt to shed some understanding on this, although many of the concepts presented here are difficult to put into words. This feature is aimed towards developing a working knowledge rather than hard science. Rather than present a lot of dry "facts, I present it here in a manner that even us ""non" "scientist"" types can easily understand." As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before making any candles. If you are new to candle making, you may wish to take a look at Basics Part 1 and Basics Part 2.
The Candle As A System
In many ways the candle is similar to the Earth's Ecosystem, except on a much smaller scale. A properly made candle is a good balance between wax, additives, scent, and wick. Changing one affects all the others, and may require further changes to bring everything back into balance.
I cannot stress enough the importance of experimentation and record keeping for developing a well made candle. Most of the candles you see on the candle market are the result of extensive experimentation. There is no candle fairy who can wave her wand and make your candles come out good.  There are no magic formulas. There is a virtually unlimited number of ways in which candle materials may be combined, and many will produce a good candle with a bit of experimentation.
All waxes are not created equal. Most waxes have different properties and while these are sometimes minimal, often they are big differences. Example: If you took wax with a melt point of 130 degrees F. from ten different suppliers, you would find that most have different properties. Some will not work well with your existing formulas while others will. For best results find a wax you like and stick with it.
At one time (not many years ago) there was basically one additive available to us - Stearic Acid. Times have changed and there are a fairly large variety of candle additives currently available to the candle maker. So many in fact that many of us get caught up in developing complex wax formulas. Avoid this - use an additive only if there is a logical reason for it. I see many candle makers using both stearic and vybar for example - when I ask why, they cannot offer a logical explanation. I have a thriving candle business, and none of my candles have more than one additive. Keeping your formulas simple makes it easier to mix , troubleshoot, change, and experiment with them.
"As with waxes there are no standards. The ""same"" scent will" smell different and have different properties from one supplier to the next. Even different scents from the same supplier may have quite different properties. In practical terms, this means that testing and reformulating either the wax, scent percentage, or the wick may be needed whenever changing scents.
Most of the candle dyes currently available work quite well, and should have little bearing on how your candle burns. If you experience wick clogging, it can usually be attributed to using a pigment dye. Switching to an oil soluble dye should correct the problem.
Use a good quality wick. String, rope, shoelaces, etc...  will generally give results that are inferior to braided cotton wicking. Wick selection is the most important part of a candle, however there is no magic formula for wick selection. Guidelines on wick packaging are just that - guidelines. Your wax formula may need a larger or smaller wick. Experimentation is the only way to determine wick size needed. More on wick selection. It is usually best to settle on a wax formula, then adjust wick size to fine tune the burning properties.
"Note to Beginners: The ""small, medium, and large"" sizes" commonly available are a mere parody of the true variety of wicks available. There will be times when a size in between is needed, and you will need to seek out full line candle suppliers to find the size you need.
Putting It All Together
1.    Develop a basic formula for each type of candle. i.e.: pillar, container, votive, floater, etc... A basic formula / wick combination that works well for a standard size is vital as a jumping off point for further experimentation. This should be fine tuned for optimum performance. Consider this as the yardstick by which you will measure the quality of experiment results.
2.    When experimenting change only one thing per experiment. For example if you try a new wax and a new scent in the same candle, you will not know which caused any problems, improvements, etc...
3.    Test burning should be done for any change - even if the only change is a new supplier and you are using the same quantity of that ingredient.
4.    Wick experiments should be done once you have finalized a formula for that particular candle to fine tune the burning properties.
Working With The System
When dealing with candles never lose sight of the fact that every ingredient affects every other ingredient. Using more or less of a hardener will almost certainly necessitate a wick change. Using more, less, or a different scent may also affect burning and may require a change of wick.  Increasing the amount of scent, may require the use of Vybar to prevent oil mottling. Changing suppliers of any ingredients will often require adjusting the wick size or formula. Any change to the base formula should be tested.  Usually any adjustments needed for proper burning can be made by adjusting wick size.
This has been the most difficult feature I have ever written. I find it difficult to put into words these concepts that my experience has taught me on an almost subconscious level. I hope that I have presented this in an informative way. Once you achieve a full understanding of the concepts discussed here, no candle will seem too difficult.
If there are any candle or soap subjects you would like to see in future features, please let me know. Join me next time for a Project Feature on Striped Candles.

Container Candles

Container candles to all appearances would seem to be the easiest type of candle to make. Unfortunately the opposite is actually true - they are probably the hardest type of candle to make well. Ideally, container candles should be made with a low temp, low shrink wax formula that retains scent, has a large melt pool, and a long burning time. Add to this the currently popular mottled / bubbled look just to make things even more difficult. In this feature I will impart some of my knowledge on the subject, based on the questions I'm most frequently asked. As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before making any candles.
Container Wax
Since most of the people who have devoted countless hours developing a really good container formula are in business,
they keep their formulas a trade secret. While that may be good for their businesses, it makes it really difficult to find a great formula without a lot of experimentation. I have played with container formulas for many years, and still don't have one I'd call very good. If you plan to seek out a good container formula, be prepared for lots of experimentation. Some things I've found useful are using low temp wax - under 130 MP, and use Vybar 260. I find Vybar has better scent retention and shrinks less than Stearic Acid. Some prefer Stearic, some use none at all. Don't limit "yourself to ""traditional"" candle making materials when trying to develop container wax. Petrolatum, vegetable oils," and shortening are some items that may help reduce wax shrinkage.
Container Preparation
Before pouring wax the container should be preheated to 150 degrees. This will improve the finish visible through the "glass, by helping eliminate ""wet spots"", lines, and bubbles. This is particularly important when pouring wax just" above the melt point. Containers may be preheated in an oven or hot water, however should be brought up to temperature gradually to prevent cracking due to thermal shock.
Container Wicking
As a general rule, you should use cored wicking for container candles. Whether you use paper, lead, or zinc core wicking is largely a matter of personal preference. Zinc core is the easiest to obtain, and the most commonly used.  Wick tabs should be used on all container candles to prevent the wick from falling over. Since most container formulas have a low melt point, they have a large melt pool. Wicking should be of a suitable size so the wick doesn't drown, and the melt pool extends to the sides of the container. The wicks may be pressed in place once the bottom starts to solidify. Some like to hot melt glue the tabs in place before pouring. A high temp glue should be used for this technique.
The hotter the wax, the more it will shrink, so pouring is best done just above the melting point of your wax formula. If the container has not been preheated, pouring at a low temperature will cause the wax to alternately cool and flow going up the walls leaving a lined effect. Immediately after pouring, tap the sides a few times to disloge any air bubbles.
Depending on your wax formula, you may need to slow cool your containers to prevent the wax from pulling away from "the glass, causing ""wet spots"". Some techniques for slow cooling would include a hot water bath, placing in an oven," wrapping with newspaper, or placing in an insulated cooler.
Container candles are challenging to make, but following the basic techniques above will help you get consistent results in your experimentation. If there are any candle or soap subjects you would like to see in future features, please let me know. Join me next week for a discussion on making colorful tie dye candles.

Hand Dipped Tapers

At one time taper candles were commonly made in [Image] many homes. The most common material used for these was tallow - families would save every little bit of animal fat to render into tallow for candle and soap making.
Today tallow is little used for candle making since paraffin wax is readily available and more suitable in most respects. Dipping tapers is quite simple (the candle shown here was made by my eight year old son), and requires minimal investment in equipment. As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before proceeding. If you are new to candle making, you may wish to take a look at Basics Part 1 and Basics Part 2. I have created an illustrated version of these instructions, however you may wish to read through this page first.
The materials needed are wax, wicking, stearic acid, dipping vat, thermometer, wire, nuts or washers, and pliers. Optional: water dip container, dye.
Step 1 Set up your dipping vat in a pot of water and place on a heat source. The quickest way is to melt your wax separately and pour into the vat. Using the vat to melt wax may require quite a few hours. For the candles shown here 140 melt point paraffin with 3% stearic acid was used.
Step 2 While the wax is melting, prepare some dipping frames. In its simplest form a dipping frame is a U shaped wire with a hook on each end.
Step 3 Cut a length of wick and tie a nut or washer on each end.  Loop the wick over the dipping frame hooks. Before proceeding it is a good idea to set up something to hang each frame from between dips.
Step 4 Dipping temperature is largely a matter of personal taste.  Personally I prefer a taper that looks more crude and rustic, so I usually dip tapers at 150 to 155 degrees F.  This provides a slightly lumpy, uneven surface. If you prefer a more refined appearance, temperatures from 160 to 170 degrees F. will give a smoother finish.
Step 5 The first dip should be held in the vat until the wick is thoroughly soaked with wax. Allow to cool.
Step 6 Dip the frame in and out in one smooth motion. It is important to dip to the same point on each dip for best results. Repeat for each frame. If using only one frame, allow to harden for a short while between dips, then dip again while still warm.
Step 7 Continue dipping until the desired thickness is achieved.
Step 8 If a smoother finish is desired, dip in water immediately after the final dip.
Step 9 Trim the bottom with a razor while still warm, or with a fine toothed saw after hardening.
Dipped tapers are fun and easy to make. They form the basis for a variety of features I have planned for the future.

Hot Water Dipping (Cobwebbed Candles)

I discovered this by accident two years ago. It [Image] imparts an interesting surface texture to your "candles, and is great for ""dressing up"" plain candles. The" technique is easy and can be done on store bought candles as well. This photo does not illustrate the effect as well as some of the detail photos in the illustrated instructions.
As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before proceeding. If you are new to candle making, you may wish to take a look at Basics Part 1 and Basics Part 2. I have created an illustrated version of these instructions, however you may wish to read through this page first.
A base candle of any size or shape. I find it looks best on solid color candles. A dipping vat, or other container large enough to dip the candle. Rub n Buff(r) is optional, but really brings out the detail.
Step 1 Prepare dipping container by filling with hot water. I find this technique works best at about 150 degrees F. If your tap water is not hot enough, it will be necessary to heat some water up. Texture will vary with temperature and dipping speed.
Step 2 Dip a few times, examining between each dip. This technique works by melting tiny amounts of wax off the candle surface. This floats and is deposited back on the candle as it is lifted from the water.
Step 3 Repeat until the desired amount of texture is achieved. Allow to cool.
Step 4 I like to highlight the appliques with Rub n Buff(r). This is a wax based pigment that is applied sparingly with a fingertip or a soft cloth. It is readily available in most Craft Supply stores. Because it is waxy, it adheres to candles quite well. Using a very small amount lightly highlights the texture.
Using this surface technique allows you to add more variety and interest to your candles, without investing in additional equipment.

Starting A Candle Business - Part 1

"One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is ""How" "do I get started in the candle business?"". Although there" are many ways to go about it, I will discuss here the advice I always give when asked this question. Please note that the following is not just an opinion, since it is based upon what made my candle business successful. This is the first of a multi part feature. In the coming weeks I will discuss calculating costs, pricing, marketing strategies, etc...
1.    Become A Good Candle Maker
Become a good candle maker, before you even consider marketing candles. While this may seem self evident to most of us, you would be shocked how many folks consider thebusiness aspect before they have ever made their first candle! The underlying reason is that many people who have never made a candle think that it is simply a matter of melting and pouring wax.
2.    Perfect The Product
Perfect each candle type before adding it to your product line. Never under any circumstances market a candle that you are not positive is the best it can be. An unhappy customer is usually lost forever. Another interesting tidbit is that unsatisfied customers tend to spread the word more than satisfied customers. Bad news travels fast - I have seen it said that it takes twenty satisfied customers to offset the damage done to your business by one unsatisfied customer. Extensive test burning should be done to ensure that the candles burn well and do not pose a safety hazard if used with reasonable care.
3.    Make Something Unique
This is probably the most important - make a candle that cannot be easily knocked out by the thousands with a machine. As a small candle maker you will not be able to compete price wise with a company that makes millions of candles a year. You just don't have the buying power or the automation necessary to make cheap mass produced candles.  The solution is not to even try. Many very successful candle companies have only a few products which are quite unique.
4.    Experiment
All the common candles we see all the time originated from someone experimenting somewhere along the line. I spend a great deal of time experimenting to develop new products.  The main thing is to concentrate on one idea at a time.
5.    Pricing
This is the downfall of many beginners to the candle business. Selling your candles for less than they are worth will not necessarily sell more candles. A prime example of this is votives - many retail customers expect to pay 1.00 to 1.75 for a top quality scented votive. If you are selling them 2 for a dollar, many customers will think they are cheap, low quality votives. In the same way, pricing your candles too high will reduce sales as well. It is also a matter of perceived value - does this candle's scent / burn time / beauty justify the purchase in the customers mind.
The five points above relate to the candle part of a candle business. The candle business is in many ways like any other business, so much general business information also applies. It is important to understand your local and state regulations, taxes, licensing, etc... It is usually a good idea to consult with an accountant when setting up a business.

Using Container Wax

There are a variety of blended waxes becoming more [Image] "readily available. These are commonly called ""one" "pour"" or ""container blend"" waxes. They are made with a" "variety of components, thus the term ""blended wax"". They" are designed with the sole purpose of making container candles, and most if not all are useless for molded candles since they adhere to the mold. Aside from scent and color, no additional additives should be necessary.
Do not confuse these with pure paraffin that is in the melt point range commonly used for containers (often marketed as container wax). Please Note: I do not have recipes for these waxes so please don't email me asking for them. All requests for container wax recipes will be ignored since I barely have time to handle all the email I know the answer to.
The following are my personal observations from working with a few different blended waxes. I highly recommend that you experiment with these waxes yourself, and draw your own conclusions. As with everything else in life, not all container waxes are created equal. I have not tried every blended wax on the market, and cannot help troubleshoot problems with them - if you are having difficulty with a particular product, it is best to contact your supplier.
Definition - One Pour Wax
"In theory ""one pour waxes"" should not require a second" pour. In reality many do require a second pour on all but the smallest containers. The larger the container, the more pronounced the shrinkage will be. Most of these have a very soft sticky texture which makes the slabs difficult to work with (they stick to everything). I find that many one pour waxes give off excessive soot, and tend to burn wells down the center of the container (melt pool does not reach the sides).
Definition - Container Blends
This group includes the one pour waxes discussed above, but also includes waxes which are designed adhere better to "glass but are not ""one pours"". My personal favorite is in" this group.
As a general rule of thumb most container blends will require a larger wick than you would use for an unblended paraffin formula in the same container.
Using Container Waxes
Through much trial and error, I have come up with the following technique for using blended waxes. Please note that this is my personal preference, and there are probably many other ways to use them.
1.    Preheat the containers. This step is vital, and preheating should be at 150 to 160 degrees F. This is not necessary if using an opaque container such as crocks, tins, or flower pots.
2.    Melt the wax.
3.    Add color.
4.    Allow to cool until just before the surface starts to film.
5.    Add scent, and stir well.
6.    Pour.
7.    If shrinkage is minimal, a heat gun or small torch can "be used to ""flow out"" the top surface. If the" shrinkage is substantial, such as in large containers, a second pour will be needed.
Some container waxes are very good, others are not so good.  If you plan to try them, I suggest buying a small amount such as one slab to see if you like it


Recycling Wax - Storage

One of the topics I get asked about most is [Image] recycling or reusing wax. In this first part of a series on recycling wax I will look at various strategies for storing bits and pieces of leftover wax, as well as scraps. I have also included photos showing how I handle various quantities of leftover wax in my shop.
As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before proceeding. If you are new to candle making, you may wish to take a look at Basics Part 1 and Basics Part 2.
Scrap Wax
The vast majority of my wax available for recycling is scrap wax. In this category I include mixed colors, floor scrapings, worktable scrapings, melt off from bottom leveling, candle drippings and leftovers, seam trimmings, etc... I have photographed some storage techniques for scraps.
My primary usage for scrap wax is fire starters, lightweight fire starters, or decorative fire starters. I also use this to make Citronella candles in coffee cans for my own use (I would never sell a candle that has a mixed i.e. unknown wax formula).
Leftover Wax - Small Quantities
Small quantities of wax left over from pouring can be used for future chunk candles. Because it is unwise to use waxes of different formulas in the same chunk candle, I have devised this technique for keeping different formulas separated.
If you don't plan to use these for chunk candles, they may be marked with the scent and color for later melt down and reuse when you make another batch of the same.
Leftover Wax - Large Quantities
Larger quantities of wax left over from pouring can be slabbed for future use. It is a good idea to mark each slab after it cools with the scent, color, and type of wax mixture. I have devised this technique for slabbing and marking leftover wax.
If there are any candle or soap subjects you would like to see in future features, please let me know. Join me next time for Part 2 of this series - melting and straining recycled wax.

Whipping Wax

There! Take that you nasty wax! Many of the upcoming features will use whipped    [Whipped Wax - slab & whip images] wax, so get out your whip. Just joking, we don't actually use a whip to discipline our wax. Whipped wax adds another dimension to your candle making, and can be the basis of some very interesting designs. As always, safety is our primary concern and you should know these safety rules before proceeding. If you are new to candle making, you may wish to take a look at Basics Part 1 and Basics Part 2. I have created an illustrated version of these instructions, however you may wish to read through this page first.
An egg whisk, or hand held blender will be needed in addition to the basic candle making products - wax, dye, etc... Corn starch is optional.
The exact wax formula used is not critical, and most wax will whip well. Wax can be white or colored. I find that adding 1 tablespoon of corn starch per pound will help the whipped wax adhere better.
Step 1 Start by melting the wax to be used. Most waxes can be whipped, and I have not noticed much difference in results from different waxes or wax formulas.
Step 2 Remove the wax from heat source. Allow to cool until a slight surface film forms.
Step 3 Begin whipping the wax. my tool of choice for this is a wire egg whisk, but if you need to make large amounts a hand held blender should be considered. Whip until the desired consistency is attained.
Step 4 Once whipped, the wax can be applied with a spoon, fork or stick. When cool enough, it can also be handled with your hands to shape it. It is best applied in a dabbing motion.
Step 5 Once it is applied to the candle, it can be smoothed with your fingers if desired.
Step 6 Allow to cool fully.
Whipping wax is fun and easy. It can be used in a variety of way to create unique candles. Over the coming weeks I will be writing features that show a variety of uses for whipped wax.

Wick Selection

One of the most confusing things new candle makers face is choosing the correct wick for their candles. All components of a candle affect each other, but the wick is also affected by the size and shape of the mold. Since virtually every candle maker uses a different wax formula, what works for one may not work for another. The process below will show you how to determine the proper wick for your candles, and give you some insight into why it works.
Step One - Type Of Wick
Start by knowing what type of wick you need - cored, flat, or square. Cored wicks are generally used for containers, votives, and floating candles. Flat braid is typically used for tapers, however some prefer it for molded candles as well. Square braid is usually used for molded candles, but some folks use it for tapers as well.
Step Two - Interpreting Suppliers Guidelines
Refer to the wick suppliers' suggested size guidelines. Most recommend wicks for use in a certain size (diameter) "range using paraffin wax. For example 2"" to 3"" diameter. If using a soft (low MP) wax formula, this would be a good" starting point for a 2 inch diameter candle, or 3 inch for a harder formula. Softer wax generally requires a slightly larger wick to prevent the wick from drowning in the melt pool. Harder wax requires a slightly smaller wick to
prevent burning the wax quicker than the flame can melt it. Beeswax has more viscosity, and requires a substantially larger wick than the same size candle in paraffin.
Step Three - Test Burn
Using the wick selected, make a test candle with the exact wax formula you plan to use. Allow to cure fully - overnight at the least. Do a test burn. Make a note of all aspects of how it burns - burn time, size of melt pool, and any problems such as sputtering, does not stay lit, etc...
Step Four - Analyze Test Data
Sounds technical, but it's not. If your test burn produced acceptable results, you can stop here. If you feel the burn time could have been better, or had burning problems see the relevant paragraph below.
Improving Burn Time
"One you have a candle that burns acceptably, you may want to try ""tweaking"" the wick for improved burn time." Generally this is done by trying progressively smaller wicks until you no longer get good burning properties.
Sputtering Flame
If the flame sputters it is usually a sign of too large a wick. The large wick draws wax from the melt pool quicker than it can melt the surrounding wax. Moisture in the wax can also cause this. Check the melt pool. If the melt pool is acceptable, water is probably the cause.
Wick Drowning
If the melt pool is so large that it keeps extinguishing the wick, your wick is too small. This is also a common problem with soft waxes (such as containers, votives, and floating candles) that do not use a cored wick and wick tab. These tend to melt so deep that the wick can fall over, and drown.
With a little forethought, and a bit of trial and error proper wick selection is simple. It is important to remember that changing your wax formula, will often require a change in wick size. There are no hard and fast rules for this since virtually no two candle makers use the exact formula. Sometimes just changing brands of wax (even with the same MP) may necessitate a wick change.